Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Favorites: Monster Squad

Sketch by Dezi Sienty

When I was a young kid my mom and my step-dad owned a barber shop. The shop was on the first floor of a three story town house in dead center city Allentown, PA. We lived above the shop on the second and third floor. My step-dad was a distant guy. Didn't really care about teaching me or my step-brother how to hit a baseball or throw a spiral. As a result, I spent the bulk of my childhood watching a whole lot of movies on our VHS player. Also, my step-dad stole cable. We had a cheaters box with all the premium movie channels. And that was pretty much all I did with my free time as a kid. Watch movies. A lot of movies. I would just record endlessly off HBO onto video tape, EP mode you could fit 3 or 4 movies on one cassette! And the 80's, man, just produced a ton of great, great movies that were geared to kids and teens. But what made these flicks great was that they didn't patronize their young viewers, like tween movies do nowadays.
Print by Dezi Sienty

Which brings me to The Monster Squad. One of the truly, quintessential 80's kid flicks I speak of. It was violent, it was scary, the kids curse like sailors... a 6 year old girl gets called a bitch. Sure, it's a cult classic now, but when the film came out in theaters it was a big box office failure. A studio's attempt to cash in on the Goonies craze. And let's be honest, The Monster Squad is basically The Goonies, but instead of the Fratellis, it's classic movie monsters. But the movie goes beyond just trying to be a cheap knock off. The kid actors are just as engaging. The humor is just as sharp. And the scares just as thrilling. Duncan Regher's version of Dracula is brilliant and frightening. Tom Noonan's Frankenstein Monster is imposing, yet pitiful. The movie is a great homage to the classic Universal monster flicks of the 40s. If you haven't seen The Monster Squad, lately or ever, definitely pick it up this Halloween and enjoy. At the very least you will learn two very valuable, possibly life saving lessons if you ever have the misfortune of running into a werewolf: Lesson #1, there's only one way to kill a werewolf. Lesson #2, Wolfman's got nards. - Cody Dee

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Favorites: Ghostbusters

Halloween is here again so this year Cody and the fellas at Cave Drawing Ink decided to take a trip back to the 80's (Everyone is doing it this year: Karate Kid, A-Team, etc.) and explore two of our favorite flicks that coincide nicely with Halloween. Monster Squad and Ghostbusters. Both are great classics and both make fun homages to the Monster Movies of the 40's and 50's. In this first post we'll talk a little bit about Ghostbusters, we've got a couple of original pieces from our Cave Drawing friends Ian Glaubinger and Ori Ayalon so take a look and enjoy!
 Print by Ian Glaubinger

I know, everyone and their brother loves Ghostbusters, you may ask why am I talking about something that has been seen by so many people and has been analyzed and fawned over by popular culture and nerds like me for at least twenty years? All true, but there is something about the mythology and the story telling that makes Ghostbusters stand above the rest and should be strongly considered a favorite for families to watch over Halloween. And I'm going to make that case right now. One of the best parts about Ghostbusters is how they pay tribute to those timeless classics  like Abbot and Costello meet the Wolfman, Dracula, Frankenstein and I believe the Mummy. In my mind those classic creatures were what Horror movies were all about. Fun, kind of campy with some mild creepiness. I'm sorry but I just can't seem to find any interest in these torture porn flicks like Saw or Hostel, where is the suspense if you are watching somebody being carved up in a bloody massacre? Subtlety is the best way to go, build up to a good scare or like in Jaws where most of the destruction takes place off camera, allowing your imagination to take over. Now Ghostbusters isn't as scary as Jaws but nothing scared the shit out of me more than that damn librarian at the beginning of the film. I practically jumped out of my seat. Such a great scene; they get me laughing on the way in, scare the crap out of you, and get you laughing again right after.  I mean how creepy is Sigourney Weaver when she's possessed by Zuul. "There is no Dana only Zuul." That shit gave me nightmares for weeks, of course I was ten. But I couldn't get enough of that movie I remember seeing it like ten times in the theatre no matter how many times it scared me. And of course no conversation of creepiness would be complete if I didn't mention that Prehistoric Bitch who sent a 400 foot Marshmellow Man on a rampage on the upper west side, Gozer the Gozarian. What a fantastic name for an inter-dimensional demon hell bent on the destruction of New York. That lady was seriously creepy with her butch cut and crazy red eyes. It fits perfectly in the canon of old folk tales and Ghost Stories. No kid could walk out of that movie and not want to strap on proton pack and hunt for ghosts. What makes Ghostbusters so unique is director Ivan Reitman's ability to go for the laugh just as much as he goes for the scare. It's a hard blend but in this film it's perfect.
 Sketch by Ori Ayalon

My son just recently discovered Ghostbusters, the soundtrack actually, not the movie, he's not quite of age yet. But he loves it, he dances around and then cries when it's over. I recently showed him a couple episodes of the Real Ghostbusters cartoon. The one that sticks out most in my mind is the one titled the Headless Motorcyclist. The Ghostbusters take a job tracking down the Headless Horseman, who in modern times, has been hunting down the descendants of school master Ichabod Crane on a wicked flaming Harley. It was a great little follow up story to the classic, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. My little guy seemed to enjoy it and I too found myself drawn to the cartoon again after all of these years. There isn't as much of an edge and it isn't as funny but the characters are still consistent with the films and most importantly it put a smile on my kids face. After watching the episode I found myself drawn back to Irving's classic tale of the Headless Hessian and it's interesting how much he seems to be, like Ghostbusters, going for the humorous as much as the scare. His Ichabod Crane could be a cross between Egon and Peter Venkman. He's lanky and bookish, a little goofy, with a long nose and he's always looking for the financial angle to get him ahead. It's written in a very satirical fashion. It's also steeped in lore and haunted tales, almost like the Ghostbusters film where we get the pieces to the disturbing puzzle of Gozer and the NY highrise. All of it built on a rich layer of myth and legend. It is a fact that Ghostbusters is one of the most quoted films ever made and it boasts the funniest cast ever with Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd and Rick Moranis. But it is also a great ghost story/folk tale about a group of working class stiffs who are just trying to stay afloat against the worst spooks and spectres the great city of New York has to throw at them. It's this kind of narrative that gets you in the Halloween spirit and it doesn't have to involve chain saws and bloody hockey masks. So go and revisit Ghostbusters again with your kid after a night of trick-or-treating it should be a staple in your household it certainly will be in mine. In about 7 years or so....
 What do you want I don't want my kid having nightmares!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Town

Just got back from director/actor Ben Affleck's new movie, The Town. It's a character driven action thriller, half like the Michael Mann flick, Heat. The other half, well it's Boston, It's gotta be Good Will Hunting. I'm pretty impressed with Mr. Affleck and his directing abilities. I still haven't seen his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone from a few years ago. But I can see why studios may be lining up to give him a job behind the camera as much as in front. He handles the double duty pretty well as he shows us the seedy side of Boston, yet again. I would say that the crime diseased Southie crowd has been portrayed to almost excess over the last few years. Here they are again, but, even though the situation is similar the road is a little different and that is certainly a high point for the film.
Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) and his crew of bank robbers, Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), Albert (Slaine) and Desmond (Owen Burke) hit a bank and take the pretty Manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall) hostage. Once they let her go, they worry that she might have seen one of them, which causes Doug to meet her without the mask. Like all good drama, he falls for her and finds himself in a pickle on whether to do another job or not. Especially when they have a tough as nails Fed Sam Frawley (Jon Hamm) nipping at their heels.
I really liked the film, the pacing the writing everything. Sure there were fairly generic touches dealing with trying to get out of the crime life, but you still got sucked into it anyway. You found yourself rooting for Doug and hoping that he gets away. They really pulled out the stops to make Frawley pretty unlikable, although you understand why he's such a bastard, Hamm plays it to perfection. I also really enjoyed Blake Lively's turn as a skanked up ex-girlfriend of Doug's. She really took that good girl image and flushed it down the toilet, in a good way. She also played her character pretty unlikable, but it works. You understand even more why Doug wants to get the hell out of town, he's being dragged down by everyone. I liked seeing Chris Cooper as Doug's jailbird Dad, but he's only in one scene for like 5 minutes. It would have been great to have seen some extended scenes with him. Overall I really dug the movie but I had a few problems with the end. I won't give it away but it tries to have a happy ending which just didn't sit that well with me. I just don't think you can have a happy ending after all that transpires but, there is some redemption in there to make all that joyfulness a bit more palatable. But it just felt like they weren't sure how to end it and it's kind of a drag. I also enjoyed watching the kinetic Jeremy Renner play the psychotic Jem, he does at times feel a little 2 dimensional, but Renner really elevates the character to a place he really shouldn't exist in.
It's a good flick and I recommend it highly. So after you've seen Let Me In (Not a shameless plug, honest it's a great movie) go and check out the Town. It's doing pretty well still at the theatre so you should have some time to squeeze in some Vampire kids and a Facebook movie before.

Grade: 3 Buckets