Bad Taste (1987)

Starring Terry Potter, Pete O’Herne, Craig Smith, Mike Minett, Peter Jackson, Doug Wren, Dean Lawrie, Peter Vere-Jones

Directed by Peter Jackson

Expectations: This is one of my favorite movies.

That’s right, four stars. No general scale, no B-Movie scale — just four stars, straight up. You might think there’s a flaw in my logic to award an amateur film such as Bad Taste a perfect score, and maybe you’re right. But to me, Bad Taste is a perfect movie. I wouldn’t change a single thing about it; I love it unconditionally. Pushing my love aside for just a second, though, the film is also an incredibly ambitious and impressive début, made all the more amazing when you dig a little deeper and discover the story of how it was made.

In his mid-20s and ready to take on the world, Peter Jackson got a bunch of his friends and workmates together to make Bad Taste. He would film it on Sunday afternoons over the course of four years, creating all the special FX himself, as well as hand-building the camera dollies, cranes and Steadicam equipment. As he says in the making-of documentary Good Taste Made Bad Taste, “Normally, if you buy a proper one, they’re about 40 or 50 grand, but this one cost about 20 bucks.” And it’s this “I can do anything” spirit, unrestricted by normal mental barriers, that typifies Bad Taste, and Jackson’s filmography overall.

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Discussion: Most Anticipated December Releases

December is always a big month for the movies. The studios in their last-ditch efforts to win Oscars are pumping out some of their best offerings of the year. While there are a whole host of likely candidates for good films, there are only three that I really care much about. The first of these is probably the most obvious to those that know me well: Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth filmmaking, The Hobbit. I’m unsure that The Hobbit contains enough story or is worthy of an entire trilogy all to itself, but I have faith in Peter Jackson to deliver something compelling and wholly engrossing. I’m quite interested in checking this one out in 3D too, as it will be the first major film to be released in 48 frames per second, and according to Jackson, this will change the game for filmmaking quite a bit. 24 frames per second has suited everyone just fine for over a hundred years, though, so perhaps this is just Jackson at his most Lucas-like. We’ll see, but I’m very excited regardless.

The second film is Tarantino’s latest: Django Unchained. This one I know far less about than The Hobbit, but as soon as it was announced I was on-board. While Tarantino doesn’t hold the same place in my heart that he did when I was 16 or so, I can’t deny that I still greatly enjoy his work. Inglourious Basterds was my favorite film of 2009, and I think it’s easily Tarantino’s best film as well. So that, coupled with the fact that this looks to be another great tale of revenge, leads me to be pretty sure that Django Unchained will be fucking awesome. And honestly, Tarantino had me with the title. As soon as I heard it, I knew he was making a “character name only” Django clone, just as countless Italian filmmakers had done in the wake of Corbucci’s original film, and regardless of how the actual film is, I love that he is actually did that.

But neither of these films can hold a candle to the epic excitement I have for the third film on my agenda. Part of my fervor might be because while it releases at the end of this year overseas, I have no idea when I’ll be able to see it in the US. I fully plan to pick up a Hong Kong DVD or Blu-ray of it the moment it’s available, barring some legitimate US release before that. I am of course talking about the latest Jackie Chan film: Chinese Zodiac. Billed as the long-awaited third entry in his Armour of God series, Chinese Zodiac looks to be everything Chan has promised it will be. A return to the high-stakes, stunt-filled action, Chinese Zodiac is a globetrotting movie made as one last hurrah for Jackie Chan fans. He’s directing, writing, starring and choreographing it all, just like many of his greatest films from the ’80s, and I cannot fucking wait. Bring it on, Jackie! That all being said, there are some worrisome elements, such as the presence of Oliver Platt and Kenny G in the cast, but there’s also Ken Lo so I guess we can still hope for one last battle between Jackie and a super-kicker!

So those are my picks for December releases!
What are yours?

The Lovely Bones (2009)

Starring Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Rose McIver, Michael Imperioli, Christian Thomas Ashdale, Reece Ritchie, Charlie Saxton, Amanda Michalka

Directed by Peter Jackson

Expectations: Moderate. I heard bad things, but I love Peter Jackson so there’s no way I’m not watching this.

This is a tough movie for me to review. Emotionally, I loved it. It hit me hard and continues to resonate in the days following. Technically, I have some issues with it. Ultimately, for me, the emotional weight of the movie is far greater than any technical problems I had, and I am judging it a bit harsher anyway because of my Peter Jackson fanboy status. I’ve seen every one of his films and I enjoy them all. Yes, I even like Meet the Feebles.

Set in 1973, the film tells the story of Susie Salmon, a fourteen-year-old girl who blissfully walks home one day with the prospect of her first kiss consuming her mind. Instead, her neighbor rapes and murders her. Her spirit leaves her body and she continues to look down on her family from the afterlife. With The Lovely Bones, Jackson returns to a smaller type of movie similar to his 1994 film, Heavenly Creatures. My problem with some of Jackson’s choices in filming this movie is that instead of being in “small-movie mode,” he still seems like he’s in “big-effects-movie mode” having just come from Lord of the Rings and King Kong.

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