FILM REVIEW – TRUTH: THE RAPE OF 2 COREYS. With Corey Feldman, Corey Haim, Judy Haim, Keith Coogan, and Charlie Sheen. Directed by Brian Herzlinger. 85 minutes. Not Rated, but contains adult language and descriptions of drug use and sexual abuse. 85 minutes.
DVD REVIEW – TALES FROM THE CRYPT: THE COMPLETE SERIES. Executive produced by Richard Donner, David Giler, Walter Hill, Joel Silver, and Robert Zemeckis. 20 DVDs. SRP $169.99.
Be true to your ghoul
When HBO premiered their horror anthology series “Tales From The Crypt” in 1989, a decade of original programming had already come before, with genre favorites “The Hitchhiker” debuting in 1983 (through 1990) and “Ray Bradbury Theater” running for two seasons in 1986 (and an additional four on USA Network fro 1988-92). However, this patently adult celebration of pulp fiction–pulled from the pages of Entertainment Comics’ (EC) Comics’ “Tales From The Crypt,” “Vault Of Horror,” “Haunt Of Fear” and others—became its most enduring. This lasting power was thanks to a diverse line-up of on-screen talent, guest directors, and an unforgettable host: a ghastly, pun-addicted ghoul and amazing puppet by “Walking Dead” makeup guru Kevin Yagher called “The Cryptkeeper.” The character, memorably voiced by John Kassir and brought to life by a team of incredibly skilled puppeteers, would go on to become an icon, celebrity, and commodity unto himself, spawning record albums, Saturday-morning cartoon shows, and a couple of movies.
Like any anthology, and especially one that ran for seven seasons like this one did, “Tales From The Crypt” had its share of balls-out rockers, mezzo middlers, and fully forgettable fizzlers, not to mention an oddball, themed seventh and final season that shot largely in England. The ninety-three bloody/funny episodes run a tight, under-thirty-minutes each (save for producer Robert Zemeckis’s best-in-show war spectacle “Yellow” starring Kirk Douglas and son Eric), and are collected in Warner Brothers’ 20-disc TALES FROM THE CRYPT: THE COMPLETE SERIES DVD set.Enough time has passed so that “Tales From The Crypt” has become a nice time capsule, recalling a time when the likes of Douglas, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” star Bob Hoskins, and “Superman” star Christopher Reeve were still with us (not to mention that it was also a time when cellular telephones were the size of World War II-era field radios). However, none of the Universal-produced movies that followed—audience favorite “Demon Knight” (1995) and the largely maligned “Bordello Of Blood” (1996)–are here, nor is the let’s-slap-a-logo-on-this-turd afterthought “Ritual” (2002). (The last original “Tales” content was “New Year’s Shockin’ Eve” in 2013, and while it is not available for purchase, FearNet has posted it to YouTube.)
This is not a new set. Released back in 2008 after all seven seasons had been released previously (and selectively on VHS prior to that), nothing new is included in this collection. However, this is no barebones set, with a decent-enough selection of bonus content to appease fans (though admittedly, the special features grow less special as the seasons wear on):
Season 1: “Tales From The Crypt: From Comic Books To Television” and “The Cryptkeeper’s History of Season One”
Season 2: Behind-The-Screams “Shockumentary” featurette and “Fright and Sound: Bringing the ‘Crypt’ Experience to Radio” (a brief detailing of the 8-episode “Tales” radio dramas produced in 2000)
Season 3: “A Tall Tales Panel” (in which series creators and admirers celebrate the show in a “Crypt” seminar, “Tales From The Crypt Reunion: A Panel Discussion,” and the “Crypt Jam” music video
Season 4: Commentary on “What’s Cookin’” (fan favorite episode starring Reeve, Meat Loaf, Bess Armstrong, and Judd Nelson) by The Cryptkeeper (Kassir), writer A.L. Katz, and series chronicler Digby Diehl
Season 5: “Death Of Some Salesmen” (the ghastly episode featuring Tim Curry in 3 roles and Ed Begley playing against type as a real shitbird) virtual comic book
Season 6: “Whirlpool” virtual comic book
Season 7: “Fatal Caper” virtual comic book
Why bring it up now then? Because like “The Hitchhiker” and “Ray Bradbury Theater,” “Tales From The Crypt” is conspicuously absent from HBO Max‘s launch slate on May 27, which instead focuses on a seemingly aimless roster of original programming (and, of course, the exclusive rights of “Friends,” to the tune of $425 million). Could this be a rights issue similar to the one that kept M. Night Shyamalan’s planned 2017 series reboot from happening? Did someone forget to do an HD remaster in time? Is some green studio exec treating “horror” as a dirty word? HBO is mum on the subject, and while mentioning it here in the ether is unlikely to get the ball rolling for a streaming/Blu-ray release–which would also need to be a remaster, as HDTV sets were not available until 1998–at least you know know you can still get your hands on physical media of this important series (and do so while you still can).
BEYOND ‘THE CRYPT’
For collectors/completists, HBO’s “Tales From The Crypt” spinoffs didn’t fare as well.
The animated, mostly kid-friendly “Tales From The Cryptkeeper” ran for two seasons on ABC starting in 1993, with a third season on CBS as “New Tales From The Cryptkeeper” in 1999. While the DVDs are out-of-print, the impressive free streaming service TUBI has them all (and also in Spanish).
A spinoff called “Perversions Of Science” ran on HBO in the summer of 1997, but ended after just 10 episodes. It was hosted by a sexy female robot named Chrome (voiced by Maureen Teefy) with the stories playing out on a monitor inside her right breast, and focused more on dark sci-fi. Despite the “Amazing Stories”-styled opening sequence, it is quite in the vein of “Tales,” if it had been written by Philip K. Dick. It is presently unavailable on any media (though all are available on YouTube thanks to fan-archivists).•••
Robert Newton is a veteran film critic, novelty recording artist, and Creative Director of the Cape Ann Community Cinema. His first film, about Massachusetts-born rocket scientist Dr. Robert H. Goddard, is in production now.
FILM REVIEW – SATANIC PANIC. With Rebecca Romijn, Jerry O’Connell, Jordan Ladd, Ruby Modine, and Arden Myrin. Written by Ted Geoghegan and Grady Hendrix. Directed by Chelsea Stardust. No MPAA rating (but loaded with all the sordid things that make a movie appealing to anyone under 18). 85 minutes.
Some of horrordom’s most auspicious offerings have one foot planted firmly and stealthily in political commentary. The original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956) confronted head-on Cold War paranoia with its haunting pod people parable. At the conclusion of the Civil Rights Movement, George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) tackled race relations without tiptoeing. Joe Dante’s wickedly clever werewolf tale “The Howling” (1981) took on cults in the wake of the mass murder-suicides at Rev. Jim Jones’s compound in Guyana in 1978. In a similar punctured vein, the comedy-infused shockfest SATANIC PANIC aims for the fences, but, to quote a certain memorable ad campaign of days past, “Sorry, Charlie – only the best-tasting tuna gets to be Star-Kist.”
Sam (Hayley Griffith) sees her new job delivering pizza in the Dallas suburbs as her way out of poverty, but has a rude awakening when she is clotheslined by a humiliating hierarchy and customers who tip with expired Applebee’s coupons and sweaters formerly worn by the recently deceased. She thinks her streak is about to end when she brings a large order to an exclusive subdivision. The reality is basically the orgy scene out of “Eyes Wide Shut,” with Sam unwillingly serving as a virgin sacrifice to the demon Baphomet (the horned goat figure worshipped by Satanists). Hijinks ensue.
Just because it’s not great doesn’t mean it’s not fun. A hyperkinetic cross between Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby,” Brian Yuzna’s “Society,” and Jason Reitman’s “Juno,” this clever and creatively bloody cry to eat the rich builds to a manic pitch and doesn’t stop drilling until its satisfying end. It feels like it could have been conceived in the afterglow of a viewing of “Get Out,” substituting class division for racial divide.
The performances certainly elevate the material. TV actor Griffith is strong, rising to the verbal and physical rigors of the script by Ted Geoghegan (“We Are Still Here”) and Grady Hendrix (“Mohawk”). Her richie counterpart, Judi (Ruby Modine of “Shameless” and daughter of Matthew) is solid as her foil-turned-friend. “MAD TV” veteran and “Insatiable” star Arden Myrin plays a power-mad suburban mom with a side of whiny relish. But it is Rebecca Romjin (who passed her “X-Men” role of Mystique on to Jennifer Lawrence) makes the movie work, taking the role of ruthless coven leader Danica Ross to villainous heights. (Husband Jerry O’Connell has a considerably smaller yet hilarious role as her literally kept husband). She revels in Danica’s wickedness, taking what could have been a jokey vamp role and turning into one of memorable menace.
“Satanic Panic” surely makes a political statement, and while it is not one that is super timely, and while the movie may not show up on many annual “must-see” lists, it has a bloody good time playing it out, and with a sharp sense of what horror fans of a certain breed want to experience for their 90 minutes in the dark.•••
Robert Newton is a veteran film critic, novelty recording artist, and Creative Director of the Cape Ann Community Cinema.
HOW DO I WIN?
You can win a DVD/Blu-ray of Phantom Thread one of two ways:
1) Sign up for North Shore Movies’ email list (new subscribers only).
2) Email us at CapeAnnCinema@gmail.com with the subject “PHANTOM CONTEST” (current subscribers only).
Winners will be picked at random from all valid entries. One entry per person. Duplicate entries will be disqualified. The contest ends @ 11:59pm Thursday, May 3, 2018.
AMY. With Amy Winehouse, Yasiin Bey, Mark Ronson, Tony Bennett, and Mitch Winehouse; Directed by Asif Kapadia; Rated R for language and drug material; 128 minutes.
There is a scene about two-thirds of the way through Asif Kapadia’s staggering documentary AMY that is simultaneously beautiful and tragic. It was during the Grammys in 2008, for which the then-24-year-old jazz phenom won five awards for her album “Back to Black.” Tony Bennett and Natalie Cole were presenting the award for Record of the Year, with Winehouse beamed in by satellite from London, where she had just gotten clean-and-sober in a nearby rehab center. Kapadia, who expertly told the fascinating story of F-1 racing legend Ayrton Senna in 2010’s “Senna,” presents the moment by intercutting the awards broadcast from Los Angeles with the live feed from the club in London from which Winehouse would perform two songs. When Bennett announced Winehouse as the winner, the look on the young, overwhelmed singer’s face is inspiring and rewarding, albeit ultimately heartbreaking. Even though we know where her story will end–with her death from alcohol poisoning in July of 2011–we wish against all reality that it could continue on with her conquering adversity and letting her amazing talent shine on and renew into her golden years. Sadly, moments later, a friend relates that Winehouse viewed this pinnacle of success as “boring without drugs.” And so it goes.
In the film, Bennett, who recorded the standard “Body and Soul” with Winehouse for his hit 2011 album “Duets II,” holds Winehouse in the same esteem as jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Hearing the singer belt out song after song–most of which she wrote herself–this assertion is very easy to accept. At the beginning of the film, Kapadia introduces us to Winehouse with a recording of her singing “Happy Birthday” from a friend’s 14th birthday party, and from that instant, we are captivated. Initially, this is because the confident and nuanced voice of a performer four times her age comes out of her, but gradually, Kapadia gives us plenty of other reasons to love her.
Thanks to Kapadia’s access to hundreds of hours of interviews and the ever-present home video cameras, Winehouse’s take-no-shit attitude, passion for her craft, and wonderful sense of humor shine through, as does her inability to keep it together when her star reaches its zenith. While no writer is credited, Kapadia is also responsible for telling Amy’s story in all its exquisite irony. By making us so fully invest in a character we know is doomed from frame-one, he proves not only his sensitivity and intelligence, but his incredible skill as a storyteller.•••
Robert Newton is a veteran film critic, novelty recording artist, and Creative Director of the Cape Ann Cinema & Stage in historic Gloucester, Mass.
Starring Bel Powley, Domino the Cat, Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgård, and Christopher Meloni; Written by Phoebe Gloeckner (graphic novel) and Marielle Heller (screenplay); Directed by Marielle Heller; Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity, drug use, language, and drinking: all involving teens. 102 minutes.
“Confrontational” is a label we too often give the art–and the feelings and topics such art brings to light–that we would like to pretend does not exist. We too often treat this kind of confrontation as if it were something that we should avoid at all costs, like a sacred symbol in a jar of tinkle. By doing this, though, we miss out on opportunities to advance our thinking and realign our perception to better reflect reality. Writer-director Marielle Heller’s debut feature THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL is confrontational art in the the best sense.
British TV actress Bel Powley makes her Stateside debut in high style as Minnie Goetze, a 15-year-old girl in San Francisco in 1976 who is trying to balance her aspirations as an artist with her emerging sexuality. Minnie lives with her younger sister Gretel (Abby Wait) and her former hippie mother Charlotte (Kristen Wiig), and after a casual encounter with her mother’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård), an affair ensues. Naturally, the discreteness and control that Minnie and Monroe thought they had going in evaporates, and they must confront the reality of what they have chosen.
Heller spares no detail while chronicling Minnie’s odyssey, even if it makes us feel uncomfortable while we are watching it unfold. From the crimson “X” she paints on Monroe’s leg after her first time to the frank, no-boys-around discussions about sex she has with her friend Kimmie (Madeleine Walters) to the tryst she has with high school friend Ricky (Austin Lyon) in which he admits that Minnie’s unabashed pursuit of pleasure scares him, Heller and Powley let us know who Minnie is, through her desires, naivete, and ill-informed decisions.
While Heller’s gender doesn’t make her uniquely qualified to tell Minnie’s tale, the fact that she wrote and played Minnie in the 2010 stage version of Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel does. Both Heller and Powley are fearless in their presentation of Minnie, and it pays off in large ways. Powley’s slight stature (standing at 5’2”) helps us visualize Minnie as a child on the cusp, while her actual age (23 this year) gives them both license to present Minnie in ways that they could not with a minor in the role.
Just as “Saturday Night Live” veteran Kristen Wiig showed she is not afraid to take on the topic of mental illness in in films like “Welcome To Me,” “The Skeleton Twins,” and the misunderstood populist pic “Bridesmaids,” she takes on another gutsy role here. While Charlotte is not solely to blame for Minnie’s wanton ways (as if a teen’s desires are worthy of such blame) we can see how Charlotte’s own objectification of Minnie paired with her permissiveness swayed Minnie toward making the decisions she did. Wiig plays Charlotte with a sympathetic and effective matter-of-factness, without stealing Powley’s considerable thunder. Also likable–despite the fact that California law would brand his character a felon–is Skarsgård (“True Blood”) as Monroe. He manages to make Monroe’s ’70s porn ‘stache creepier than his lack of common sense and constant rationalization. This is no Solondz-style “Welcome To The Dollhouse” knockoff.
As Heller did on stage, she judiciously incorporates colorful visual cutaways here. Minnie’s animated proxy is a buxom giantess, rendered in the style of underground cartoonist R. Crumb (and a depiction of an acid trip is particularly inspired). Minnie’s artistic idol is Crumb’s paramour and wife Aline Kaminsky, whom she imagines seeing from time to time and takes advice from. It all feels very much like a first-person confessional like “Catcher in the Rye” by way of the schizophrenic magical realism of “Birdman” and the gender-bending fantasy of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a confrontational pedigree that all involved manage to elevate, like Minnie, to beyond just a slapdash label that we would have otherwise written off due to our own predispositions.•••
Robert Newton is a veteran film critic, novelty recording artist, and Creative Director of the Cape Ann Cinema & Stage in historic Gloucester, Mass.
On January 30, 1969, The Beatles–John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr–performed publicly for the last time together. After considering high-profile locations like the Egyptian pyramids and the deck of the QE II, they settled on the humble rooftop of their label, Apple Records, at 3 Savile Row in London.
The album they were in the midst of recording was then known as “Get Back,” and was originally intended for release in 1969. The troubled production was shelved, and, after a reboot by Wall Of Sound pioneer Phil Spector, would come to be known “Let It Be.” It was to be The Beatles’ last, and was released in May 1970 (a de-Spectorized version called “Let It Be… Naked” was released in 2003).
The film “Let It Be” was released in the UK and the US in May 1970, accurately portraying a band in crisis, a warts-and-all look that has been held back from wide release ever since, due to it being such an accurate portrayal of a band in crisis. While the film had a brief home video release in the early 1980s, industry insiders suggest that it will not see a modern-day home video release while surviving Beatles Paul and Ringo are still alive.
Still, parts of the film exist in cyberspace, including the title track, which you can view below.
What’s your favorite Beatles album? Beatles movie?
It’s not a “Saturday Night Live” hosting gig for funnyman Eddie Murphy (which would signal that he had a movie to promote, and based on his track record of the last decade or so, that would not be cause to celebrate). But he is making some peace with the friction that caused a 30+ year absence from NBC’s Studio 8H. Whether it was David Spade’s nasty swipe at Murphy on-air or bad timing or whatever, Murphy will return to the stage that helped make him famous on February 15 for an SNL 40th anniversary special.
What’s your favorite Eddie Murphy sketch? Your favorite Eddie Murphy movie?
Two-time Oscar winner Gene Hackman turns 85 today, contrary to recent internet rumors that he had passed away (that were due to a poorly-worded headline, since amended, but check the URL). The retired actor, who won Oscars for his performance in “The French Connection” (1971) and “Unforgiven” (1992), has become a novelist.
What’s your favorite Gene Hackman movie (and if you say “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace,” you will likely be put on a government list)? Tell us in the Comments section, below.
Also, if you want to check out a wicked Oscar party, the Cape Ann Cinema & Stage has a great one, at which you can totally win a private movie party for you and up to 99 friends!