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American Gothic

And all I have to say, is that it’s about friggin’ time! After ten years I finally got the chance to view one of my favorite series in its entirety. American Gothic was a genre show on Fox in season that ran from 1995-96. Back when The X-Files opened the door for innovative genre shows that were trying to be innovative and original. Such as Nowhere Man, Millennium, and this little devil of a show that I am reviewing here for you, my little pretties. Watching 22 episodes back to back to back, might not sound fun to most people, and they would be correct, because it actually is quite a pain in the ass, butt (misspelled on purpose) it is my duty as a reviewer for this fine film site, so when duty calls, Dick Hollywood is on the job.

In the small coastal town of Trinity, South Carolina there is an unspeakable evil, and that evil just happens to be Buck, Lucas Buck; the Sheriff of Trinity. Lucas Buck (brilliantly played by Gary Cole) and his deputy Ben (Nick Searcy) are dispatched to the Temple house and discover that Gage Temple (Sonny Shroyer) has killed his teen daughter Merlyn (Sarah Paulson). Since dad is in jail awaiting trial and Mrs. Temple (Tammy Arnold) committed suicide after the birth of her son Caleb, (Lucas Black, the youngest Temple), and now Caleb has nowhere to go, But Sheriff Buck has other plans for the boy. And what plans indeed. Now that was a typeful. (I just made up a word, isn’t that coolr)

Never had I seen before on television, when the show first aired and since, such a diabolical lead character. He was no hero. He was no anti-hero. He was just plain one bad mutha fucka (can I say that). When the show first aired I was only able to catch about six of the episodes, but they stuck with me for years to come. It aired again on the Sci-Fi channel and I was able to catch a few more there as well, but alas not all of them. Even without seeing them all it remained one of my favorite shows. Ten years later and it is finally released on DVD. It may have been a hell of a wait, but one well worth it. The episodes are presented in their original network airdates with the four never aired shows (I believe that they aired on the Sci-Fi Channel) placed at the end. I watched them in their original production order. The network executives decided to change the order for some strange reason, but you can go to americangothicdvd.com for the correct order. Well, watching them years later I started to get the feeling that maybe I was wrong about the show. That it just did not hold up now, but let me tell you, I must have been tired or something, because not only does it hold up, it downright blows away most television shows that have come out since it originally aired.

This show has got it all. Good vs. Evil, ghosts, witchcraft, bumbling deputies, dark humor, a sexy Femme Fatal, and of course Buck, Lucas Buck. It’s corny, scary, creepy, moving and funny. This show had it all. Creator/Writer Shaun Cassidy (yes of the “Hardy Boys”) knew that the show was going to be cancelled ahead of time, so he was able to write a conclusion and wrap the season up without a cliffhanger, but an actual ending. Well shoot, my fingers are tired. Just go and rent the damn thing why don’t ya!

-Extras:

The pilot episode has a commentary with Shaun Cassidy and one of the producers. Not really informative, but should be fun for fans of the show.

15 Deleted and Extended scenes with nothing-new here, watch’em if you must…

I give it a B for the “Buck” stops here!

Rating: B
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Three… Extremes

We start off this fun little adventure with Fruit Chan’s “Dumplings.” Qing (Miriam Yeung), an ex-starlet turned wife of a prominent rich man, is seeking the fountain of youth, and Aunt Mei (Bai Ling) supposedly can help her. Aunt Mei a former abortionist, cooks up a mean dumpling with a secret recipe for rejuvenation, but what is in her special dumplings with an unusual filling. This segment, which I felt was the weakest of the three, is probably not for the squeamish or the Catholic Church is a satirical piece in the same vein as Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” It’s nicely photographed by Christopher Doyle, but the film drags on and is too obvious for my taste.

Next up is Park Chan-Wook’s “Cut.” Ryu Ji-Ho (Lee Byung-Hun) is a film director who returns home one night to find a stranger has tied his wife up like a marionette to the piano, keeping her alive and gagged for some gruesome torture. Also along for the ride is a kidnapped little girl, who sits bound and gagged on the couch. The Stranger offers Ryu a choice, to kill the child, or to watch his wife’s fingers being cut off, one by one every five minutes. The metronome is ticking while we wait to see if Ryu will give in to this madman’s choice or find another way out of his predicament. This is the best of the three, with Park Chan-Wook showing us once again that he is able to mix extreme tension, black humor and lots of blood into one hell of a flick.

And last, but certainly not least, my man Miike’s film “Box,” about a young author and former circus performer, Kyoko (Kyoko Hasegawa) seemingly haunted by the ghost of her twin sister, who died a mysterious and horrible death while practicing their act. Adding to Kyoko’s trauma, her editor (Atsuro Watabe) is a dead ringer for her old stepfather/ringmaster, who may have perished in the same “accident” that took her sister’s life. A very restrained Miike here, willing to let the story unfold as a surreal mix of waking and dreaming reality, slowly letting the story unfold to the final chilling climax. Miike, mostly known for making twisted tales of the macabre does a 180-degree turn and makes a calm, quiet film that is hauntingly beautiful and psychologically un-nerving.

Well two out of three ain’t bad, so I will give “Three… Extremes” a G for Good Job!

Rating: B
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Saw II

Detective Mason is in for a big surprise when Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) chooses him this time to play a game, and it sure ain’t gonna be Candy Land. Mason and the police discover that there are 7 people, including Mason’s son Daniel, all trapped in a house filled with nerve gas and will die within in 2 hours if they don’t find the syringe filled antidotes hidden within the home, or a way out of this “Cube”-like residence. Will the new housemates work together for the solution or will it become every man and woman for himself or herself.

I wasn’t really a big fan of the first “Saw” and I am not really impressed with this undertaking as well. Jigsaw keeps spewing philosophical psycho-babble, a la Hannibal Lector, to justify what he is doing, and basically what it comes down to is “It is what it is.” Well, I don’t care! Donnie Walberg plays the hardened detective that isn’t afraid the walk the line between legal and illegal with the occasional “beat the confession/tell me where they are” kind of cop. Yep, we’ve been there and done that for the last three seasons of “The Shield” and numerous other cop dramas. The film is plagued with the “Friday the 13th” syndrome, where we never get to really know any of the characters, so their deaths are meaningless, except for them to be used as props for some very imaginative and inventive ways on screen dying. But worst of all, the film generally lacks in suspense and drama. Its all thrill kill with no actual frights or scares. Chasing someone literally around and around and around in a house does not scare me and gets boring fast. I don’t know about you, but I like horror flicks that scare me, which “Saw II” failed to do miserably.

I give the film a “J” for Just don’t make another one, please…

Rating: D
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Slaughterhouse of the Rising Sun

The story is “The Hills Have Eyes” meets the Manson Family. Young Jennifer lands herself in the loony bin after rupturing her “Blue Movie” co-star’s testicle and comes close to scratching his eyes out. It seems as though Jennifer is prone to hearing and listening to voices and experiencing haunting nightmares while being awake as well as asleep. After six months she is let out on her own recognizance, with the recommendation that she go and stay with her parents for a while. On her trip home, a merry band of pranksters (not affiliated with Ken Kesey) save her from some down and dirty rednecks that are just about to rape her. She joins them on their little madcap adventure and end up squatting at “the House at the edge of the woods”, where things start getting weird and Family Members start dying.

On the positive side, the film looks really cool. Cinematographer Stuart T. Lillas recreates the 70’s exploitation genre look and feel with style and glee. I particularly liked the opening credits montage. It had a nice Mary Tyler Moore opening feel to it. I’ve always liked Mary Tyler Moore, especially the Dick Van Dyke years, bit I digress…

Now for the negative… I like the idea of a “lost horror” film, but not the fact that it is a mediocre “lost horror” film. Why not make a great or at least a very good “lost horror” film. The characters Violence Onelove and Guilty Karma respectfully played by Michele Morrow and Ryan Rogoff are two kick-ass killer chicks (pun intended), but they do not even remotely feel like they are actresses from the 70’s, but more like some babes with guns in an 80’s Andy Sidaris flick. (Look him up on IMDB.com if ya don’t know who he is).

Overall, “Slaughterhouse” is not terribly scary, nor a touch disturbing. At moments funny and stylish, but the overall finished product is disappointing. Where is the Horrorr

I give it an “O” for OK, they tried, but don’t bother…

Rating: C
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Dick’s Picks for 2004

Every January, we get to read all of these learned critics espouse upon what they felt were the greatest artistic merits in cinema for the previous year. Yeah yeah yeah. But what about us ordinary Joes? The ones who could give a crap if a shot in The Terminal is reminiscent of something the writer once saw in some Ukranian movie from 1956 you and I would never see because we don’t get paid to sit on our keisters and watch movies at film festivals all year long. So without further ado, here are The Real Dick Hollywood’s Cream of the Crop Top Ten Films of 2004 and a few more that just missed the boat…

Continue reading “Dick’s Picks for 2004”

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Shaun of the Dead

When Shaun wakes in the morning he goes about his daily routine, oblivious to the fact that Zombies are roaming the streets of his neighborhood. Zombies hanging around his usual haunts, while Shaun looking have dead himself, nurses a hangover. They soon put the pieces of the puzzle together and realize that the dead are walking among them all over town. The dead seem to be hungering for human flesh, biting and snacking on people as they stumble around from place to place. A bite will turn you into one of the Walking Dead and as with all good Zombie flicks, you must remove the head or destroy the brain to kill them. Armed with Shovel, Cricket Bat and a DJ record case filled with vinyl, the two set out to save the day, or at least their friends and family members from the Zombie menace. They devise a plan to grab the ones they love and hole up in safest spot they both can think of, there home away from the Winchester Pub.

Shaun of the Dead is funny, extremely funny. Poking fun at the Zombie genre with fan-boy glee. “Were making films for geeks by geeks,” Screenwriter and lead actor, Simon Pegg stated at a recent Convention that showcased the trailer and other projects the writing duo (Edgar White and Simon Pegg) have worked on in the past, namely the BBC’s hit show, “Spaced”. Both White and Pegg, believe that the only good Zombie is a slow Zombie, referring to the fast moving Zombies of recent Zombie films, “28 Days Later and the “Dawn of the Dead” remake, versus the classic Zombies of George Romeros’ “Night of the Living Dead”. While “Shaun” is a terrific British comedy, there are some scenes of true drama as well. This is a Zombie flick after all and people are going to die. Many of whom we get to know and like, making it all the more emotional when their end comes. Fans of Zombie Flicks will get a kick out of all the in-jokes and gore splattered throughout the movie, while fans of British Comedy will enjoy it for it’s droll wit. The two blend quite nicely, like a well-mixed Bloody Mary.

Rating: A-
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