Tuesday, May 17, 2011


So over the last three weeks, I have taken in some alternative cinema. The term alternative can mean many things, but for arguments sake, let’s just say it is something ranging from just outside of the mainstream to full on, bat-turd crazy.

I am a horror buff of sorts. I mean I don’t seek out the cons, but I will take in Dead Alive, Evil Dead, Texas Chainsaw, Halloween, etc. whenever the opportunity arises. For those last two, of course I was referring to the originals.

Some of these films I watched were pure eye candy for the genre fan. One of them was so unique, it almost demands to be seen. And finally one of them had great promise, but missed the mark by a few miles.

Jason Eisner is a man who knows how to answer the call to service. When he found out that Robert Rodriguez and his eminence, Quentin Tarantino were having a contest in Canada for the best GRINDHOUSE trailer…that man stepped it up.

Eisner shot the trailer for Hobo With A Shotgun as his entry into the contest. He won.

The Hobo trailer played Canada with the theatrical release of Grindhouse…and now it’s a movie!

The second faux-trailer from the Grindhouse project making its way to the silver screen, following in the footsteps of Machete, Robert Rodriguez’s brainchild.

I guess the whole crew behind this film, Eisner, John Davies, and Rob Cotterill, have been making horror shorts in the Canadian underground horror scene since their teens.

Hobo is bound to revitalize the career of Rutger Hauer. Hobo is to Hauer what The Wrestler was for Rourke. Just without the Oscar and the Hauer has a history in cult film, and he manages to live up to his reputation in every way. Sure it was great to see him in Sin City and in Batman Begins…but he shines here like the burning embers of gunpowder, blasting from the end of a double barrel.

How much damage could a 67 year old Hobo do?

Suprisingly, quite a bit!

Hobo seems as though in its grandest sense, may be a criticism of society in decline. Yes, much of our world is wine and roses, but much is not. Fortunately, filmmakers have been making similar films for years, and this is just another great film in that long line of making statements by showing the extreme worst in people. But fear not, there is no heavy-handed politics a foot here…this film is pure exploitation.

This movie could very easily existed within the 70’s and 80’s splatstick uber-violent horror that we came to love. This film embodies Grindhouse.

There is a surprising lack of nudity, but the bloodshed and sadism presented here exist along side the best throughout time. This is not the torture porn made popular with the likes of Saw and Hostel (etc.), this is violence with a great sense of style.

The story is simple. A train traveling Hobo (Hauer) comes to town riding the rails. He is trying to raise enough money to buy a lawn mower. We don’t know why at first, but we learn as his character is fleshed out.

He is sickened at the crime ridden city and his moral compass points a little more north than most folks in this town.

He has all he can take when he sees a prostitute about to be taken captive (and likely killed) by Slick (Gregory Smith). Slick and Ivan (Nick Bateman), sons of Drake (Brian Downey), comprise the heart of the criminal element in this town. They are some bad mama-jamas and are not afraid to inflict harm in the most brutal ways imaginable.

The Hobo intervenes and saves the girl, but he pays the price.

You can’t keep a good Hobo down, though, and he comes back with a vengeance.

He begins to lay waste to child predators, robbers and thieves, murderers, all the same. But he enrages the drake.

What follows is a beautiful display of horror, in which no one is safe. This film pulls no punches…killing children and babies, pedophilia, sexually motivated murders…it has the works. If it wasn’t for the sake of exploitation, which is in a way a form of parody, it would be sick.

For all the terrible things you will see, if that is your kind of movie, you will love it! If any of what I said seems sick and twisted…go see something else. You will despise this film.

5 of 5 Horns for some guerilla filmmakers and the beautiful movie they have composed.

This movie is not playing everywhere, but you can probably find it on-demand or via your favorite digital distributor.

This 2010 film from Quentin Dupieux also received a very sparse theatrical release. I caught this as well on-demand, and I am glad to have done it.

Rubber is the tale of Robert. Robert is a tire, and for some reason unknown, he is willed into existence.

What makes this ludicrous sounding concept work, is the fact that it is something of a film within a film. You see within Rubber, there is a “live” audience watching the action from afar, through binoculars.

The characters in the film are unaware of the presence of the audience, except for Lieutenant Chad, our guide through the events that follow.

The use of the concept of the audience within the film and the unique idea of a tire that is willed to life, armed with extremely powerful telekinetic/psychokinetic power make this movie wholly enjoyable.

It is odd, it is unique, and it is fun.

Reel Rhino stamp of approval here at 4 of 5 horns. See it if you can. Free your mind of logic and prepare for the insane, for this film requires you to consume both the film itself and the concept of this show within a show.

I was fortunate enough to be sent to St. Louis, MO on business last week. My home terrain was not carrying SUPER, James Gunn’s latest offering, but damn, did I want to see it.

Described as something somewhere between last year’s KICK-ASS and 2006’s SPECIAL, with Michael Rappaport, SUPER is just…well super.

As I was saying…St. Louis. So my stay was actually just outside St. Louis, in a town called Clayton. Clayton butted up against another small suburb of STL, called University City. University City is home of THE LOOP, a great entertainment district that features over a dozen live-music venues, and a wonderful place to grub-up, BLUEBERRY HILL.

The Loop is also home to a very historic theater, which opened originally as a single screener in 1924, but since converted to a three-screen, Landmark Theaters run movie house: THE TIVOLI. Originally a Vaudeville house, this beautiful theater was rebuilt to the tune of $2 million, in the mid-1990’s. The walls are beautifully lined with movie posters and memorabilia from throughout time.

The print playing at the Tivoli was a film print, and it was the perfect way to display this gritty, dark take on the super hero genre.

Did I say dark? James Gunn is a sick, sick man…and I love him for it. Gunn is actually a St. Louis native and ran a special showing of SUPER at the Tivoli, leaving them with a great signed poster that was proudly on display outside the theater.

Super tells the tale of a regular joe, named Frank (Rainn Wilson) who loses his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler), a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, to a local drug kingpin named Jacques, played to perfection by a sinister Kevin Bacon.

Frank is inspired by a religious program that happens to be on one night when he is mourning Sarah’s departure. THE HOLY AVENGER is played by genre favorite Nathan Fillion, who last graced a Gunn feature in Slither. The exploits of The Holy Avenger in the name of Jesus Christ play out in hilarious fashion.

Honoring a vision from God, Frank decides to create his own super hero…The Crimson Bolt. He does so at first on his own, but he quickly gets help from local comic shop clerk, Libby, who quickly becomes his sidekick, Boltie (Ellen Page).

Frank has the heart of a hero, and the skill set of a zero. He resorts to pure brute strength and wields a pipe wrench as his weapon of choice.

Ellen Page is great in her supporting role as is Jacques’ bad-guy sidekick, Abe (Michael Rooker). Rooker is a master of the gruff and mean types. He effortlessly breathes life into the role of Abe.

This film is every bit the hero’s journey as much more prominent films, just taking the off-road approach, but getting you there just the same.

In a related topic, Linda Cardellini has a very small cameo in the movie. Where the hell has she been? She has a role in this year’s KILL THE IRISHMAN, another film I am much looking forward to.

This is a dark, dark movie. The physical effects are great…gritty and realistic looking.

I had a conversation with the manager at The Tivoli before the film. We both commented that a wide release probably would have been a success, if for no other reason that the actors in the film. Walking out, I commented how many folks looking for Dwight Schrute or Juno, would have been terribly disappointed.

4 of 5 Horns for James Gunn’s SUPER. Like Hobo, this is not a movie for everyone. Some of the laughs are drawn from feeling so uncomfortable, you don’t know what else to do.

So this was not a great movie…but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a GREAT MOVIE! This falls safely within the “B” movie classification. You know you might be a “B” movie when character actor Richard Riehle is your best recognized face (Office Space’s Tom Smykowski – You know…the jump to conclusions mat guy).

Directed by Matthew Kohnen and written by Matthew and Sean Kohnen, this 2007 film has inexplicably found its way to Time Warner On-Demand. I, for one, am pretty happy about it. For $3.99, I got to see a pretty unique, albeit terrible in the best way imaginable, way.  It was released in 2007 under the title Wasting Away and was available to rent under the title Ahhh! Zombies.  Bizarre.

What makes this movie worth the watch is that is absolutely flips your standard zombie flick right on its head.

The nameless faceless US Army creates a serum that they believe will create an army of super soldiers. When the serum actually turns the test subject into a zombie, all hell breaks loose when the relabeled containers with the serum are hijacked and one of the cartons finds its way into the delivery area of a local bowling alley.

A group of friends, a few of whom work at the bowling alley, end up using a contaminated container of soft serve ice cream to make beer ice cream, and they become zombies.

At this point, our heroes are zombified. Except they don’t realize it. They are all turned to zombies, but as far as they are concerned, life is just going on per normal. Everyone else sees them for what they are, but they believe that they are regular old joes.

We get two distinct tones throughout the movie. The color scenes are our heroes as they see themselves and the black and white scenes are our heroes as

I don’t want to explain it too far, not in fear of spoiling it, but instead because it doesn’t deserve the effort. It is a great movie for what it is, but this is a film that can be seen much easier than it can be described.

The story line is a bit wacky and the story is a bit draggy at points, but this is definitely a movie you should see!

4 of 5 Horns, for sheer creativity and a rockin’ good time!

Finally, this film was a recent theatrical release, albeit in somewhat limited release. Take a look at the showtimes, you may still find it playing near you. This was actually a movie I was looking forward to…why, you may ask? I saw promise and potential to be surprised.

I was surprised. Very surprised.

Unfortunately, I was surprised at how uninspired this film was as a finished product based on a fairly successful Italian graphic novel series.

What is good for the Italians is not always good for everyone, though. Except of course fine wine and great pizza!

The titular character…Dylan Dog…is portrayed by Brandon Routh. I like Brandon Routh, but I am starting to think I am in the minority. I really enjoyed his vegan crusader, Todd Ingram, in Scott Pilgrim. I actually enjoyed his turn as the Man of Steel, in Superman Returns.

While I blame to some extent the editing, Routh was not overly charismatic in a role that would have greatly thrived on delivery.

Dylan Dog is a supernatural investigator who specializes in zombies, vampires, and werewolves, all of which exist in this universe.

His way of being is something of a regurgitation of Fletch meets Pete Venkmen, achieving nothing close to the success of either of those iconic characters.

Dylan Dog is a new twist on the monster movie and I think in more capable hands, this film could have been great. I think I would like to give this property another try, but only in the hands of a skilled filmmaker and I would even be willing to give Routh another try in the lead role.

Also in this film is an enjoyable (as always) Peter Stormare, a fairly ridiculous Taye Diggs, a passable comedic sidekick in Sam Huntington, and Icelandic actress Anita Briem, who is both competent in her role and beautiful.

Director Kevin Munroe is an up and comer, but just missed the mark here. He has limited previous experience, but working with an established property can always be tricky. I hope that things take a turn for the better for him, but also for Dylan Dog. While I didn’t love this movie, I still see promise and potential for the future for this character. For this effort, though, 2 of 5 horns.

That's all for now!  Until later, take care.
Reel Rhio

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