Okay, we’re breaking format here, but for what I think is a good reason. Famed cartoonist John Kricfalusi — aka John K — has started up a Kickstarter campaign for his new project, CANS WITHOUT LABELS, featuring that fireplug dynamo of really bad ideas, George Liquor (characteristic quote: “It’s discipline that begets love!”). John wanted to talk about it and I was up for finding out what he was up to, thus this special episode of MIGHTY MOVIE PODCAST.
John was one of the guys responsible for the rebirth of truly anarchic, funny cartoons with REN AND STIMPY. His mix of gorgeous and grotesque set the stage for everything from SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS to ADVENTURE TIME, and one look at the presentation art for CANS makes me eager to see ol’ George back in action and imposing his manly will on us luckless mortals.
Click on the player to hear John and I discuss the upcoming cartoon, John’s campaign to get animation back to its chaotic roots, the strange genealogy of cartoon nephews, and the dying tradition of animated spokespeople.
Like a black velvet reproduction of Guernica, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the movie, takes one of the landmark works of art of the twentieth century and renders it shallow, pointless and silly. Included in its list of crimes: entrusting the Beatles’ most innovative work to the likes of the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Steve Martin and Alice Cooper, among an almost infinite roster of incomprehensible casting choices; and placing the whole mess in the hands of a director who was clearly incapable of telling a coherent story (the magical musical instruments need to be stolen because why? And how exactly does that lead to the charming town of Heartland, U.S.A. being turned into Pottersville?), but never met a cheapjack, circa seventies special effects trope he didn’t love.
Does that mean the film should be avoided like the plague? Aw, hell, no — here is a musical (rock opera, actually) so wrongheaded in all its aspects that it manages to work its way around to inventing its own brand of awesomeness — terrible awesomeness, to be sure, but awesomeness nevertheless. All of which makes it perfect for worship upon the altar of the Temple of Bad. Come join Andrea Lipinski, Keven Lauderdale, and Dan Persons as they delve into this singular time capsule of seventies pop culture, style, and, most of all, hair, and have a few larfs at its expense.
For some, it is Valhalla; for others, it is a seething, roiling, chaotic pit of humanity. For many, I suspect, it’s a phenomenon just slightly more indecipherable than Naked Lunch. It is San Diego Comic-Con, and documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, with the help of Stan Lee, Joss Whedon, and aintitcool’s Harry Knowles, has endeavored to crack the code in COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE. Rallying a massive production unit and focusing in on a handful of attendees that include a couple of aspiring artists, a costumer seeking to catch attention with her ambitious creations, and an old-school vendor wondering whether there are any comics left at the con — plus celebrity interviews from the likes of Kevin Smith, Guillermo del Toro, and Seth Rogen — Spurlock cuts through the myths of obsessive behavior, social awkwardness and bad hygiene (although there’s plenty of that, as well) to create a more human portrait of the people who have found pleasure and fulfillment in the worlds of genre media, and the event where they can let their geek flags fly.
Click on the player to hear my interview with Spurlock.
It’s the rare film that comes along and totally redefines the medium, but such a film is BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR. From its striking visual style to its Oscar-worthy performances to its dazzling special effects to its powerful, environmental subtext, this tale of a small, California town enduring the wrath of a vengeful Mother Nature — in the form of merciless attacks by flocks of deadly birds — is no mere light entertainment, but a truly life-changing experience, as immersive as AVATAR, as revolutionary as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.
Andrea Lipinski and Kevin Lauderdale join Cinefantastique Online’s Dan Persons in a sober, critical analysis of this landmark film, analyzing how director James Nguyen has taken the lessons learned from his spiritual mentor — Alfred Hitchcock — and exceeded the master in every regard. Click on the player to hear the podcast, and discover how the pantheon of cinema greats — from Griffith to Scorsese; from Eisenstein to Kubrick — will soon have a new name added to its ranks.
This gangster is haunted, literally. KEYHOLE begins with an inversion — a group of criminals have to fight their way past a police barricade into a house — and only gets stranger from there. Turns out their boss Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric), isn’t after any kind of swag, but an exorcism of the past. The house is his own, riddled with ghosts, and Pick — with a willing mystic and an unwilling kidnap victim in tow — seeks to contact these remnants of a shaded, violent past, including his wife (Isabella Rossellini), possibly to banish them forever.
KEYHOLE is another stylish, enigmatic examination of the human soul by the Canadian master of such, Guy Maddin. Shot (mostly) in black and white, with a noirish tone, a script co-written by Maddin and frequent collaborator George Toles, and key performances by Udo Kier and KIDS IN THE HALL’s Kevin McDonald, the film’s a strange and poetic examination of how the sins of the past can linger forever, and what it might cost to revisit them.
Maddin’s one of my favorite interviews, and I’m glad to finally get him on the podcast. Click on the player to hear our conversation.
Call it a cultural difference. Here in the U.S, our serial killers are quiet loners who nurse secret agendas and conduct their grim business on their own. In Australia, the most notorious case of serial murder involved the personable, charismatic John Bunting (Daniel Henshall), who came into the poverty-stricken community of Snowtown, staged neighborhood watch meetings, and from them gathered together a small corps of cohorts — including his girlfriend’s impressionable, teenage son (newcomer Lucas Pittaway) — to help rid the place of “deviants” in increasingly sadistic ways. As directed Justin Kurzel, THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS is a horror film that gains all the more impact for its basis in reality, showing how people in the depths of destitution and despair will willingly surrender themselves to a cunning and seductive evil.
Click on the player to hear my interview with Kurzel.
Amidst the swashbuckling felines, fast-talking lizards, and kung-fu pandas — plus a cat in Paris — that occupy this year’s Oscar nominees for animated feature, there’s actually a tale featuring human beings, stylized though they may be. In CHICO & RITA, live-action director Fernando Trueba (BELLE EPOQUE) joins forces with artist/designer Javier Mariscal and his brother Tono Errando to tell the colorful and wide-ranging story of talented singer Rita and the equally talented — and perpetually reprobate — composer and pianist Chico as they forge their careers in the jazz hotbed of Havana in the late ’40′s and thence to America and possible fame and fortune. The going will not be easy — love will be squandered and egos crushed — but animation, done in an attractive, computer-enhanced graphic novel style (and featuring a touch of full-frontal nudity), is beautiful and the music, courtesy of jazz legend Bebo Valdés, is hot. Rango can go sit on a rock.
Click on the player to hear my interview with Trueba, Mariscal, and Errando.
There are compelling reasons why, when traveling, one should skip the chain lodgings and stay at one of America’s classic hotels. There’s the friendly and courteous staff, the opportunity to experience a true piece of Americana, and the chance that you’ll encounter a spectral manifestation that wants to rip your immortal soul from your still-screaming body. (Disadvantage: no wi-fi.) In THE INNKEEPERS, a pair of slackers (Sarah Paxton and Pat Healy) are put in charge of an aging hotel in its last days and — when not attending to the needs of such guests as Kelly McGillis as a sympathetic psychic and George Riddle as Quiet Creepy Guy — decide to play GHOST HUNTERS by investigating the myriad tales of hauntings that the institution has acquired. To quote a classic, American aphorism: “Big mistake.”
With films such as THE ROOST and THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, director Ti West has managed to deliver old-school, atmospheric chills on a limited budget, and he’s pulled the same feat off with THE INNKEEPERS, creating a ghost tale that’s both witty and scary, with a valuable lesson for us all (i.e. continental breakfast shouldn’t be the only consideration when choosing a hotel). Click on the player to hear my interview with him.
What starts out as common, garden-variety crime thriller turns… bizarre, and then frightening, in director Ben Wheatley’s twisty new film, KILL LIST. The tale of middle class hit-man Jay (Neil Maskell), who with colleague Gal (Michael Smiley) goes out for one more job and discovers blood oaths, strange rites, and disturbingly grateful targets have been thrown into the bargain, the film allows Wheatley to hook the rough-edged shooting style he explored in his debut effort, DOWN TERRACE, to a world that has room for both examinations of a tempestuous home life and the graphic shocks of classic horror. Think IN BRUGES meets THE WICKER MAN, then forget about all that and prepare to get righteously freaked-out.
Click on the player to hear my interview with Wheatley. UNFORTUNATE TECHNICAL NOTE: Our usual podcast host has started giving us agita, apparently because we are just that popular, so we’ve temporarily switched to another service and had to downgrade our audio quality as a result. We’ll get this snag patched up and be back to the rich, beautiful sound you expect from MMP as soon as possible.
So, there, that’s one New Years resolution out of the way for me. A few months after the theatrical release of KUNG FU PANDA 2, I was able to score an interview with its director, Jennifer Yuh Nelson. With the home video release of the film (in just about every format available, including Amazon Instant Video and a Blu-ray boxed set that also includes the first KFP and a new short film, SECRETS OF THE MASTER), I felt it was time to raise some attention for this beautifully mounted, entertaining sequel.
KFP2 was, I felt, unjustly maligned in its original release. Thing is, what most critics seemed to feel was its greatest flaw — not enough focus on lovable doofus panda Po (Jack Black) — I saw as its greatest strength. Instead of the first film’s fish-out-of-water scenario, the sequel uses Po’s elevation to kung fu master to engage in a full embrace of Hong Kong action, casting him into a story that sees the panda facing off against a megalomaniacal peacock who has developed a weapon that may render martial arts obsolete: the cannon. It’s Jackie Chan enhanced with a lush, animation style — bridging over numerous formats, including 2D and shadow puppets — and highlighted with exquisitely choreographed battle scenes; exciting, funny, and a dazzling visual feast. For the love of martial arts, or pure, bravura animation, you need to see this.
Click on the player to hear my interview with Nelson.