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Having a Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: Russian Ghosts & Japanese Monsters

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, February 21, 2020 05:49pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

Welcome to this month’s Having A Movie Moment With Jon Longhi where I review recent Blu-ray releases.

VIYViy, Severin:
This dark Russian fairy tale could easily make it onto a list of the best horror/ fantasy movies ever made. It's just a simple story beautifully told. In the fifties and sixties, Russia produced some psychedelic and surreal adaptations of fairy tales. Most of these were made for children, but Viy takes this unique aesthetic and applies it to a fable that is decidedly for adults. The movie is an adaptation of a classic novella by Nikolai Gogol and there is a literary feel to the screenplay that keeps the story on a tight narrative track. Director Mario Bava previously adapted this same Gogol novella as Black Sunday and, while it is an excellent movie, Viy is even better.

The film starts when a class of seminary students are sent home for vacation. Three of them lose their way and end up staying at a farmhouse owned by an old woman. During the night the old woman tries to seduce one of the students whose name is Khoma. When he rejects her advances, she puts him under a spell and begins riding him around the countryside like a horse. When they start flying he realizes she's a witch. When they finally land, he beats her to death with a stick. After death she turns into a beautiful young woman and Khoma runs back to his seminary. The next day, his Rector summons him and sends him to the house of a rich man to read prayers for his dying daughter. When he arrives, Khoma is horrified to discover that the daughter is same woman he killed the night before. The rich man tells Khoma if he stands vigil and reads prayers for his daughter for three nights in a row he will be richly rewarded; if he refuses, he faces severe punishment. Khoma basically has no choice but to agree. This is the basic setup of the story and the bulk of the film explores what happens each night as he sits vigil and is assaulted by ever greater supernatural manifestations and attacks. Each night, the underworld ante is upped until the third night becomes one of the most bat shit crazy things ever filmed in horror cinema history. It's literally like an Hieronymus Bosch painting brought to life with extra demons bussed in from one of Salvador Dali's nightmares. I have watched this ending many times and every time I view it I notice some new strange detail. If you ever want to see a cinematic representation of things going totally insane, just watch the end of this movie. It's one of the best and most unique scenes ever filmed. Severin's edition of Viy is a perfect movie release. The remastered picture looks stunning and allows you see all kinds of details in the ending insanity that weren't clear in earlier editions. There is an English dub as well as the subtitled version. The bonus features include interviews and a trailer. There's a nice little feature on the history of Soviet fantasy and sci-fi films called: From The Woods To The Cosmos. You even get a selection of three short silent films. This came out in December of 2019 and was easily one of the best releases of the year.

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Weird Wednesdays this February at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, February 7, 2020 03:07pm | Post a Comment

Amoeba Music joins Alamo Drafthouse New Mission in San Francisco for another month of Weird Wednesdays! Check out the outrageous fringe films they're showing this February. We'll see you at the movies!

REFLECTIONS OF EVIL (2002)
Wednesday, February 12. 9:30pm.
Reflections of Evil is like seeing an astral projection of someone’s mental breakdown through the prism of low-budget horror aesthetics. Produced and self-distributed by filmmaker Damon Packard thanks to an unexpected inheritance, this is a highly personal psychedelic collage that utilizes 16mm film, video, and found footage to tell the story of a wandering creature named Bobby (Packard) as he searches for his missing sister...who may have fallen in with a supernatural drug cult. Packard’s schizoid style is built on visual manipulations, breakneck editing, renegade plagiarism, mismatched audio effects, and the juxtaposition of tones. This is true genre anarchy: a rage-filled, 137-minute outsider manifesto that toes the line between artsy triumph and genre pastiche. Imagine a stream-of-consciousness collaboration between Sam Raimi and Charles Manson and you’re halfway there. After being caught while filming Reflections of Evil inside Universal Studios, Packard was banned for life from the theme park. He made the right choice.



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Weird Wednesdays this January at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, January 6, 2020 06:27pm | Post a Comment



Happy New Weird Year at as Amoeba Music joins Alamo Drafthouse New Mission in San Francisco for another month of Weird Wednesdays! 2020 starts strong with January's collection of fringe favorites:

FREEWAY II: CONFESSIONS OF A TRICKBABY (1999)
Wednesday, January 8. 10pm.
Upping the ante even harder from his previous Freeway, subversive legend Matthew Bright pushes the road movie to the furthest extremes of taste, hilarity, and shock with an effervescent touch. Think “Female Trouble meets Natural Born Killers”, with a teenage version of Natasha Lyonne’s Orange is the New Black character on a Hansel-and-Gretel quest to escape prison, bulimia, schizo murders and the clutches of Sister Gomez (Vincent Gallo in drag!) Trust Natasha when she sez: "You're telling me aliens flew all the way down to Earth just to watch you blow your dad?"



THE QUEST (1985)
Wednesday, January 15. 9:45pm.
A one-kid Goonies -- or, Amblin Down Under! The Quest is possibly the coolest film by Ozploitation auteur Brian Trenchard-Smith (BMX Bandits, Stunt Rock), and centers on the charismatic final boyhood performance of Henry Thomas (E.T., The Haunting of Hill House) before he hit adulthood. Orphaned 14-year-old Cody has a MacGyver-ish spirit with fearlessness to match. Living with his guardian in an outback Australian township, Cody hears of an Aboriginal creature myth known as the “Donkegin,” sparking a burning interest that won't rest. Convinced an underwater monster prowls a nearby dam, Cody journeys into the very shadow-land of mystery and intrigue. This film is thoroughly charming, perfectly capturing the infectious spirit of determination and discovery within teen outcast dreamers everywhere.

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NOIR CITY 18: INTERNATIONAL II, January 24 - February 2

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, January 3, 2020 07:53pm | Post a Comment

Noir City 18

Amoeba Music is proud to join forces once again with the Film Noir Foundation's epic yearly festival, Le DoulosNOIR CITY this January. America doesn't have a monopoly on swaggering gangsters, larcenous lovers, surly ex-cons, corrupt cops, and scheming femmes fatales. Six years after the first NOIR CITY: INTERNATIONAL, the Film Noir Foundation is at it again with NOIR CITY 18: INTERNATIONAL II, presenting an array of classic films from around the globe. It's going to be a wide-ranging, thematically cohesive immersion in a sordid world of sinister and sexy affairs, including the world premieres of two new restorations by the Film Noir Foundation. Yes, "It's a Bitter Little World," but for ten days and nights at the majestic Castro Theatre, NOIR CITY will be cinema paradiso. As always, the festival is programmed and hosted by Eddie Muller, internationally renowned "Czar of Noir" and host of the popular Turner Classic Movies series Noir Alley.

For veteran cinephiles, it's a chance to again experience cherished cinematic masterpieces in a bona Pale Flowerfide movie palace. For those just starting their cinematic journey, NOIR CITY is the perfect introduction to a wide world of international filmmakers and stars, on the big screen, larger than life. The 10-day excursion travels through hot-blooded nightclubs of the Mexican cabareteras, neon-streaked alleys of Japanese yakuza thrillers, the stylish Parisian underworld, Italian palazzos hiding crimes of every social strata, a Kafkaesque Prague as envisioned by the Czech New Wave, even a rare serial killer film set in Nazi Germany made by Hollywood's finest director of film noir, Robert Siodmak. Tour guides include some of the world's most revered filmmakers: Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrzej Wajda, Julien Duvivier, Jean-Pierre Melville, Roberto Gavaldón, Jirí Weiss, and Masahiro Shinoda.

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Jon Longhi's Best of 2019

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 27, 2019 05:07pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

I could have written about 20 or 30 Blu-rays and CDs this year, but here are just a few of my Best Of/favorites from 2019. In my case, “best of” often means “most entertaining.” I watch a lot of Oscar-winning movies every year but that’s not necessarily what I end up plopping down my money on and watching over and over. As the shark movie I’m about to review proves, taste is in your mouth.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged, Lionsgate:
Dumbest shark movie ever! We're talking Sharknado sequel level dumb! I'm not sure if this is a best or a 47 Meters Down: Uncagedworst of 2019 review. The first half hour of any shark movie is a tiresome chore I refer to as "getting to know the bait." This movie starts by introducing you to four of the most annoying teenage girls in cinema history. Seriously, you just can't wait for these people to die. I was tempted to fast forward through their character exposition just to see them get eaten quicker. After the agony of getting to know them, you see these girls make a series of cascadingly bad scuba diving decisions. I'll just lay out a few of them: First they leave the dive boat expedition they are supposed to be on so no one knows where they are. Then they go to some hidden water hole in the middle of the Mexican jungle where no one REALLY knows where they are. They think there's a path down to the watering hole but instead they just jump in off the sheer cliffs because who cares about getting out again? There is a raft in the middle of the watering hole covered with scuba gear that has been left for archeologists who are going to explore the underwater Mayan ruins beneath the surface. They decide to use the gear to check out the ruins themselves, because hey, two of the girls have never dived before and the other two are amateurs and cave diving is the most dangerous diving there is because you go ten feet into a cave and make a wrong turn and then are lost in the darkness where you drown but hey, life is short and even shorter when you're a total idiot like these girls. They make their way into the underwater ruins and then they run into a plot twist that's even dumber than their bad decisions. It turns out that the cave is home to a species of blind giant Great White sharks that became trapped in the submerged catacombs in the distant past and have evolved to the lightless conditions. Now I don't know how these sharks evolved into twenty to twenty-five foot apex predators with no seals to feed on and only little cave fish to eat but by this time we've suspended our belief to the point that we would believe up is down so who cares? Despite the ridiculous premises and unlikeable characters you still find yourself rooting for these idiots just because the producers manage to create an entertaining amusement park ride where you find yourself jumping and shrieking at one shark after another looming out of the Mayan darkness. Because this is a sequel, the film makers feel they really have to ramp up the ridiculousness in the last half hour and we are treated to an over the top thrill ride that gives even the last Sharknado sequel a run for its title of Stupidest Shark Movie Ever. I'm beginning to think this movie is a cinematic masterpiece in disguise because it actually got me to care about these people and sit through a roller coaster ride of utter stupidity till the final credits rolled. Despite being utterly manipulated to the point where I feel deeply ashamed of myself, I have to admit that I loved this movie.

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