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WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 1/30/09 January 30, 2009

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A new feature looking at potentially weird films that are currently in theaters, coming to DVD soon or in production. Visit the official sites to see trailers.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

The Toe Tactic:  A card game played by dogs in an alternate dimension effects the fate of a grieving girl on earth.  The dogs are crude but whimsical animated creations which sometimes interact with the live cast. Scored by Yo La Tengo, with Eli Wallach providing one of the voices and independent film icon John Sayles in a small role.  A very limited release: it’s opening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, then touring selected venues throughout the US.  The Toe Tactic Official Site.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

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9. HELP! HELP! THE GLOBOLINKS [HILFE! HILFE! DIE GLOBOLINKS] (1969) January 27, 2009

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“Headmasters never sing!” –line sung by the headmaster in Help!  Help!  The Globolinks

twostar

DIRECTED BY:  Joachim Hess, from a production of composer/librettist Giancarlo Menotti

FEATURING:  The Hamburg State Opera

PLOT:  In this children’s opera, the world has been invaded by bizarre alien creatures named Globolinks, who are allergic to music.   A bus full of children returning to boarding school breaks down in the middle of a lonely forest, and the students are surrounded by the alien creatures.  Meanwhile, back at the school, the headmaster is infected by one of the aliens, meaning that he will soon turn into a Globolink himself.

 

 

 

globolinks

BACKGROUND:

  • Gian Carlo Menotti, the author of Help! Help! The Globolinks, was a well respected, Pulitzer Prize winning composer.  His most popular work is the Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, which was commissioned specifically to launch the “Hallmark Hall of Fame” television series, and which was shown annually in the United States on television during the Christmas season from 1951-1966.
  • Help!  Help!  The Globolinks, by contrast, was a flop and is rarely performed.  It is usually only mentioned in complete biographies of Menotti.
  • Menotti was a pioneer in adapting opera for telecast, and the film version of Help!  Help!  The Globolinks was originally shown on German television in 1968. 

INDELIBLE IMAGE:  No doubt, it’s the Globolinks themselves (pictured above), who come in two varieties: one that looks like a wriggling rook from a chess set, and one that looks like an avant-garde ballerina dressed in a full-body dayglo bungee-jumping suit.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  A children’s opera about music-loathing aliens is

3 minute clip for Help! Help! The Globolinks courtesy of Naxos (English subtitles available on DVD)

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WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 1/23/09 January 23, 2009

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A new feature looking at potentially weird films that are currently in theaters, coming to DVD soon or in production. Visit the official sites to see trailers.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED REALEASE):

Growing Out: There’s not a lot of information or many early reviews about this low-budget independent horror (?) production, but the plot summary states that it’s about a songwriter who develops a strange relationship with a person that begins growing out of his basement floor sounds intriguing.  Growing Out Official Site

IN PRODUCTION:

9:  A dark, post-apocalyptic animated fantasy.  May be geared towards kids and mass audiences, but it’s produced by Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands), whose name always makes weird-film fans ears perk up.  9 is a remake of a 2005 Oscar winning short film.  Trailer is available from slashfilm.

NEW ON DVD:

Repo: The Genetic Opera (2008):  Announced in the very first Weird Horizon, Repo is already on DVD after its micro theatrical run.  Gory sci-fi musical comedy about a future where organs are bought on the open market, and occasionally have to be repossessed.  Adapted from am underground LA stage play.  Very poorly reviewed.  The initial entry forgot to note the presence of Paris Hilton in the cast; she’s already been nominated for a Worst Supporting Actress Razzie for her performance.    Repo: The Genetic Opera Official Site

Tokyo Gore Police (2008):  By all accounts this is another bizarre and perverse Japanese gore film, in the tradition of Ichi the Killer.  The name is certainly weird enough, but it remains to be seen whether Takashi Miike’s followers can make films with as much style as the master.   Tokyo Gore Police Official Site (Japanese Only)

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

CAPSULE: CUBE ZERO (2004) January 22, 2009

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twoandahalfstar

DIRECTED BY: Ernie Barbarash

FEATURING: Zachary Bennet, Stephanie Moore, Michael Riley

PLOT:  Audiences return to the cube from Cube in this prequel, only this time

cube_zero

we see the diabolical prison from the vantage point of its bureaucratic overseers, as well as the poor souls trapped inside. 

WHY IT’S NOT WEIRD ENOUGH:  While the first Cube sequel (Cube 2: Hypercube) tried unsuccessfully to ratchet up the weirdness factor by throwing in more effects and a hyperbolic, reality-twisting plot, Cube Zero instead chooses to focus on a standard rescue narrative.  It also purports to answer (although unrealistically) pretty much every question one might have as to the cube’s design or purpose, thus completely exorcising the existential atmosphere of the original and leaving nothing else to be said or done in the Cube universe. 

COMMENTS:  Unlike its predecessors, which showed b-movie influences but had higher aspirations, Cube Zero is an unapologetic action/sci-fi vehicle.  The paranoia of the previous entries only arises sporadically, once when drone Wynn asks a co-worker about his memories, and once in a highly effective scene that poses a surprisingly literal theological question.  Otherwise, the movie is more interested in the cube’s traps, imbuing them with gleefully gory results (in an early scene, a victim startlingly dissolves into a pile of gooey grue before our eyes).  Add to this formula a cartoonish villain in the person of Jax, who sports not only a cane and an ironically genteel cadence but also a glittering metal implant where his eye once was) and you have an effective (if standard issue) b-movie, but a highly ineffective weird movie.

Some Cube fans (who apparently missed the major point of the movie) yearned for answers to the cube’s mysteries.  They finally got them with this installment.  Unfortunately, since these revelations destroy the fragile mystery and deliberate ambiguity that made Cube special, Cube Zero probably deals a fatal blow to the franchise.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“… if you enjoyed the last two ‘Cube’ movies, then you’ll feel right at home. True, there’s nothing overly original in ‘Cube Zero’… [although the] movie does offer a lot of answers, there’s that unshakeable sense of [deja] vu. Introducing Wynn and the other operators marks the sequel’s best decision, but adding the wacky Jax and his two black suited underlings takes away some of the film’s gloomy disposition and makes ‘Cube Zero’ something of a comedy, with a lot of ‘Brazil’-esque kooky bits and set scenery that seems to exist for the singular purpose of being kooky.” —Beyond Hollywood

CAPSULE: CUBE 2: HYPERCUBE (2002) January 21, 2009

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threestar

DIRECTED BY: Andrzej Sekula

FEATURING: Kari Matchett

PLOT: Just as in the 1997 surprise hit, eight strangers wake up stripped of

cube_2_hypercube

their memories in a mysterious, deadly cube composed of indistinguishable rooms–but this second generation “hypercube” has some new tricks to play on its captives.

WHY IT’S NOT WEIRD ENOUGHCube 2: Hypercube can get pretty weird, especially when the film throws in gratuitous alternate realities in an attempt to up the original Cube‘s ante.  The sequel also does a fair-to-middling job of recreating the atmosphere of paranoia and existential anxiety from the original.  The first movie is a classic, but if there is to be room for more than one Cube movie on the list of 366, Hypercube needs to take the series in a startling, original new direction.  This, it fails to do; the sequel merely attempts to provide this audience more of what they loved about the first movie.  It can’t possibly achieve this feat, however, because what people loved about the original was it’s originality: the shock and surprise of finding a low-budget independent science fiction gem that was thoughtful, exciting, and weird.   

COMMENTSCube 2: Hypercube is of interest mainly to fans of the original who want to revisit the cube and hope only for a few new twists.  The CGI special effects are mildly upgraded, and the cube has a new gleaming white color scheme, which may make some happy.  One of the things that made the original so exhilarating, however, was the varying reactions of characters to the predicament of being trapped inside the bizarre structure: some fight to survive, some give up hope, some become paranoid and suspect their fellow travellers know something about the cube and are trying to deceive them, some simply go mad.  The way the trapped inmates bounced off one another made Cube at times seem more like a character-centered play rather than an effects-centered movie.  Although Cube 2 tires to recapture this interplay, wooden acting from several of the leads frustrates the attempt.   

Cube 2: Hypercube also stumbles when it takes baby steps towards trying to explain why the cube exists.  In the original, although the structure exhibited signs of order that suggested a diabolical intelligence behind it, there was no unambiguous hint to its origin or purpose; this made the cube a powerful metaphor for brute existence.  While trying to recapture the ambiance of the first movie, Cube 2 deliberately takes steps towards demolishing its essence.  

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…Cube 2 is somewhat more gimmicky and certainly less conceptually neat than the first Cube was. There’s lot of fascinatingly weird happenings and these are all eventually given an explanation – alas not one that comes with the beautiful sense of a puzzle falling into place that we saw in the first film. The disparity can clearly be seen in comparing the story structure of the two – the first film has the logic of a detective story unfolding, whereas Cube 2 is merely a flight through a collapsing labyrinth.” –Richard Scheib, Moria: The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Movie Review Site

8. DONNIE DARKO (2001) January 19, 2009

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Gretchen: “You’re weird.”

Donnie: “Sorry.”

Gretchen: “No, it was a compliment.”

fourandahalfstar

(Theatrical Cut)

fourstar

(Director’s Cut)

DIRECTED BY: Richard Kelly

FEATURING: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mary McDonnel, Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore, Kathryn Ross

PLOT:  Troubled teen Donnie starts seeing visions of a six foot tall demonic bunny rabbit named Frank, who demands that commits acts of vandalism in his sleepy suburban town in 1988.  Donnie narrowly escapes a freak accident when a jet engine crashes into his bedroom after Frank has awoken him and called him away.  Frank tells Donnie that the world will end in 28 days, on Halloween night, and Donnie attempts to figure out what he can do to save the world while simultaneously dealing with a new girlfriend, bullies, a motivational speaker he sees as a cult leader, and ever-escalating hallucinations.

donnie_darko

BACKGROUND:

  • This was the first feature film for writer/director Richard Kelly.
  • With Barrymore, Swayze and Ross attached, there was a tremendous buzz for the film going into the Sundance Festival.  The movie was not a hit at there, however, and was only picked up for limited theatrical distribution by Newmarket Films at the last moment. 
  • Although Donnie Darko was initially a flop on its domestic release, a strong showing overseas helped it to nearly break even.  The film then became a cult hit on video, earning back more than double its production cost.
  • The director’s cut, containing about 20 minutes of extra footage and including pages from the fictional book The Philosophy of Time Travel,  was released in 2004.  It was controversial due to the added footage, which  caused some fans to complain that Kelly didn’t seem to understand his own movie.
  • Richard Kelly created a website (now hosted at donniedarkofilm.com), which is structured like a puzzle.  Navigating the website can reveal supplemental material and backstory to the film.
  • Donnie Darko is one of the most talked about films on the Internet, with several competing fan sites and FAQ’s that attempt to clarify and explain the convoluted plot.

INDELIBLE IMAGE:  Frank, the six-foot tall man dressed in a twisted, metallic bunny suit, who only Donnie can see.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRDDonnie Darko at first appears to be a dizzying

Original trailer for Donnie Darko

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WHY DONNIE DARKO’S LITERAL PLOT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE (AND WHY IT DOESN’T MATTER) January 19, 2009

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This post contains nothing but spoilers for the movie Donnie Darko.  Click “more” below to read the spoilers.  To go to the spoiler-free main review instead, click here.

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WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 1/16/09 January 16, 2009

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A new feature looking at potentially weird films that are currently in theaters, coming to DVD soon or in production. Visit the official sites to see trailers.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

$9.99: A Claymation feature about a young unemployed man’s search for the Meaning of Life through the wisdom to be found in a booklet on the subject, priced at an affordable $9.99.  From an Etgar Keret short story, with voices provided by Geoffrey Rush and Anthony LaPaglia.  $9.99 Official Site.

IN PRODUCTION

s. Darko (2009):  Post-production.  Yes, it’s Donnie Darko 2.  Yes, it’s a bad idea.  The plot picks up with Donnie’s now-teengaed younger sister Samantha (Daveigh Chase, reprising her role from the first movie).  Fans of the original are up in arms.  Writer/director Richard Kelly is not involved; undistinguished Chris Fisher (Dirty [2005]) will helm.  Expectations are so low the film probably can’t help but exceed them.  IMBD pageMovie Poster and Plot Summary at moviesonline.ca.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 1/9/09 January 9, 2009

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A new feature looking at potentially weird films that are currently in theaters, coming to DVD soon or in production. Visit the official sites to see trailers.

IN THEATERS (WIDE RELEASE):

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: An adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald story about a man who is born elderly, but grows younger as he ages. Starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, directed by certified weird director David Fincher (Fight Club). The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Official Site

Australia: Down-under epic is unlikely to be extremely weird, but magical powers of the Australian aborigines taken at face value have raised some critical eyebrows. Director Baz Luhrman (William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, Moulin Rouge) also has some weird leanings. Starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and a cute kid.  Australia Official Site

The Spirit: Appears to be a rehash of the comic book style of graphic novelist turned director Frank Miller’s cult hit, Sin City.  Reviews have not been kind, although they do occasionally call it “incomprehensible,” which sounds promising.  With Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johnasson, and Samuel L. Jackson.  The Spirit Official Site

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

CAPSULE: CHRISTMAS EVIL (1980) January 6, 2009

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AKA You Better Watch Out

twoandahalfstar

DIRECTED BY: Lewis Jackson

FEATURING: Brandon Maggart

PLOT: After young Harry sees his father making love to his mother while

christmas_evil

dressed as Santa Claus, he grows up obsessed with jolly old St. Nick; one Christmas Eve, he snaps.

WHY IT’S NOT WEIRD ENOUGHChristmas Evil has a few nice, weird little touches scattered throughout.  Several times the film seems to switch perspective from an objective view to Harry’s skewed subjective view without giving the audience notice.  The darkly witty Santa lineup scene, the out-of-left-field Frankenstein homage, and of course the memorable final shot, where Harry completely breaks with reality and takes the viewer with him, are memorable enough.  There is also an eerie atmosphere throughout, helped greatly by an unsettling electronic score.  Unfortunately, there aren’t enough such high points to justify placing Christmas Evil on the overall list of 366.

COMMENTS:   Christmas Evil is a serious character study–or, at least, an honest attempt at a serious character study–of a middle-aged loser who lives in a dangerous fantasy world of his own making.  There are also many little subtle details (catch, for example, the vintage Santa poster depicting St. Nick as a forbidding judge with a gavel) which help provide a black comedy feel.  On the other hand, it’s very slow to get started and the cheapness of the production often shows to its disadvantage–there’s one terrible editing glitch at the company Christmas party that’s so obvious and jarring, it suggests a loss of financing during post-production.  Overall, it’s not nearly as bad as detractors would have it, or as as good as its few defenders (like John Waters) would like to believe.  If Christmas Evil were a gift in your stocking, it wouldn’t be a lump of coal, or the keys to a new Mitzubishi Lancer; it would be a pair of cheap but comfy socks in a crazy color scheme that’s not to everyone’s taste.

When it debuted, Christmas Evil (then known as You Better Watch Out) was an oddity: the first film to depict the previously jolly St. Nick  as a potential homicidal killer.  Since then, the holiday vidscreens have been decked with Santa-slasher dreck such as Santa Claws (1996), Santa’s Slay (2005), and the Silent Night, Deadly Night series (1984-1991, with a remake on the way), greatly diminishing the novelty of a psycho Santa.  Christmas Evil has little in common with it’s bloody progeny, and is probably the best entry in the sleazy sub-genre it inspired. 

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY: “…the best seasonal film of all time. I wish I had kids. I’d make them watch it every year and, if they didn’t like it, they’d be punished!” -John Waters, Crackpot