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Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)



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Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood RebelFeaturing Roger Corman, Julie Corman, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Robert De Niro, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Bruce Dern, Peter Fonda, William Shatner, David Carradine, Dick Miller, Eli Roth, Paul W.S Anderson, Joe Dante, Pam Grier

Directed by Alex Stapleton

“The difference between the image you present to the world and what is going on inside in your subconscious mind is significant. I’ve been told that my image is somewhat of a clean-cut kind of guy; clearly my subconscious mind is something of a boiling inferno.”– Roger Corman

Dismissed as a schlockmeister and purveyor of B-movie trash by some film snobs, Roger Corman is the subject of Alex Stapleton’s affectionate and engaging documentary entitled Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, which examines the legendary producer’s astonishing six-decade long career while also underlining his importance in the formation of modern Hollywood – both for independent cinema and the studio blockbuster system alike.

On the surface it’s easy to see how the industry wrote off Corman as an exploitative hack of Z-grade movies who has no artistic integrity of his own to speak of over the years, but then that wouldn’t justify the deep-seated admiration the iconic producer and director has acquired by some of the most renowned talents in Hollywood throughout his impressive career.

In Stapleton’s brilliantly entertaining and insightful documentary, the filmmaker reaffirms Corman’s legacy in the industry by somehow managing to summon such sought after interviewees as Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Robert De Niro, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Bruce Dern, Peter Fonda, William Shatner, John Sayles, Gale Anne Hurd, Dick Miller, Eli Roth, Paul W.S Anderson, Joe Dante, Pam Grier and the late David Carradine – most of whose careers took off as a result of Corman’s films. Simply put, without Corman their careers may never have happened. There’s a contagious admiration throughout everyone’s interviews regarding Corman’s involvement in their early beginnings in Hollywood, and it was nice to see even some Hollywood heavyweights pay their due to the master.

As a long-time fan of Corman’s Poe films, it was great to see Corman’s World explore that as a storyteller Corman was really beginning to master his craft around the time he was helming films like House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Tomb of Ligeia, which also turns out to be Scorsese’s favorite Corman flick of all time. There wasn’t much time overall spent on dissecting these films but rather demonstrating how they impacted cinema as a whole, and while I would have loved to hear more about these movies in particular, Stapleton smartly keeps everything moving forward in her doc, never lingering too long on any one aspect of Corman’s legacy in cinema.

That being said, the lesser known and surprising facts revealed during Corman’s World ended up being the most telling and entertaining about the iconic independent filmmaking pioneer. From tidbits about his involvement with distributing foreign films by directors like Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa to how movies like The Wild Angels and The Trip were inspirations for the classic 1969 flick Easy Rider, Corman’s World digs deep into why Corman still remains influential today without taking the easy route and just offering up a lot of empty praise for the filmmaker- Stapleton clearly did her homework on every aspect of Corman’s career and influence, and it definitely shows here.

While Corman’s World celebrates all the positives to the filmmaker’s career, it certainly doesn’t shy away from the tough lessons Corman learned in the industry throughout his decades-spanning career either. Stapleton spends a sizable amount of time in the doc dissecting Corman’s highly controversial 1962 film The Intruder that boldly explored segregation in the South during a time of civil unrest in the country (The Intruder is also noteworthy for being Shatner’s first film role ever) and ended up being the only movie that never made a dime for Corman.

Then when Jaws arrived in theaters in 1975, it forever changed creature features within the genre world with fans now wanting more serious fare than films like Attack of the Crab Monsters or Creature from the Haunted Sea, making Corman’s way of producing horror movies a thing of the past. A few years later when Star Wars debuted in 1977 and changed the entire entertainment industry, all while boasting Corman-esque concepts and lavish budgets, the filmmaker found himself left completely in the dust. We see Corman calling George Lucas’ $30+ million budget “obscene” in response during an interview segment from that time as well as the palpable pain on the filmmaker’s face as he defends his way of filmmaking.

Corman’s World ends on a high note with the “schlockmeister” collecting his honorary Academy Award surrounded by many of the movie industry’s finest during the Governors Awards ceremony in November 2009, further demonstrating that Corman’s influence on Hollywood is far bigger than just the sum of the over 400 movies he directed or produced during his 60+-year career. It’s a great moment to watch Corman, the man who never got the respect he deserved for valiantly (and successfully) bucking against the Hollywood system, finally getting his due and humbly sharing his moment with those whose careers he launched.

As a lifelong genre fan, it’s nothing short of absolute bliss to finally see a doc like Corman’s World do justice to the legacy of this indie movie maverick (Bucket of Blood being one of my earliest horror movie watching memories). And surprisingly, Nicholson (who’s first film was Corman’s The Cry Baby Killer in 1958) ends up being the biggest admirer out of “The Corman School of Film” with entertaining anecdotes ranging from tongue-in-cheek put-downs (“By mistake, Roger would actually make a good picture every once in a while…but I was never in it”) to deep admiration that leaves the legendary actor choked up and teary-eyed when expressing his gratitude for Corman’s influence on his career.

It’s no surprise that Corman’s World will delight genre fans everywhere who are familiar with the iconic filmmaker’s work, but what’s even more remarkable is that this documentary is surprisingly accessible to mainstream audiences as well- there’s a lot for everyone to enjoy even if you’re only a casual filmgoer at best. You’ll be hard pressed to find a more intelligent, entertaining, thought-provoking and inspiring documentary this year than Stapleton’s Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, which opens in New York and Los Angeles on December 16th.

4 1/2 out of 5

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Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions



Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

  • Before We Vanish


Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On



Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston

Directed by Johnny Martin

When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.

Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.

Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.


  • Film


Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!

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Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility



Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita

The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

  • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters


Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

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