Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hammer Scores Go Vinyl!

Soon the legendary Hammer music scores will violate vinyl LP (remember them?) on the appropriately named Death Waltz label!  The first release is James Bernard's killer score for THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (aka DEVIL'S BRIDE).  Check out the new amazing cover art!  The second release will be TWINS OF EVIL!

One of the first (if not the first) Hammer music releases on CD.  Here's my copy autographed by the maestro himself, composer James Bernard, during one of his few or rare convention appearances in the states in the early 90's.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

REVIEW: The Expendables 2 (2012-U.S.A.)

Lionsgate.  D: Simon West.  An improvement on the first installment, THE EXPENDABLES 2 is a fun, lightweight, big-screen action/adventure that re-unites Sylvester Stallone with his fellow 80's-present action icons.  New to the mix are Cannon Films' action gods Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme while Jet Li is reduced to a cameo this time out.

After an impressive action-packed pre-credit sequence featuring a surprise rescue, Church (Bruce Willis) makes an unwelcome visit and demands a 'favor'  from Ross (Stallone).  This time Ross' team (Jason Statham, Dolph Lungren, UFC's Randy Couture, footballer Terry Crews and Liam Wemsworth)  must reluctantly take a woman along, (Nan Yu of SPEED RACER), setting of a chain reaction of silly sexist gags, on a mission to stop a plutonium deal that will empower terrorists.  The mission turns tragic when soon-to-be married pretty boy Hemsworth (HUNGER GAMES) is taken hostage and tragically snuffed out by the greasy villain, Vilain (Van Damme), a ruthless trader in plutonium.  For Stallone and his steroid-fueled team, the mission becomes personal and revenge is the flimsy excuse to unleash industrial-strength mega-quantities of  CG blood,  mayhem and mass destruction.  The near apocalyptic climax is spear-headed by the trio of Stallone, Willis and ex-governator Arnold Schwarzenegger wildly trading off firepower, inside jokes and insults .

There is a nice a balance between big-scale stunts and explosions and nicely choreographed hand-to-hand combat.  The standout fight scene features Statham (THE TRANSPORTER and CRANK series) taking on a slew of  thugs in a church.  Li also has a nice but brief fight in a kitchen using pots and pans!

The satisfying finale is a mano-a-mano death duel between Sly and Van Damme, although die-hard action fans would have paid handsomely to see Jet and Jean-Claude go at it.  Scott Adkins, a veteran of Hollywood and Hong Kong action films (ACCIDENTAL SPY, BLACK MASK 2, THE MEDALLION) makes a suitably sinister henchman for Van Damme and gets to shine in a few sequences.  Chuck Norris makes at least two cameos and provides comic relief without getting physical and exerting himself.

Director Simon West (THE MECHANIC, CON AIR) does a competent, precise job at keeping things loud and brisk so there is little time to dwell on the spare DIRTY DOZEN inspired script.  Shot on film on mostly Bulgarian locations, the production has a haphazard visual style with lots of digital tampering such as pixilated blow ups and zoom ins.

Between Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Norris and Van Damme, it looks like a sizeable chunk of the film's production budget went to expensive Cuban cigars and oil drums of hair dye (excluding Willis, of course)!

On a side note, Jackie Chan recently expressed a desire to join the team but was unavailable this time due to his commitment to his own epic CHINESE ZODIAC due out late this year.  Let's hope he's on board for number 3!
VC co-editor with JCVD at the Cannes Film Festival in the mid-90s.  He was prepping his next film, THE QUEST (1996).

Cyber Surf to the Hammer YouTube Channel!

Check it out and subscribe!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

From The Archives: VC #1 November 1991

From The Archives: VC #2 December 1991

From The Archives: VC #3 January 1992

From The Archives: VC #4 February 1992

From The Archives: VC #5 March 1992

From The Archives: VC #6 April 1992

From The Archives: VC #7 May 1992

From The Archives: VC #8 June 1992

From The Archives: VC #9 July 1992

From The Archives: VC #10 August 1992

From The Archives: VC #11 September 1992

From The Archives: VC issue #12 October 1992

Monday, August 20, 2012

Iron Fist Fu! Rza Goes Old Skool!

Rza of the Wu Tang, Eli Roth and Tarantino savage old school kung fu movies with a deconstruction and regurgitation of Shaw Bros. slaughter, spaghetti western wackiness and mucho CG!  Aside from an all-star cast, be on the look out for familiar faces from the glory days of Hong Kong cinema!  Set for a November 2nd theatrical release in the U.S.  Here's the trailer:
Rza with Yuen Woo-Ping!  (Corey Yuen is the film's action director)

Phyllis Diller dies at 95!

Here at VC, Diller will forever be remembered for her stop-motion appearance in MAD MONSTER PARTY among other things!  http://content.usatoday.com/communities/entertainment/post/2012/08/comedian-phyllis-diller-dies-in-los-angeles/1#.UDKSMKlmTkZ

Happy Birthday H.P.!

Today, we celebrate the 122nd birthday of Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937).  A great, great writer and thinker.  His work, both his content and style, has still never been properly or accurately translated to cinema yet, in my opinion.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Karlson & Bava: Similarities Unmasked!

Ever since I first discovered Phil Karlson's classic noir KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL (1952) on VHS in the early 90's, I was immediately struck by the too-close-to-be-a-coincidence parallel scene of the masked man slapping sequence to a very similar scene in Mario Bava's masterpiece giallo, BLOOD & BLACK LACE (1964).  I don't know if this has been discussed or analysed before or elsewhere.  I have read that KANSAS CITY was a huge influence on Sergio Leone.  You can decide for yourself how much Bava may have been influenced by Karlson with these two clips:
KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL CLIP (sequence starts at about 15:00)
BLOOD & BLACK LACE CLIP (sequence starts at about 33:55)
Both films are classics.  Bava's is my all-time favorite giallo.  Karlson' noir is PD but available as a decent, budget-priced blu-ray/DVD combo (http://www.amazon.com/Kansas-City-Confidential-Blu-Ray-Combo/dp/B004G9UXEO/ref=tmm_blu_title_0) but the best print quality remains the MGM DVD (.http://www.amazon.com/Kansas-City-Confidential-Film-Noir/dp/B000PMFRVK)
Bava's film is available on DVD from VCI (who also issues KANSAS on DVD). (http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Black-Lace-Special-Edition/dp/B000BB1926/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345230807&sr=8-1&keywords=blood+and+black+lace).  This is one of my 'most wanted' titles for blu-ray!

Master Killer Gordon Liu suffers stroke!

Very sad news about a true Hong Kong movie legend.  We hope he gets well soon!  For more details:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Box O' Sixties Shochiku Shocks!

A killer Criterion DVD box set invades stores on November 20th!  Contents include four classic 60's Japanese sci-fi titles from the Shochiku Studios vaults: THE X FROM OUTER SPACE, GOKE BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL, THE LIVING SKELETON and GENOCIDE!


Friday, August 10, 2012

FX Maestro Carlo Rambaldi Dies (1925-2012)

While he's widely known for his creation of E.T., I like to remember Rambaldi mostly for 1973's FLESH FOR FRANKENSTEIN (aka ANDY WARHOL'S FRANKENSTEIN).  I'd rather forget his work on the '76 KING KONG (1976) and CONAN THE DESTROYER (1984) but I actually really like KING KONG LIVES (1986) much better as a film and for his work.  The giant heart transplant scene is pretty crazy!  LIVES was like a crazy, slick Caucasian kaiju that's worth re-visiting.  Rambaldi contributed a lot to the golden age of Euro horror and sci-fi and worked with some of the greats including Mario Bava.  My personal favorite is Rambaldi's title monster for MEDUSA VS. THE SON OF HERCULES (1963) starring Richard Harrison.  Rambaldi' Medusa is a awesome rubber suit and still terrifying to this day!
Here's his obituary:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/italian-special-effects-master-carlo-rambaldi-father-of-et-dead-at-86/2012/08/10/eade6e52-e30e-11e1-89f7-76e23a982d06_story.html
Rambaldi's credits: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0708058/

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Official 007 trailer goes viral!

Daniel Craig (looking the worse for wear!) is back as Ian Fleming's James Bond in SKYFALL!  Check it out!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceeV2lrqonQ
After such a promising debut in CASINO ROYALE, let's hope this third Craig/Bond is more memorable than QUANTUM OF SOLACE.