crappy movies

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I volunteer for Brooklyn’s Spectacle Theater, a film collective run by its members. This entails working the ticket booth, selecting movies for screening (which I’ve not yet taken advantage of- if anybody out there has some desperately obscure movie that deserves the light of day, let me know), and editing trailers for upcoming films.

So far I’ve edited several trailers, including ones for ‘Blackboards’, ‘Massacre at Central High’, and most recently, ‘Year of the Woman’. All good fun and a great excuse to practice my FinalCut skills (and I recommend all three movies, wildly different in tone). But. BUT. Where my trailers are straightforward presentations of the movie’s tone and feel, with a bit of a hook (hopefully) to spur potential viewers to want to see more, there is one man, one editor of trailers at Spectacle, whom I hereby crown King of the Star Wipes.

A bit of explanation for those unfamiliar with the Simpsons or early video editing machines:

Earlier video editing systems ran your two scenes to be cut together (your A and B image) through a box that allowed you more control over how A and B joined. Instead of just cutting, you could now do all sorts of wipes:

…fades, and effects (many a 90s music video suffers from overuse of Paint Effect).

Now in this context, a Star Wipe seems negative, a flashy use of an effect not only unnecessary, but one actively detracting from the material at hand. This is often true, when done by amateurs. However, as someone who appreciates the ‘go big or go home’ school of acting/editing/flair, if it’s laid on with a trowel, it moves past distraction to its own stylistic level of excellence. So it is with C. Spencer Yeh’s trailers. Fire wipes, bullet effects, and Bonnie Tyler’s ‘I Need A Hero’ as backing music for the ultraviolent Japanese ‘Battle Royale’? Shock cuts and a bombastic Wall of Sound song for ‘The Sadist’? Yes, please.

While I edit with the Zen credo of ‘what the movie is lies completely within the movie itself’, extracting what I hope is a film’s essence from whatever lies between a film’s beginning and end and presenting it to the viewer, Spencer chops across time and space, using pop songs and effects drawing attention to themselves to present the movie as pure spectacle. Neither of us are more ‘right’ in our philosophy – the point of a trailer is to make the viewer want to see the movie, by whatever means necessary. Whether that’s presenting a nugget of what’s to come or grabbing attention with unusual juxtaposition ultimately doesn’t matter. Though I have to say, Spencer has truly outdone himself with his latest outing. Upon seeing this trailer for ‘American Hunter’, his completely balls-out style so perfectly serves the film I cannot imagine it edited otherwise.

AMERICAN HUNTER (Arizal, 1988) Trailer from Spectacle Theater on Vimeo.

Now we all need to go see this movie.

Some thoughts about the film itself:
The look of the film confuses me. The crappy film grain and washed-out lighting imply a miniscule budget, yet the copious car crashes, explosions and well-timed martial arts scream ‘sky-high Bruckheimer budget’.

How did they manage to hire a full cast of fighting experts who all look like 8th grade biology teachers?

Pet eagle + flag bikini in the same shot.

“Let’s do it” = extras, clear the set.

Lucky for everyone reading this in the NYC area not stranded by Hurricane Sandy, the film’s showing THIS FRIDAY at MIDNIGHT. See you there.

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After the weekend’s tropical storm debacle, I thought of the perfect movie for this week’s Movie Club – Peter Weir’s unsettling mystery ‘The Last Wave’. Eerie ambiance, indirect answers, a shallow but fascinating glimpse into Aboriginal life in modern times, plus Fortean weather!

Not available on instant view. Well, that’s ok, I have an ace up my sleeve for perfect Labor Day viewing – a classic comedy about the great suburban nightmare, starring America’s Most Likable Guy Tom Hanks! ‘The ‘Burbs!’

Not available on instant view. FINE. Well how about the live-action Fleisher Bros. cartoon ‘The Forbidden Zone?’


FIIIIIIIIIINE. Unless, of course, anyone else has a suggestion.

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Guess what! America’s nearly run out of home-grown comic book plots to mine, so it’s going international! That’s right, coming soon to a theater near you is ‘Dylan Dog’, based on the Italian comic of the same name. It looks terrible!

The action moves from Italy to New Orleans, which is actually a smart move for an American remake. New Orleans has a long, storied history of magic and otherness, an ideal setting for a story dealing with monsters and the undead. However, they inexplicably dropped Dylan Dog’s Groucho Marx-lookalike sidekick, and worse yet, cast Brandon Routh as the lead.

Look. plenty of people were willing to overlook Routh’s wooden moping in ‘Superman Returns’ for the chance to ogle his physique for 3 hours. His lack of acting even sort of worked for the role, as Superman’s only flaw isn’t a moral defect but a major allergy to a rock. As a character, Superman’s a genuinely nice heroic guy*, which means he’s supposed to be sort of boring. None of the Batman’s brooding or Wolverine’s tough-guy posturing; Superman just gets out there and helps people. This meant Routh’s flat delivery was easily ignored (though Lois Lane’s aging backwards and going from thin to anorexic stood out screaming).

Dylan Dog is a character who, faced with untold dangers and ancient evils, reacts with dark humor. Please observe the trailer below where even the most obvious lines are delivered like a ton of bricks dropping on the ground:

Compare this now to Rupert Everett in ‘Dellamorte Dellamore’, another story by the writer of ‘Dylan Dog’ (warning-gratuitous Italian boobies poorly covered up):

There’s the morbid sense of humor combined with unslick practical-effect gore. If Everett’s resemblance to Dylan Dog seems uncanny, it’s because Dylan Dog was drawn to look like Rupert Everett. Meta!

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