Coco Before Chanel (2009)

Coco Before Chanel [Coco avant Chanel] (2009)

Starring Audrey Tautou, Benoît Poelvoorde, Alessandro Nivola, Marie Gillain

Directed by Anne Fontaine

Expectations: Moderate.


Going into this movie I expected a tale of how Coco Chanel became a fashion giant, how she built her empire. Instead, I was treated to a simple love story, that funnily enough, was pretty devoid of love. This is definitely not my general type of movie. I have nothing against a good romantic movie, it’s just not a genre I’d specifically pick over something I’m more interested in. I find so many romantic movies to be formulaic and boring, so I generally overlook them. Coco Before Chanel is without a doubt a slow, plodding film, but it has a purpose and it builds towards it well.

The film opens with Coco as a small child, her father dropping her off at the orphanage. This abandonment instills within her a reluctance to trust men and influences her later decisions. The film jumps forward to when Coco is about 20 or so and singing at a saloon. She is noticed by the Baron Balsan (Benoît Poelvoorde) and the two develop a relationship. This gives her a foot into the upper class of French society and through Coco’s determination she remains true to herself and her personal style.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: Blackenstein [The Black Frankenstein] (1973)

Blackenstein [The Black Frankenstein] (1973)
AKA Black Frankenstein, Return of Blackenstein, Blackstein

Starring John Hart, Ivory Stone, Joe De Sue, Roosevelt Jackson

Directed By William A. Levey


After the runaway success of Blacula, it was only a matter of time before other studios would attempt to cash in on the blaxploitation/horror sub-genre. The most obvious attempt was 1973’s Blackenstein, a movie that takes everything Blacula did right and throws it completely out the window.

When Vietnam Vet Eddie Turner (Joe De Sue) loses all of his limbs from a land mine, his fiancée Dr. Walker consults her old teacher, mad scientist Dr. Stein (John Hart) for help. Dr. Stein attempts to attach new limbs to Eddie, and all is going according to plan. But when his assistant, Malcomb professes his love for Dr. Walker and is rejected, he secretly switches the bottles of DNA solution out of spite. The unbalanced solution is injected into Eddie, mutating him into Blackenstein, a hideous (?) monster who escapes the laboratory every night, limping around Los Angeles like a 93-year-old woman, killing random strangers by ripping out their intestines.

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Critters (1986)

Starring Scott Grimes, Dee Wallace-Stone, M. Emmet Walsh, Don Keith Opper, Billy Green Bush, Terrence Mann, Ethan Phillips, Billy Zane

Directed by Stephen Herek

Expectations: Fairly high. I’d wanted to see this since I was a little kid.

On the general scale:
onehalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


I’ve seen parts of this over the years but had never seen it all the way through. I gave it a go, but this is definitely one that would be better with a bunch of friends. It’s a horror comedy and my sights were set a bit more towards gore-fest. The key flaw to my logic though is that I never bothered to notice that this was PG-13. That would have tempered my expectations quite a bit, instead of building them up over the last couple of decades.

Basically, the Critters (or Crites, if you want to get technical) make a daring escape from a prison asteroid, stealing a spaceship. A couple of shapeshifting bounty hunters head off in pursuit. The Crites land on Earth, rural Kansas to be exact. It’s been a long flight and their little Critter bellies are rumbling. From here it devolves into a slight clone of Hitchcock’s The Birds, if the birds were prison-breaking, meat-chomping little furballs from space. I loved the opening of the movie, even if it does focus on the family a little too much. As the film dragged on, my bloodlust raged. “When will the Crites start chomping the innocents?” I thought.

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Mini-Review: Beer Wars (2009)

Starring Anat Baron, Sam Calagione, Rhonda Kallman

Directed by Anat Baron

Expectations: Moderate. I like beer.


Beer Wars seeks to informs its viewers on the fundamental differences between big business beer companies like Anheuser-Busch and small, independent breweries like Dogfish Head. It starts out on the right foot, entertaining and communicating the facts. About halfway through, it loses a lot of steam as the facts run out. At this point it becomes a mixture of random scenes that don’t go much of anywhere and don’t shed any light on the subject. Lots of hitting the “independent breweries are better” nail into the ground.

I’m already on-board with buying local and off-brand brews, so this film also has a quality of “preaching to the choir” for me. All the scenes with Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, are great though, as he is a very honest, likeable fellow. Just the type of guy you’d want to have some grog with. He seems to have great fun running his business and apparently hasn’t lost sight of the dreams that compelled him to open a brewery in the first place. I don’t want to be too negative though, I liked the film. I just thought that it wasn’t as focused or concise as it should have been. The film is definitely better than that train wreck of a poster.

Uncle Jasper reviews: Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

Scream Blacula Scream (1973)
AKA Blacula II, Blacula Is Beautiful, Blacula Lives Again!, The Name Is Blacula

Starring William Marshall, Don Mitchell, Pam Grier, Michael Conrad, Richard Lawson, Lynne Moody, Janee Michelle

Directed By Bob Kelljan


I have to admit I was pretty nervous about gearing down to review Scream Blacula Scream, 1973’s follow up to the surprise horror-blaxploitation hit, Blacula. I was almost certain I’d have to go through the motions and crank out the typical “Shoddy, uninspired sequel to surprisingly good b-movie” review.  Luckily that isn’t the case here. William Marshall turns in a performance that is every bit as classic as the original. And well, this time we have Pam Grier along for the ride… and she does voodoo! And Blacula kicks the shit out of pimps! But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here.

This time around, the elder of a cult of voodoo practitioners lies dying and passes her own son up by naming Lisa (Pam Grier) her successor. The son (played here by Richard Lawson), understandably pissed off to no end, swears revenge on that “skinny, jive-ass bitch”. Now, in most circles revenge would entail taking sharp keys to your enemies’ car, or throwing eggs at his house. But in the world of voodoo, revenge consists of buying the bones of Blacula from some old man with a necklace made out of tiger teeth and resurrecting him by sacrificing a dove and drinking its blood… Yeah, you don’t want to mess with those voodoo guys. Thinking that the ritual didn’t work, the son pops open a Coors and sulks in his living room, only to have Blacula pop out of nowhere and feast on some of that sweet, red nectar.

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The Neverending Story (1984)

Starring Noah Hathaway, Barret Oliver, Tami Stronach, Moses Gunn, Thomas Hill

Directed by Wolfgang Petersen

Expectations: High, this was one of my movies growing up.


Some movies should stay in your childhood. Today I found out that The Neverending Story is firmly in that category. I still enjoyed it, it just didn’t have the same power that it used to. The main character, a book-loving boy who reads The Neverending Story, reminds me of myself at that age so it’s obvious why I connected to it and enjoyed it back then. Unfortunately, viewing the film as an adult, there just wasn’t enough to keep me interested.

Bastian runs away from some school bullies and finds refuge in an old, dusty bookstore. He acquires a copy of The Neverending Story from the man there and proceeds to his school’s attic to read the book. Reading is much more fun than a math test! He finds himself absorbed in the world of Fantasia and the quest of Atreyu to save the dying princess. For the most part, the film still holds up visually. The rock biter still looks fantastic and was still able to get an emotional response from me during his dialogue about not being able to save his friends. I was always touched by that moment and it’s still very powerful. The sphinx gate scene remains very exciting as well.

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The Cove (2009)

Starring Ric O’Barry, Louie Psihoyos, Hayden Panettiere

Directed by Louie Psihoyos

Expectations: High. I’ve heard nothing but good stuff.


The Cove is an interesting documentary. It seeks to expose the fishing practices of the Japanese village of Taiji, specifically the capture and killing of dolphins that goes on there. The practices are legal due to a few loopholes, but are definitely not right. The fisherman capture hundreds of dolphins at a time. Trainers from amusement parks and “Swim with the Dolphins” places come and select the dolphins they want. The fisherman kill all the unselected dolphins and sell them for meat. The film follows Ric O’Barry, who became famous after capturing and training the dolphins used in the 1960s television show Flipper. He now crusades to stop any and all wrongdoings against the creatures, feeling somewhat responsible for their rise in popularity. Ric worked with the dolphins on a daily basis and realized that they are not only incredibly smart, but that they are also self-aware.

Most of the film chronicles Ric and the team’s struggles to film the goings on in the killing cove. It is highly guarded and dangerous to get to. The team has to go to extreme lengths to plant cameras and sound equipment to capture what constitutes the last quarter of the film. The footage is shocking and disturbing. The politicians interviewed in the film may claim that the dolphins are killed humanely and instantly, but when the killing footage is revealed, it is anything but.

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