Lunar Eclipse & B-Movie Goodness

It was way too cloudy last night for us to see much of the lunar eclipse.  We could catch only glimpses once in a while as the heavy clouds passed overhead.

Fortunately, William Castleman, a professor at the University of Florida and photographer, put together an amazing time lapse video so we can see what we missed.

When I see or read about lunar eclipses, I am reminded of one of my favorite B-horror movies, Messiah of Evil.

It’s a creepy film about a blood red moon, vampire-zombies and, sort of, the Donner Party.  It was made by the same people who later made Howard the Duck and who wrote the screenplay for American Graffiti.  That, friends, is range.

I bought a VHS of Messiah of Evil on eBay back in the day, but I never got it converted to digital format.  That’s not a problem, as the film can be seen, in its entirety, on YouTube.

Two Sentence Movie Reviews: Halloween Edition

Three really good films.  5-point scale.  Links to Netflix.


Kill, Baby, Kill (4): This 1966 Mario Bava gem is a creepy, semi-gothic ghost story, that proves Italians did horror as well as westerns.  It made me an instant Fabienne Dali fan.

Black Sunday (4): Another excellent Bava film (1960), with the great Barbara Steele in a double role as a witch and her look-alike descendant.  One of my favorite vintage horror films, with perhaps the most interesting commentary track I’ve ever watched.

Drag Me to Hell (4; unrated version): A new to DVD, supernatural scare-fest that made me jump a lot, even though it doesn’t break any new ground.  It’s the scariest movie I’ve seen since The Strangers, and you’ll never look at goats the same way again.

Tag: movie review

This Film Will Break Your Heart

And you will be forever grateful for having witnessed such a pure expression of love and strength.

dearzLet me get this out of the way.  One, I don’t believe I have ever been as emotionally affected by any other film or movie.  Two, this is absolutely one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.  It is horribly, horribly sad, but in the midst of all that horror, you’ll find that the goodness of the people before the camera, with one giant exception, will stay with you long after you’ve repressed the wickedness of the one.

The film I’m talking about is Dear Zachary (2008).  Netflix (it can be streamed); Amazon (video on demand accessible); iTunes.

On November 5, 2001, Dr. Andrew Bagby was murdered in a parking lot in western Pennsylvania.  The prime suspect, his ex-girlfriend Dr. Shirley Turner, promptly fled the United States for St. John’s, Canada, where she announced that she was pregnant with Andrew’s child. She named the little boy Zachary.

Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne, Andrew’s oldest friend, began making a film for little Zachary as a way for him to get to know the father he’d never meet. But when Shirley Turner was released on bail in Canada and was given custody of Zachary while awaiting extradition to the United States, the film’s focus shifts to Zachary’s inspirational (to put it mildly) grandparents, David & Kathleen Bagby, and their desperate efforts to win custody of the boy from the woman they knew had murdered their son.

There’s more.  A lot more.  But go watch it.  Keep a towel handy.

It’s not only the story.  This is an extremely well-made film.  The editing, in particular, is excellent.

But at the end of the day, the story is about people.  The filmmaker, who is only rarely seen, narrates the same heartfelt way he filmed and edited.  The friends.  So many friends.  For sure, the grandparents.  Andrew Bagby himself, in home videos.

Here’s the trailer. . .

which gives the impression that it’s something of a “true crime” film.  But it’s not.  It’s a lot more than that.

The Hunt for Gollum: Not Your Father’s Home Movie

I noted the other day that Cassidy and I are reading The Hobbit together.  It, along with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, was a defining moment in my early reading years.  I’ve been looking forward to sharing these books with Cassidy, and we are having a blast.  She has not seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies, and I told her that we would watch each movie together after reading the book.  Just the other night we were lamenting the fact that there is not a movie version of The Hobbit.

Now, thanks to a dedicated director and a bunch of very talented actors/volunteers/fans, there is a very well-done movie inspired by these books that we can use to whet our appetites.  In our reading, we are just past the point where Bilbo Baggins finds the ring and escapes from Gollum and the goblins, with some help from the eagles.  So Cassidy knows about Gollum and the ring.

Filmmaking is not like journalism.  Unlike the ever narrowing gap between traditional journalists and bloggers, citizen filmmakers have not narrowed the gap between themselves and their Hollywood counterparts.  In fact, I think the difference between a Saturday night made for Sci-fi Channel movie and a Hollywood feature film is bigger than the difference between a good blogger and the New York Times.  Words all look the same and stand in their own merits.  Movies are multi-media events, where cinematography, special effects and other factors have a lot to do with the end result.  Accordingly, even talented actors look bad in a film with no production budget.

Which makes it very hard for independent films to measure up.

The Hunt for Gollum is a very pleasant exception to this rule.  This is an excellent 40-minute film, in HD no less.  The fight scenes were excellently filmed, choreographed and acted.  I really enjoyed the entire thing, and intend to watch it again- with Cassidy.

Take a look.  But be quick, because there’s no guarantee that some walking bad decision at New Line Cinema, who owns the rights to the Lord of the Rings movies, won’t try to squelch this little labor of love, and all the good publicity it will generate.  I hope that doesn’t happen.

Because it is a cool and well made film.

Must-See Concert Film

I was channel surfing tonight and came across a 2005 concert film by The Cure, one of my favorite bands.

It’s playing on channel 95 on DirecTV and, I believe, on another non-HD channel.

Robert Smith has always been an absolutely amazing songwriter and performer, and unlike some of my old favorites, The Cure looks and sounds as good in 2005 as they did back in the 80’s when records like Faith, Pornography (<– the Cure record, for the benefit of Google caches), The Head on the Door and Disintegration blew my mind for the first time.

I highly recommend this film for any fans of great music.

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Great Music Film – Festival Express


I watched one of, and perhaps the, best music films I have ever seen tonight.

Festival Express.  It’s available at Amazon, and via Netflix.

In the summer of 1970, a chartered train crossed Canada carrying some of the world’s greatest rock bands. The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, Buddy Guy, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Ian & Sylvia and others traveled, partied and played great music together for five days, stopping in major cities along the way to play live concerts.

It was all filmed.

The concert footage is great- the first number by The Band is worth the rental all by itself.  But the best parts are the impromptu jam sessions that occurred on the train between concerts.

I love this film, and recommend it highly to any fan of great music.

Movie Recommendation: Monstertorsdag

monstertorsdagI didn’t get this great Norwegian film from Netflix- my TIVO recorded it for me. It doesn’t seem to be available at Netflix, but you should be able to find it on the Sundance Channel or the IFC. It is listed under it’s translated name: Monsterthursday (spelled as one word).

I generally stay away from foreign films, because the requirement of reading the subtitles makes it hard to watch them while you’re doing something else. I watch most movies in my study, where the ability to multitask makes it seem less like I am sitting around wasting time.

I figured I’d watch a few minutes to see what a Norwegian film looked like. I got hooked and watched the entire thing in one sitting.

The vibe of this movie grabbed me from the first scene- a surreal wedding scene where the ex-wife of one best friend marries the other best friend. The ex-husband/best man is in great dismay over the wedding, but after an uncomfortable toast, he soldiers on- mostly. It gets better and darker after that, as the new groom leaves town on an extended business and/or surfing trip and the bride and her ex-husband explore their past, present and future.

Surfing becomes the measure of success and monster waves the demons to be faced. This is in no way an action movie, feeling much more like Lost in Translation than your middle of the road Hollywood drama. And I mean that as high praise.

Surfing, relationships, drinking, and the hatred of golf all play important roles in this film. Pretty much everything required for a good movie.

It’s a pretty somber film, but not totally dark.

Highly recommended.