ANOTHER TAKE ON: Southland Tales (2006)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: We originally covered this movie all the way back on February 28, 2020, which feels like a million years ago. With the new Arrow Video release of this movie, it feels only right to watch it one more time.

Richard Kelly made Donnie Darko, a film that had a cult that is still obsessed with it, and then followed that movie with Southland Tales, which has, well, probably me still trying to figure it out.

Luckily, the new Arrow release has the 160-minute Cannes cut, which has about 15 minutes more footage than the original, which was one of my holy grails. Between that and a new documentary, It’s a Madcap World: The Making of an Unfinished Film, which has new interviews with Kelly and the crew of this movie, plus everything else in this set, I’d like to say that I’ve figured out more of this movie and have an answer as to what it all means, but let’s be honest. I’m not even sure Kelly is completely sure what this is all about.

Much like Boxer Santaros/Jericho Cane, the character played by Dwayne Johnson/The Rock, who has a script to a new movie The Power basically downloaded directly into his brain that isn’t just the best movie he’s ever considered, but also the way that the world will end, I think that either Kelly had his soul split in two by Fluid Karma or — most likely — had access to the best in drugs after the success of his first film.

The thing is, while so many people dismissed this movie as five years dated in the wake of 9/11, which inspired Kelly to rewrite his story in light of “some of the biggest issues that I think we’re facing right now …the increasing obsession with celebrity and how celebrity now intertwines with politics,” the fact that we are still in the end stage of having a celebrity in the White House who created a cult — not just a cult of personality — makes this film even more relevant in the last twelve months than it was for the past fifteen years.

Somehow, this film — which made $374,743 worldwide against a production budget of $17 million — still obsesses and confuses me long after I forget the latest movie that everyone can’t stop chatting about.

In our world of influencers and bubbles and a public who doesn’t understand the meanings of words like socialism and fascism — while at the same time our leaders on one side misrepresent what defunding means and the other side knows exactly the talking points to speak most directly to the blood and circuses heard of the easily swayed — Southland Tales feels like it really could be the world outside my door. Is it because it was so prescient? Or has life over the COVID-19 confined and protest filled year of 2020 moved reality to science fiction?

I don’t really recommend this movie to many people, because ten minutes in they’re going to realize that it feels like chapter four of a narrative that has already been going on without them — this is exactly what is happening, there were three graphic novels that begin the movie’s story that no one would ever know about or should have to read, but there you go — which never works for any movie other than the ones that I get all mental over.

Therefore, instead of a traditional narrative review — the one we did last year does that and you can refer to it right here if you’d like — I’m going to instead list off some of the questions in my head in the hopes that they will get answered by the universe (or Kelly is Google searching for himself, manages to make his way here and decides to bless me with whatever passes for answers).

Why is the neo-marxist porn-based conspiracy army — as well as USIDeath — staffed by nearly all actors with Saturday Night Live origins, like Amy Poehler, Jon Lovitz, Nora Dunn and Cheri Oteri?

How did the overdubs of Justin Timberlake, who plays Private Pilot Abilene, change the story that Kelly intended? Adam Lorincz, who commented on the original review, said that Kelly redubbed “only the parts when he doesn’t speak on-screen, we just hear his inner monologue, and keep the parts where he is actually speaking, resulting in a character that’s sometimes almost sage-like in it’s wisdom, other times an absolute douchebag.” What’s going on there?

Did Kelly just want to work with a collection of his favorite actors from movies? Like how do you get Wallace Shawn, Zelda Rubenstein and MIranda Richardson and throw them in a film with people like Christopher Lambert and Bai Ling? Building off the SNL question, why are there so many comedic actors — John Larroquette, Curtis Armstrong, Janeane Garofalo, Will Sasso — in this movie? Sure, Kelly has said that he “sought out actors that he felt had been pigeonholed and wanted to showcase their undiscovered talents,” but is there a deeper message to their casting?

What is the point of Kevin Smith’s legless veteran, Simon Theory?

Come to think of it, what is the point of why the zeppelin needs to be shot down and why Boxer has to be there and what the point of the dance number is, other than to entrance the audience of USIdent people so that they all stay and die?

Why is the soundtrack so stuck in mid-90’s — Jane’s Addiction, The Killers and Moby figure prominently — yet the rest of the movie not feel lost in time? I mean, even the chapters take their titles from songs from that time period: “Temptation Waits” is a Garbage song, “Memory Gospel” is a Moby song in the movie and “Wave of Mutilation” is by the Pixies.

Did he pay any of the artists or credit them for taking lyrics as words that the characters say? For example, the line “We saw the shadows of the morning light, the shadows of the evening sun until the shadows and light were one,” comes directly from Jane’s Addiction.

Does it make the movie make more or less sense when you know that The Power was not written whole-cloth by Boxer, but was written by Krysta and given to him after he’s found with his memory wiped away in the desert? Oh yeah — this is another fact that you’d only know if you read the comic books.

Why is Boxer’s other name — Jericho Cane — the same name as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in End of Days?

I don’t have the answers. I do have the new blu ray set, which you can get from Arrow Video.

Legacy of Fear (2006)

Detective Jeanne Joyce (Teri Polo) watched her mother get murdered by a serial killer thirty years ago. Now, she’s still obsessed by the BPS (Bound, Photographed, Strangled )Killer*, a case that drove her father insane and was the whole reason why she became a cop. Yet when the murders start again, she’s not convinced it’s the same killer, even when he or she claims that Jeanna — who pushes away anyone and everyone around her — will be the last to die.

This is the kind of movie that is begging to be either a legit Hollywood film or a giallo, yet is constrained by being a Lifetime movie, so it can’t wallow in the sleaze like it should. However, you can also read that as an indictment of myself, a person who needs fashion, black gloves and a jazzy soundtrack to accompany my murder stories.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

*In no way is this killer related to the BTK (Bind, Tie, Kill) Killer, right?

Drive-In Friday: Dennis Devine Night

We’ve already taken a look at Double D’s best-promoted and best-known film — via the back of pulpy, ’80s monster mags — Dead Girls, and his latest, 30th film, Camp Blood 8 — each part of our respective “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II” and our October “All Slasher Month” tributes. And, the best part, Dennis is a D-Town brother: yep, the land of Jim Morrison’s doppelganger from 1974, that wizard of “the D,” The Phantom of the Divine Comedy fame (no pun intended). Devine was born and raised in Detroit and graduated from Eastern Michigan University before heading to Los Angeles, graduating from Loyola Marymount University’s film school, and forming DJD Productions.

So, for this Drive-In Friday, lets load the projector with four more of Dennis Devine films. And not all of them are the horror films you expect them to be.

Movie 1: Fatal Images (1989)

Next to Dear Girls, this debut feature — produced for $10,000 and shot-on-Beta with Dead Girls’ Steve Jarvis — is my favorite of the Devine canons and the Cinematrix imprint.

Starring Kay Schaber, Angela Eads, and Brian Chin from the later Dead Girls, they’re three of several people victimized by a Satanist-worshipping photographer-cum-serial killer who — instead of sealing his body in a doll, ala Chucky in Child’s Play (1988; 2019), Devine’s writing cohort, Mike Bowler (Hell Spa, Things, Things II, Club Dead, Amazon Warrior, Chain of Souls, Haunted), who spins an inventive change-up to the spiritual hocus pocus — commits suicide before the police can catch him, and seals his body inside a camera.

Years later, Amy Stuart (Lane Coyle who, in typical Devine fashion, never appeared in another film), an aspiring photographer who works for the town’s newspaper, purchases the vintage camera from a pawn shop staffed with a creepy, ulterior motive shopkeep — and everyone she photographs is tracked down and murdered by the killer’s spirit.

What helps this along is the effects that come courtesy of the iconic Gabe Bartalos, who worked on Dead Girls, as well as Frankenhooker, Spookies, Brain Damage, and the Fright Night, Basket Case, Leprechaun, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Gremlins and Watchers series. And don’t forget: Gabe’s in the directing business with Skinned Deep (2004) and Saint Bernard (2013).

You can watch Fatal Images as a free stream on You Tube. Do you need a more expansive, second look? Then check out Sam’s review of Fatal Images. It’s true! We love this film and Mr. Devine.

Movie 2: Things (1993)

“A horrific and sexy romp in the dark.”
— Joe Bob Briggs

Now, if that tag from the guru of Drive-In fodder on the VHS “big-box” doesn’t make you want to mail order this third effort from Dennis Devine, then nothing will. And yes . . . multiple titles alert . . . here are two movies carrying the “Things” title: the first is the infamous Canuxploitation-North of the Border Horror, Things (1989). And the three sequels from 1998 and 2017 to Devine’s film have nothing to do with the Canux one — or with each other — for that matter.

This “Things” is an anthology-portmanteau film in three parts: “The Box” directed and written by Devine,” “Thing in a Jar” written by Steve Jarvis and directed by Jay Woelfel, and the wrap-around/linking segment written by Mike Bowler and directed by Eugene James. All are film school friends and DJD cohorts, natch.

The segments come together as a woman kidnaps her husband’s mistress and tells the mistress two horror stories involving “evil things” — that’s all converged in a related, twist ending. And unlike the classic Amicus and Hammer omnibus flicks it homages, Things dispenses with the atmospheric-gothic angle of its Brit forefathers and goes straight for — the bountiful — guts n’ gore. The first tale concerns hookers who meet their fate to a cursed creature kept in a box; the second is about a woman haunted by is-it-real-or-nightmares “things” concerning her abusive husband.

You can watch Things on TubiTV. There’s no online copies of 2 or 3 (aka Deadly Tales, aka, Old Things) currently streaming online, but you can watch Things 4 on TubiTV. And again, DO NOT confuse this with the “North of the Border Horror” Things from 1989 . . . as that is a whole other “thing” to watch.

INTERMISSION: Short Film Time!

The Things about Things Sidebar: Battlestar Galactica fans know Jay Woelfel as the director of Richard Hatch’s failed 1999 BSG theatrical reboot with the short “pitch film” Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming that Universal rejected in lieu of the eventual SyFy Channel series. You can watch Hatch and Woelfel’s vision on You Tube. As you’ll see the, concept of “evolved Cylons” and the new Raiders design for the series was pinched from this version — and the most popular characters and actors returned.

And back to the show . . .

Movie 3: Curse of Pirate Death (2006)

It’s more goofy, ne’er-do-well college kids of the Scooby Doo variety heading off — not into the Norwegian Slasher Wood (as in Camp Blood 8) — but the ocean, Pirate’s Point in particular, as they research the myth of a centuries old killer, Abraham LeVoy, aka Pirate Death. And if they find his legendary treasure along the way, all the better for Shaggy and the Mystery Machine gang.

You’ve got — even though some are cut-a-ways or off-camera (ugh, damn budget) — a high kill count and lots of zombie-ghost pirate fighting that reminds of the great Amando de Ossorio’s third entry in his “Blind Dead” series, The Ghost Galleon (1974; the one with the living corpses of the Satan-worshiping Knights Templar hunting for human victims trapped on a 16th century galleon), but it’s definitely not as good as a de Ossorio flick (and what film is). Yeah, this one’s suffering from its ultra-low-budget that lends to sketchy cinematography and strained acting in places, but this has the usual Devine heart n’ soul with a mix of dark humor and horror that lends to its fun, snappy pace. Bottom line: If you want to see porn-provocateur Ron Jeremy (Boondock Saints/Overnight; also of Devine’s Night of the Dead from 2012) get a (cut-a-way) sword in the gut, this is your movie. If you want to see girls dressed as a sexy cop and German Beer Wench (Get that Bud Light chick outta ‘ere, I want a St. Pauli Girl!) stranded on an island dispatched by a dead pirate with guacamole smeared on his face, this is you movie.

One of the few Devine movies available through the service, you can rental-stream Curse of Pirate Death for a $1.99 on Amazon Prime. The DVD has a director-actor commentary track, along with a making of, gag reel, and meet the cast vignettes. The Amazon Prime stream offers a clip sample and You Tube offers a trailer via the film’s distributor, Brain Damage Films.

Movie 4: Get the Girl (2009)

Dennis Devine makes the jump from the pulpy lands of back-of-a-monster magazine-mail order SOVs to the streaming world of Netflix in this pretty obvious Judd Apatow-influencer. It concerns a geek (Adam Salandra of Devine’s Don’t Look in the Cellar) who masters Guitar Master (aka a chintzy Guitar Hero knock-off) to impress a sexy-brainless co-worker, much to the chagrin of his dowdy, co-worker gal pal. Guess which girl he gets. (Yeah, I’d want to “get the girl” with the ponytail and eye glasses, too.)

You can watch Get the Girl as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV. Other films in the Devine comedy canons include Kid Racer (2010; yep, go-carts), Dewitt & Maria (2010; a rom-com), Fat Planet (2013; aliens into food), and Baker & Dunn (2017; that also works as mystery thriller).

For you Devineites (Or is that Devineheads?) check out his TubiTV page to watch the horrors Don’t Look in the Cellar (2008), The Haunting of La Llorona (2019), and the comedy Fat Planet (2013).

We wanted to do Devine’s Vampires of Sorority Row (1999), Vampires on Sorority Row II (2000), and his campy-vamp comedy Vamps in the City (2010) for our recent “Vampire Week,” but were unable to locate online streaming copies for you to enjoy — free or otherwise. The same goes for the Reggie “Phantasm” Bannister-starring Sawblade (2010) for our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II,” about an extreme-metal band a trapped-in-a-haunted house-for-a-video shoot tale (i.e., Blood Tracks and Monster Dog).

You need more Dennis Devine? Check out this Spotify podcast (that streams on all apps, and browser PCs and Laps) courtesy of Inside Movies Galore in promotion of Devine’s latest film, Camp Blood 8. You can also catch the podcast on streaming provider, Anchor.

From the Shameless Plugs Department: Yeah, I wrote a couple of books about the 1974 mystery of the ghost of Jim Morrison, The Phantom. If you follow up with the You Tube page, you’ll find lots of rare, live and studio tracks from the Phantom’s Detroit-based band Walpurgis and Pendragon.

Is it Jim or just record company tomfoolery?

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.

SLASHER MONTH: Hatchet (2006)

How much does Adam Green like slashers? He was in a band called Haddonfield. And he’s made four movies in the Hatchet series, as well as writing the Tommy Jarvis tapes in Friday the 13th: The Game.

Hatchet straddles the line between tribute to the past, humor and being a slasher that can stand on its own quite well. I was pleased to discover how much I loved every single one of these movies.

Victor Crowley was born when his father Thomas (both roles are played by slasher killer elite Kane Hodder) has a child with the nurse of his terminally ill wife, who curses the child. Born deformed in a difficult birth that claims the life of his mother, Thomas has raised the child as best he can when a prank causes a house fire and an accidental hatchet to the face kills the boy, who must now roam the New Orleans swamps as a ghost forever searching for his father and ready to kill anyone in his way.

Woe be to anyone who takes a tourist boat ride through the swamps on a night that Victor is out roaming, which is the perfect set-up for this type of film. I mean, how much more do you want to know?

Crowley is opposed by Marybeth Dunston (Tamara Feldman for the first film, to be followed by Danielle Harris in the others), who blames Crowley for the deaths of her father and brother.

The other thing this movie gets right is having Tony Todd in the cast. He elevates everything he’s ever been in and is a standout here as Rev. Zombie, who has been sued too many times to lead tours. He’ll become more essential in the second film. Actually, if you watch the first three movies together, they tell one big story, kind of like Halloween and Halloween 2. Robert Englund shows up as well, making this the second movie that Hodder, Todd and Englund all appear in (the other is The Wishmaster).

You can watch this on Tubi.

Final Destination 3 (2006)

I realize that I watch a lot of movies. However, this point was hammered home when I realized that I saw three movies where people were killed by a tanning bed in one week. For anyone else, they’d see this as a moment to step back. Not me. I glared into the gaping maw of early 2000’s teen-friendly horror sequels and looked back before diving in, sternly speaking right to the camera, stating “I’ll see you in Hell.”

Directed by the returning James Wong (series creator Jeffrey Reddick did not come back), this film starts with a rollercoaster accident scene that will, much like flying in the first movie and driving in the second, make you never want to go to a theme park again.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as Wendy Christensen, whose premonition of the disaster keeps her friends from getting on the coaster, which leads to…look, if you’ve seen any of these movies, you understand how they work. You show up for the insane death sequences and wait for Tony Todd to show up and remind you exactly how much you love him. This time, all you get is his voice as the Devil before a ride and as the announcer on the subway.

Winstead teamed up again with Ryan Merriman, who she also appeared in The Ring Two as the teens that try — as always, in vain — to rescue the people that Death is killing. The funny thing is, this movie makes it obvious that you shouldn’t fight fate, because then you end up baked to a crisp while just trying to get a good summer glow on.

My DVD of this movie also features a Choose Their Fate option, which gives you some control over the movie, mainly changing some of the death scenes. My favorite part is that if you decide to keep the characters from even boarding the roller coaster, the movie goes directly to the credits. Like I always say, when people ask, “Why do people do such dumb things in horror movies?” I say, “Well, we wouldn’t have this movie otherwise.”

I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006)

Despite the ending of the last film teasing you with another chapter in the lives of Julie James and Ray Bronson, the time between films was too long for everyone in the eight years between installments — and Sylvian White was brought in to replace original director Damon Santostefano (Bring It On Again, the Fangoria Scream Greats videos). He also directed the movies Stomp the YardThe Losers and Slender Man, a film that pretty much disappeared upon release.

A year ago, Amber, Colby (David Paetkau, Final Destination 2), Zoe (Torrey DeVitto, Pretty Little Liars), Roger, and P.J. prank their entire town, who all know the legend of the Hook (or Fishman) from the first two films. However, instead of landing safely on a mattress, P.J. is impaled. Everyone believes that the Fishman killed him and the kids make a pact — learning nothing from the last two movies — to keep all of this a secret.

Fast forward and Amber is the only one who left town, with Colby giving up a scholarship and Roger a suicidal drunk. Oh yeah — and someone has waited twelve months to start texting her, “I know what you did last summer.”

This series follows the Vorhees formula by making its killer a supernatural force by the third film while also Myers formula by getting Don Shanks to play the slasher.

After three movies, we have the same ending each time. In the first movie, the Hook jumps through a shower door to attack Julie. He pulls her under a bed in the second. And in the third, despite escaping the danger of the film and garnering our sympathies as a final girl, Amber’s jeep breaks down and we see the Hook coming for her. You could see this as setting up a sequel while I see it as a film that cares absolutely nothing for its main characters and wastes all of the worry that you just invested in them by casually throwing them away in such quick fashion.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

Justin Lin comes into the franchise here and, well, he has none of the original cast members coming back. So what do you do? Concentrate on the cars. Also, the chronological history of the story would change from here on out, with installments until 2015’s Furious 7 being set between 2 Fast 2 Furious and this movie.

Yes, you’d be shocked how confusing — and deep — these movies go. I watched all of them within a day or two, so I’m still amazed how we go from street gangs to the family basically being the G.I. Joe team.

High school student Sean Boswell keeps getting arrested for street racing, so he is sent to live in Japan with his father. There, he discovers, well, street racing. Are you surprised? There he meets Twinkie (Bow Wow), who gets him in and he starts doing that Tokyo Drift, as they say.

Sung Kang, who plays Han Lue, originated that role in Lin’s movie Better Luck Tomorrow. He’d return in Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7, as well as the short film Los Bandoleros, all set between the events of Better Luck Tomorrow and this movie. Han’s explosive car crash was revisited in post-credits scene of Fast & Furious 6, which introduced Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw.

Boswell would return in Furious 7, while he, Kang and Twinkie will all be back for F9. How is Kang still alive? We’ll see.

Following poor test screenings, Vin Diesel agreed to make a cameo as Dom in exchange for Universal’s ownership to the rights of the Riddick series and character. No money exchanged hands. I’m always amazed at how canny Diesel is. This allowed him to make 2013’s Riddick as an independent film. Also, of course Dom won in the race against Boswell. Come on.

Regreso a Moira (2006)

Known here as Spectre, this was directed by Mateo Gil, who wrote the 1997 movie Abre De Ojos that was remade here as Vanilla Sky.

Tomás became a success as a writer but has never returned to Spain. But after the death of his wife, a tarot card lures him back to the town where he was born, reminding him of his young days, when he fell for a woman that everyone said was a witch. Now, despite her being burned alive, she is calling him from beyond.

This was part of a Spanish TV movie series, Six Films To Keep You Awake. This is less a horror movie and more doomed romance, a tale of the superstitions of a small village before it became a tourist trap and the lives that were destroyed along the way.

It’s a slow burn, so be warned.

You can watch this on Tubi.

La Verdadera Historia De La Llorona (2006)

Every few decades, we get another La Llorona movie. The description for this one could be the same for any of them: “A woman dreams every night that she wanders around the city screaming for her dead children and realizes that the old house where she lives is actually the tomb of murdered children.”

This telenovela title translates as The True Story of the Weeping Woman. I do not think that this one is anywhere near the truth. I just have a feeling.

This was directed by Aurora Martinez, whose credits stretch way back to 1989 as a director. His Bloody Tarot has been a movie I’ve been hunting for some time. But after this, I’m not so sure.

You can watch this on Tubi or on YouTube.

Casino Royale (2006)

Casino Royale goes back to the beginning, with Daniel Craig playing a rougher and more brusque Bond at the start of his career As for the story, Eon Productions won the rights in 1999 after Sony Pictures Entertainment exchanged them for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s rights to Spider-Man.

How odd that 40 years into Bond, it is he — and not a woman — rising nearly nude from the sea? I still think of Craig as the new Bond, despite him owning the role for nearly 14 years.

In this film, we meet the new Bond, watch as he gains 00 status and then falls for — and loses — Vesper Lynn (Eva Green) as he is on the trail of Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), a banker to the world’s terrorists.

Bond even goes as far to quit MI6 over love in this movie and pays the price. At the end, he finally says his catchphrase, “The name’s Bond. James Bond,” before coldly dispatching of a villain.

Between the parkour scene and the emphasis on violence over gadgetry, this was a new Bond that was more Jason Bourne than Roger Moore. For a fanbase that was violently opposed to Craig as their hero, things have settled down over time.

This is the first time that the theme of a Bond movie — Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” — didn’t appear on the soundtrack. It’s also the only Bond film other than Live and Let Die where Q doesn’t appear.