Today’s recommended FREE Roku Movies: ZOMBIE AHOLE and SCARLET WORM

Courtesy of the MIDNIGHT PULP Roku on demand channel you can view, this week, two pretty out there cult/weird/grindhouse films; namely:

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scarletworm

Stick with both of them, most requiring of that patience is ZOMBIE A-HOLE as it becomes by the end a far better film than the title or opening minutes would lead you believe (Quite a few times I had to almost turn the thing off for fear someone I respected would catch me watching it :), but resist that impulse, get past the first 15 minutes and you’ll find the movie actually has a plot).

And no, I am not a zombie fan, this film works by being very much a tongue in check homage to the grindhouse films of yesteryear. With a reputed budget of only $3000 the sheer amount of creativity in this injoke of a film is awe inspiring. If you’re a fan of homage films such as BLACK DYNAMITE and horror films such as the original EVIL DEAD, give ZOMBIE A-HOLE a watch.

SCARLET WORM- is also a micro-budget film, but doesn’t come across as one. It’s of that ilk of films, born out of the spaghetti western absurdities of the 70s that can best be described as the existential western, think EL TOPO meets DEAD MAN. And the film is very good, and one deserving of repeated viewings.

Sample both movies for free here!

And if as impressed with them as I am, buy them here:

Scarlet Worm, The

Zombie A-Hole

Most Anticipated films for the remainder of 2012 Film 1 of 10: Robert Zemeckis’ FLIGHT

2012 is off to a gangbusters start, and is poised to be the best movie year in terms of both quality and commerce for Hollywood since 2008. And like that year, it’s a very Superhero and Sequel Heavy Blockbuster summer.

This installment will be coverage of my most anticipated films for the remainder of 2012. But in true Heroic Times fashion, you’ll see some entries covered in each installment that you won’t find mentioned anywhere else. Enjoy :)

So part of the purpose of this reoccurring installment is to give love to films that might otherwise fly under the radar.

So what is on the list already?!!

Okay, Okay! Sheesh, you’re a pushy bunch… here goes:

The first film that get’s the nod is FLIGHT.

I find Robert Zemeckis an interesting Director. He tends toward light, family friendly films, which I have to be honest is not really what I gravitate to. However Zemeckis does family friendly, very well.

His films are a diverse, and always imaginative and technologically ground breaking bunch, from the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy, to FOREST GUMP, to WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT to WHAT LIES BENEATH (I think it’s the film of his, an ode to Hitchcock, that holds up the best). WHAT LIES BENEATH showed me that Zemeckis could handle more mature and suspenseful films… and that brings me to FLIGHT.

So news that a new film of Zemeckis is in post-production, called FLIGHT and starring an all star cast (that includes:

Denzel Washington [opposite the drop-dead gorgeous Sanaa Lathan], Don Cheadle [with the majestic Megalyn Echikunwoke], Bruce Greenwood [raucus with the lovely Leslie Hope] , Tamara Tunie , Garcelle Beauvais, Rhoda Griffis, John Goodman, Michael Beasley, and Nadine Velazquez ) makes me happy.

First and foremost because that’s a cast filled with REAL actors, rather than just CW faces of the moment. And films that have an ethnically diverse and deep cast (so more than just 2 characters of color) gets me to spend my money and go to the theater.

Huge fan of RED TAILS, so suck it! :)

I’m just a dumb ass southern boy, who misses my cartoons on Saturday, and my Hong Kong Chop Suey Soul Cinema Creature Feature films on the weekends. Current Hollywood films are just too bland and similar for me in terms of both content and casting. So any time I get a film that grates against the imposed tokenism of conventional Hollywood films… well saddle up the General Lee boys… cause I’m there! :)

Now that said Zemeckis does have some issues as director.

He helms big budget films, that have a hard time making their return on investment. His last two films, BEOWULF and CHRISTMAS CAROL carried budgets of 150million and 200 million respectively, and they didn’t make that money back theatrically, not even utilizing the IMAX and 3D price gouging.

This has less to do with the director and more to do with studios budgeting 150 million for a film, that would be more sensibly priced at a 50 million budget.

Just like with the upcoming BATTLESHIP, if that film was budgeted at 50 million rather than 200 million it could without question make a profit. As it stands I think BATTLESHIP is going to do commercially the same that JOHN CARTER did; which is to say not well.

The mindset of the studios pricing everything so high, including the cameras and marketing, I think has more to do with keeping the little guy, the independent studio out of the process of getting films in theaters, rather than the content of the specific film. I think it’s really about for the most part ensuring the people who can get movies into the theaters are one of the big studios.

Now of course in this day and age of found footage films you can definitely make films cheaply, but those films, THE PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, etc have to be picked up and sanctified by the gate keeper, the big studios, otherwise like most films made, such as BLACK DYNAMITE, they get seen at film festivals and that’s it.

Without the blessing of a gatekeeper, Sony, Fox, the big boys, You have no chance to make your money back in theatrical distribution. If you’re lucky you get some limited streaming or DVD deal, but for all intents and purposes you’re dead in the water.

So yeah that’s the only rationale I can find for studios not just having astronomical budgets on films, but in the wake of the films struggling to break even… keeping the budgets astronomical.

The studios increasingly using the films as loss leaders, tax breaks/write offs, and as a means of market control/theatrical control. And further they are using their bad decisions, their shell game of profit and loss, to cry broke and enforce changes on the theatrical market. Such as the move away from real film cameras and projectors (35mm and the rarer 70mm) and instead move to all digital cameras and theatrical installations. (Which is bad for numerous reasons not least of which digital cameras/projectors cannot match the range of 35mm film, and is left in the dust by 70mm film; as anyone who has seen LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in 70mm can attest).

So all that thinking weighs in when discussing Zemeckis’ recent mega-budget films, and their under-performance. Zemeckis’ films are so expensive they tend not to break even theatrically. It is a paradigm, an unsupportable one I think, that bears watching and curtailing in the future.

But for the present if the studios are good with their movies not breaking even, it works for me.

So yeah count me among the ones anticipating Zemeckis’ thriller tinged drama… FLIGHT.

Reasons why any self respecting person should hate X-MEN FIRST CLASS :)

“Along with me I’m gonna need a scientist, an engineer, and of course, a black person to sacrifice himself in case something goes wrong.”
- Eric Cartman, SOUTH PARK, season 9, Cartman’s Hippie Exit Strategy 2006

I don’t even like/watch South Park but that quote is funny and sad because it’s true.

Here it is 21st century and writers/filmmakers from Frank Miller (SIN CITY) to Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman (X-MEN FIRST CLASS) are still crafting films that still perpetuate this bigoted vaudeville/black-face denigration of minorities, particularly Blacks as either victims/sacrifices, hors, criminals, or comedy relief or some effed up combination of the four.

I hear all these people saying X-MEN FIRST CLASS was the best movie of 2011. Are you effing on crack?! This goes to prove what Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka said in an early age… if you live all your life with lies it becomes hard to see anything that has nothing to do with those lies.

I’m saying a population that watches American Idol and thinks X-MEN FIRST CLASS is a good movie and that their country is a democracy, the cowboy on the white hat, has perhaps lived with lies too long. And therefore can’t see the concentration camps paid for with American Tax dollars, and the 24 hour propaganda machine, and how many of us are being herded into new millennium Dachaus.

I’m saying that twisted facts are easy offshoots… of twisted fictions. The dream being father to the reality.

So needless to say Matthew Vaughn’s new X-MEN FIRST CLASS movie will get as much theater money out of me as his first one, which is to say none. I’m drawing the line in the effing sand, I refuse to pay theater prices for any movie made after 1970 (revival films being excluded) that a/ has less than two characters of color and/or b/has characters in boring, tired stereotypical roles.

Which means I’m not going to see effing DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN or PRECIOUS either. I don’t need that crap. Give me instead more OBSESSED and more TAKERS and more BLACK DYNAMITE and more BLOOD AND BONE. Any of those movies are worth a dozen times predictable crap like X-MEN FIRST CLASS (I caught it on DVD from the library, if anyone was wondering).

And what makes me the maddest about that movie is it plays lipservice to liberty and inclusiveness, using Kennedy’s speeches for God’s Sake, and invoking the age of the 1960s, while presenting a completely 50s based message of ethnic characters ‘get in the back of the bus’. And the horrible thing is so many eyes can see this film, and not see it, not see its messages, its bigotry, its failings. Can honestly crank out odious crap like that and think they are somehow being liberal??? Absolutely amazing.

It concerns me that a whole generation is growing up, somehow blind to how off the beam America isn’t just getting… but is. Even to shows like COMMUNITY (see my discussion of) which is dazzlingly bigoted. And the onus isn’t just on the creators, it has to be on the stars. Seemingly the ethnic actors these days are devoid of the social conscience of a Poitier or a Belafonte or a Williamson, and this new generation just takes roles without any larger conversation/consideration about being used as a modern step and fetchit.

Sure you risk being fired if you speak up, but you risk something worse if you don’t. Your soul. You risk walking around like all these sheep, raised and reared on lies, and unable to see anything… if it has nothing to do with those lies.

Here endeth the rant.

The Best Films You Haven’t Seen! or Medicine for Melancholy

MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY- Acclaimed debut by Barry Jenkins. Only screened at film festivals, and still waiting on anything beyond a token DVD release.

BLACK DYNAMITE- Easily one of the best movies of 2010, and screened Nationwide in less than 10 theaters. With a proper theatrical release this satire could have been one of the hugest most influential comedies in decades, instead of being added to the growing list of… invisible movies. There is something horribly wrong in a nation that can find screens for abysmal garbage like THE WEATHERMAN or tripe like THE OTHER GUYS but no room for a film such as BLACK DYNAMITE.

SAMPSON AND DELILAH- I’m hearing fantastic things about this Aboriginal directed and starred movie, by Warwick Thornton, and currently breaking my neck trying to get a copy. Sounds a bit like the films of the late great Djibril Diop Mambety (his HYENAS is a masterpiece, and his short films are essential viewing to all fans of film)

HARIMAYA BRIDGE- Another film I haven’t seen (due to it not coming to a theater anywhere near me, and not getting DVD distribution) is Aaron Woolfolk’s HARIMAYA BRIDGE with Danny Glover. But it is getting nothing but acclaim, yet still such an acclaimed film with a Black Director, and Black Protagonist, that actually has something to say beyond stereotypes, that might actually say something to Black audiences that is not about denigration and debasement, cannot find broad theatrical release, or even to this date a DVD release.

It is utterly sickening.

Even more sickening are the distribution channels that do buy up the rights to a filmmakers films, just to bury them. Here it is three years after Ousmane Sembene’s passing and his most legendary, challenging, and proactive films (EMITAI, CEDDO, CAMP THIAROYE, and GUELWAAR his colonialism quadrilogy), are still not available on DVD.

The company that holds the rights to Sembene’s films, (and we all know who you are) should be fucking ashamed of themselves. First to let a filmmaker die without his most powerful work seeing any type of release, to languish in decades rotting away in vaults, and second because of the filmmakers that could-have-been, had they allowed Sembene to flourish and influence.

I mean they, finally, gave his BLACK GIRL, and MANDABI, and MOOLADE, minimal DVD releases, but for the most part while fine films (haven’t seen MOOLADE) , these are films (with the exception of BLACK GIRL) that steer away directly from the controversy of colonialism. The distributor give his, if not quite nuetered, less critical films releases, while burying for decades his (by all assements) best films.

It’s a crime.

And one they are continuing to committ with a new generation of filmmakers, both domestic and international.

Well at least we can do what we can do. We can spread the word that the movies exists, and do our best to view them at film festivals, and give the film and the filmmakers the audience and the attention they deserve.

Start local movie clubs, start local film festivals, start local indie theaters, spread the word. Cinema is more than just entertainment, It can be infinitely more.

The studios know this.

They know cinema can alter world views, on the micro and macro level. They can be didactic, and in the best of all possible worlds they should be. By Didactic I don’t mean preaching, I mean informing and formative.

I don’t believe in Escapist cinema, I think all cinema no matter how comedic or fantastic, can and should say something relevant and I think expansive to our view of the world. Whether that’s the notion of hubris and friendship in THE THIRD MAN or the notion of loyalty and individualism inherent in PAT GARRET AND BILLY THE KID or the notion of courage and sacrifice in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK or the understanding of the needs of the people and the land as in I AM CUBA, all cinema if its any good, is to some measure didactic.

Cinema that isn’t informative, is deadening. Is a drug to lull you into apathy, and I don’t want that kind of cinema.

Cinema should strive to move more than our eyes, to reach, in the hopes of finding, our mind and our soul.

In the words of Boorman’s King Arthur… “It’s a dream I have.”