Tribute to David Bowie – Labyrinth (1986)

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Labyrinth 1Three years after taking on the vampire genre, David Bowie entered the world of fantasy with Labyrinth (1986). It had several key names, such as Jim Henson and George Lucas, to help it receive mainstream press and media, but ultimately, it would become a box office failure. Now, 30 years later, how does the movie stand the test of time?

A musical fantasy film is always going to be a leap of faith. Throw in the puppetry work of Jim Henson and the risk becomes even greater. But, in the decade of the 80s and just four years after The Dark Crystal (1982), it seemed to have a chance on becoming a box office wonder. Add in the musical star power of David Bowie and the might of Lucasfilm, all of the key elements were there. However, with a budget of $25 million, the margin for error was slim.

The initial storyline ideas came from Jim Henson and designer Brian Froud before being turned over to Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. However, a team of other scriptwriters would ultimately rewrite much of it, despite the fact that Terry Jones maintained sole screen-writing credit. The basic story seems to be ripped from the pages of a fairytale as 15 year-old Sarah (Jennifer Connelly, The Rocketeer) innocently wishes her brother Toby off into the hands of Jareth, the Goblin King (David Bowie). Sarah begs Jareth to return her brother but is given thirteen hours to make it through his labyrinth and find Toby in the castle…or Toby will become a goblin.Labyrinth 2

While the story is simple enough, it is actually symbolic of Sarah’s journey to womanhood and the need to leave her childhood behind. This becomes more obvious in the final scene where Sarah is seen frolicking with the residents of the fantasy world. And those creatures are the strongest point of this movie. Jim Henson did simply magical work, long before the days of CGI. From Hoggle, the dwarf who befriends Sarah, to Ludo and the legion of goblins, you can’t help but be entranced by the magical world around you.

Labyrinth 3Where the movie suffers is in the human cast. Jennifer Connelly was a few years away from becoming stunningly beautiful in The Rocketeer but her acting delivery is often very flat, which is painfully obvious in this film. David Bowie gave a good performance but I’ll admit, I cringed a little at the musical numbers. In my opinion, not his best work but his music video for the film was one of the better promotional pieces. His acting here is quite limited as he appears more for visual effect. A striking image but not necessarily one of the most animated characters when surrounded by the work of Jim Henson.

Henson and George Lucas worked closely together during the editing process of the movie. Overall production lasted primarily five months prior to the lengthy series of edits. By the time Labyrinth was released in June 1986 in the United States, anticipation was high but short lived. It spent only one week in the top ten. Despite a more appropriate Christmas season premiere in the UK and Europe, it failed to capture an audience.

Labyrinth 4Labyrinth has survived the initial failures to become a cult favorite over the years. Jim Henson lived long enough to see the early start of the growing appreciation for his work prior to his death in 1990. In recent years, there has been talk of another Labyrinth film but it appears now the movie will be in the style rather than a sequel or remake. And let’s be honest, if they go with CGI effects, there really won’t be any comparison.

I enjoyed this revisit as I hadn’t seen Labyrinth since 1987. It did seem dated and not as engaging as I had hoped it would be. Nonetheless, I do recommend any fan of Jim Henson or David Bowie to check it out and be your own judge. Watch the trailer on YouTube and start shopping as it is readily available on a beautiful Blu-ray edition. There is also an interesting documentary that gives a fascinating look behind-the-scenes and that you may find more enjoyable than the film itself.

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Dread Media – Jennifer (1978)

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Jennifer 1978This week on episode 439 of the Dread Media podcast, I take a look at the never mentioned and seldom seen Jennifer (1978). It’s essentially a ripoff on the superior Carrie (1976) but worth watching for a different take on a familiar tale. The movie is currently available on Blu-ray, so check out the trailer on YouTube for yourself to help determine if this is one for your collection.

Tribute to David Bowie – The Hunger (1983)

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The Hunger posterOn January 10, the world lost a musical legend as David Bowie died of cancer at the age of 69. He left behind a legacy of music and film that will continue to entertain for generations to come. His music speaks for itself and has wide appeal. However, his acting credits are a little more sporadic and, perhaps, a more acquired taste. Within the sci-fi, horror and fantasy genre, he left his mark several times.

In 1976, David Bowie would bring to life a most unique character as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth, based on the novel by Walter Tevis. It was not a commercial success but would grow in cult status over the years. It was an overly ambitious film, somewhat incomplete with its lack of continuity. But it has stood the test of time, due in large part to David Bowie’s performance. He would take on various roles in the years that followed before entering the world of horror with The Hunger (1983).

Hunger 1The film is a very loose adaptation of the novel by Whitley Strieber. It is a unique take on the vampire lore without ever mentioning the word. Our film opens at a New York night club as we see Miriam Blaylock (Catherine Deneuve, Repulsion) with her companion John (David Bowie). From the very beginning, this a stylish film that many would consider an art house effort. We see Miriam and John stalking their prey while Bauhaus is playing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. They eventually take a couple back to their home where they are seduced and killed. However, there are no vampire fangs here. Their throats are slashed using an Ankh pendant, hinting at an Egyptian past for Miriam.

Miriam and John are a wealthy couple who teach music. But there is a darkness behind their comfort. John begins to realize that Miriam’s promise of ever-lasting life only applied to her. After hundreds of years, John begins to age rapidly. He seeks out the help of Dr. Sarah Roberts (Susan Sarandon, Rocky Horror Picture Show), a gerontologist who is studying rapid aging in primates. John flees the clinic before she can find out more. Once back at home, he tries to stop the aging by feeding on a music student but it fails to help. Miriam returns home to find John near death. Despite his pleas to end his life, she places him in a coffin in the attic, alongside others, saying there is no release.Hunger 2

The rest of the movie really centers on Miriam courting Sarah to become her next companion. Yet, when Sarah is turned, she repels at the thought of living forever, feeling more like an addict in search of the next hit to keep her alive. Unfortunately, this is where the movie eventually suffers. Despite establishing a lore that Miriam is eternal and cannot die while her companions must suffer, all of that is changed in the final act. This was due to the studio requesting that the ending be rewritten to an open ending and leaving the possibility for sequels. Susan Sarandon has expressed regret at this decision and I agree. It changes too much and, ultimately, leaves the filmgoer confused as to what really happened.

Hunger 4Bowie’s performance was somewhat limited but stellar all the same. The makeup work done to age him was amazing. Bowie would actually learn how to play the cello for the movie. He was proud of the finished film but was concerned that it was too bloody at times. For a vampire film, it really isn’t excessively horrific, especially considering that it never features vampire fangs. Director Tony Scott presented us with a very stylized look at the world of vampires, one that would reach cult status amongst the Goth crowd in future years. I believe it has to be an inspiration of some sort for Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), a film I actually enjoyed just a little bit more.

The Hunger is currently available on Blu-ray. Check out the trailer on YouTube and I think you’ll get a good idea of what this movie has to offer. I recommend it and appreciate it for offering something a little different on a sub-genre that could occasionally use some fresh blood. Be sure to listen to episode 438 of the Dead Media podcast for Desmond and Chris’ review of the film, then tune in to the upcoming episode 361 of the B Movie Cast to hear what Vince and the gang think about it. Hunger 3

Bowie would never really do another horror film. He would appear in several episodes of the short-lived television series version of The Hunger, a non-related effort to capitalize on the name. But he would give the world of fantasy a go in 1986. Next time, I’ll take a look at the often much-maligned Labyrinth.

Dread Media – Bone Tomahawk (2015)

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Bone Tomahawk 2015Everyone’s heard about Kurt Russell’s latest big western epic, The Hateful Eight (2015). But have you heard that Kurt made another western two months earlier? This week on episode 438 of the Dread Media podcast, I take a look at Bone Tomahawk (2015). It has horror and comedic elements in it plus a great cast that includes Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, David Arquette and Sid Haig. It’s well worth your time, so check out the trailer and add this one to your watch list!

Dread Media – Laserblast (1978)

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With all of the recent hype about the latest Star Wars epic, I thought it would be fun to travel back to the late 70s to see how the original made such a huge impact on movie audiences and Hollywood in general. We were dealt a lot of sci-fi flicks in the years that followed the original. One of the worst was Laserblast (1978). Hear my thoughts on episode 437 of the Dread Media podcast. Check out the trailer (note how it is so much like the original Star Wars trailer) and, if you so desire, the DVD is available on Amazon.Star Trek Laser Blast poster 1978

 

Upcoming Movies in 2016

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Batman v SupermanAs 2016 begins, I have started to look at what theatrical releases are lurking ahead in the next twelve months. Here’s a quick glance at the movies I am most anticipating (and a few that have me curious).

January 8: The Revenant (I am not a Leonardo DiCaprio fan but everything I’ve seen so far has me interested)
January 22: The Boy (Maybe it’s the presence of Lauren Cohen but this one has me curious, it’s probably going to be bad)
February 12: Deadpool (A Marvel character I know very little about but it’s Marvel, so I’m ready)
February 26: The Witch (A very bleak looking and potentially frightening film…I hope)
March 4: Zootopia (The sloth trailer still has me laughing)
March 25: Batman v Superman – Dawn of Justice (I really hope this one is good…but what is the deal with the Lex Luthor casting?)
May 6: Captain America: Civil War (Looks awesome, ‘nuff said)
May 27: X-Men-Apocalypse (Has potential but can it be as good as the last one?)
June 10: The Conjuring 2 – The Endfield Poltergeist (I loved the first one, why do I think this one is going to be horrible?)
June 24: Independence Day – Resurgence (I’m okay without Will Smith but is this one really necessary?)
July 1: The Legend of Tarzan (As a longtime Tarzan fan, I so want this be the rebirth of a legend)
July 8: The Secret Life of Pets (Another trailer that still has me laughing)Civil War
July 22: Star Trek – Beyond (The trailer was not my Trek but I’m hopeful the other 118 minutes has something better, Simon Pegg seems to think so)
July 29: The Bourne Identity 5 (Anxious to see it but I wonder if it won’t get pushed out)
August 5: Suicide Squad (Thinking this may be the Fantastic Four of 2016)
October 7: Gambit (I’m almost positive this will get pushed out)
October 14: Inferno (I’m ready for more Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon)
October 14: Underworld – Next Generation (I should probably give up on this series but…)
October 21: Jack Reacher – Never Go Back (Sorry but I’m still a sucker for a good Tom Cruise action flick)
November 4: Doctor Strange (I feel this will be in my top five of the year)
November 18: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (A return to Harry Potter land? Why not!)
December 16: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story (Hoping this one has an original script)Doctor Strange

Reflections on the Best and Worst of 2015

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The Hateful EightIt’s that time again here at Monster Movie Kid. The year of 2015 is done, so let’s take a look back at my personal best of the best and the worst of the worst. A list is always subjective and I’m sure many of you will disagree with mine while some of you may be on the same page.

So, let’s dive into this year in review and start off with a look back at the number of movies watched through December 31.

Action: 14
Animated: 9 
Comedy: 43
Documentary: 5
Drama: 14
Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror: 142 
Suspense/Thriller: 11
Western: 2
Total: 240 (This is up from last year and close to 2011 and 2013, so a nice total of flicks watched and revisited.)

Cinema A Go Go PosterTotal number of movies watched in a movie theater:  42 (This is the most movies watched since 2010, which was a little surprising. But, my wife and I went to more movies together this year and I also had a chance to catch some classics on the big screen as well with Cinema a Go-Go and the Kansas Silent Film Festival.)

Top 10 Movies I Watched in a Movie Theater:
1. Mad Max: Fury Road – One of the most fun movies I’ve seen in years, non-stop madness and pure escapism
2. The Hateful Eight – Yes, maybe a little long but the Ultra Panavision 70MM visuals, Tarantino dialogue and Ennio Morricone soundtrack made for an awesome experience
3. The Martian – I really enjoy a more realistic based sci-fi flick and, despite a slightly long running time, I thoroughly enjoyed it
4. Jurassic World – The sequel to the original we’ve been wanting for years, it came so close to recapturing the fun of the first one
5. The Avengers: Age of Ultron – Sorry haters but I love my super-heroes movies and, despite its flaws, I had a lot of fun with this one
6. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – A fun, final chapter that delivered on most levels
7. Kingsman: The Secret Service – A really surprising treat with one of the most insane sequences I’ve seen in quite a while (the church)
8. Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens – Yes, the plot was a little reminiscent of A New Hope but I thoroughly enjoyed it
9. Ant-Man – A little more low-key but this was another super-hero flick that made me happy
10. Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation – Non-stop fun and action, I enjoy a good Tom Cruise flick and not ashamed to admit it
Honorable Mention: Spectre and TrainwreckThe Magician

Top 10 Movies I Watched at Home for the First Time:
1. The Magician (1958) – I finally watched this classic and was blown away by how mesmerizing it was, beautifully filmed with an amazing cast
2. Karloff-The Play (2014) – Not a movie but an amazing experience, makes me want to see it live even more
3. Ministry of Fear (1944) – Another classic I finally caught up with, pure fun and a great cast
4. The Imitation Game (2014) – I probably enjoyed this more than I should have but I love Benedict Cumberbatch
5. Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971) – Finally, a giallo flick that entertained me
6. Lucy (2014) – Okay, a total guilty pleasure here but it was a lot of fun to watch
7. Snowpiercer (2013) – Pure, unrealistic craziness that entertained on a cold, winter day
8. Under The Skin (2013) – The oddness of the movie, from visuals to soundtrack, pulled me in
9. Sinister (2012) – Finally, a horror movie with a different approach that worked and entertained
10. Wizards (1977) – I can’t believe I never saw this one, not perfect but compelling at times

WizardsI am intentionally avoiding bad movies but occasionally one slips by the radar. So, it’s time for the worst of the worst.

Worst Movie I Watched in a Movie Theater:
1. Get Hard – Not sure why I let Will Ferrell continue to disappoint me, this would have been a funny 10-minute short…maybe

Worst Movie I Watched at Home for the First Time:
1. Last Woman on Earth (1960) – One of those movies where nothing ever really happens, no eye candy, just a lot of nothing

Aside from movies, 2015 was a great year at Monster Movie Kid. In July, I recorded my first audio review for the Dread Media podcast. Desmond Reddick enjoyed it and asked me to join the cast full time. It’s been a lot of fun and even challenging at times (yes, I’m thinking of those giallo films). I’ll continue this into 2016 and I’m relishing every minute of it. Another huge accomplishment was the release of issues 3 and 4 of The Basement Sublet of Horror magazine. This meant another appearance at the Free State Comicon in Lawrence, KS with Joel Sanderson. These issues were amazing and we’re planning on issues 5 and 6 for 2016! Thank you to Desmond Reddick and Joel Sanderson for making these dreams come true!

BSOH 4I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my 4th Annual 31 Days of Halloween tribute to Bela Lugosi. This was more challenging than last year’s tribute to Boris Karloff. Lugosi did so many lesser quality films that it was a bit of chore at times. But, to have revisited so many classics the past two years, I really can’t complain. Yes, there will be a 5th Annual 31 Days of Halloween in 2016 but I have no idea what to do just yet. Suggestions?

Okay, another year that I didn’t get around to some classics I wanted to but I’m just going with the flow. Now, it’s time to look ahead to 2016! I’m hoping to do some more theme months and, as always, I crave more classic comedy and westerns. As always, thank you for your support!