Movie of the Day – Shaft (1971)

That’s right I’m talking about Shaft.  You know my love of Blaxploitation films so I am not gonna waste my breathe on bestowing the love all over again about how this genre of films created not only some of the most entertaining and culturally important film movement, but also some of the best soundtrack music ever.  You can dig it if I keep the post for today brief as I don’t want to repeat myself with talking about the love affair I have with blaxploitation films, but I do want to talk a little bit about Shaft.  You dig?

John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is a black private eye detective in New York and while on his way to work, he gets pumped for information by Lt. Victor Androzzi (Charles Cioffi), a friend of his on the police force  about some happenings down in Harlem.  Black crime kingpin Bumpy Jonas (Moses Gunn) has enlists Shaft’s help because his daughter has been kidnapped and he wants Shaft’s help in getting her back.  Bumpy leads Shaft to a black militant group who is run by a long-time friend Ben Buford (Christopher St. John).  As soon as Shaft arrives, machine gun fire kills the group, but Shaft and Buford escape.  Shaft, Buford and Bumpy end up having to take on the Italian mob who is behind the kidnapping and using the girl as ransom to get into the Harlem drug trade.  Shaft, Buford and Bumpy take the fight to the kidnappers to end the standoff.

Shaft is an incredible, shining example of Blaxploitation movies.  You have a strong, independent African America who takes charge and is an authority figure cleaning up the streets.  Shaft is a charismatic lead with just the right amount of swagger and depth to him that makes him an incredible character on film.  Roundtree, in my eyes, will always be remember for his role as Shaft.

Shaft is not only a great detective movie, mixing in elements of the gumshoe noir and a fresh step in the detective genre, but the film is a cultural icon.  Even if you have never seen Shaft, you know who John Shaft is.  By and large, the soundtrack by Isaac Hayes is one of the best soundtracks out there and also the grooviest, funkiest track out.  It won a damn Grammy and a fucking Oscar for “Best Original Score”.  It set the standard for soundtrack music and in turn the song itself became a cultural icon much like the movie.  It has made AFI’s 100 Years 100 Songs list at 38.  You are probably thinking about the song right now.  The guitar licks, constant cymbal bass line and the orchestral accompaniment.  You hear when you walk down the street think you are the baddest motherfucker alive and rightly so.  The music made and enhanced the movie, making John Shaft’s character larger than life and the rhythmic lead up to the chorus line of the song.  God fucking amazing.

Aside from the music, the movie itself has influenced pop culture and the Blaxploitation genre.  Many movies tried hard to copy the swagger and feel of Shaft, but few came close.  It changed the game in terms of detective films as you had a movie that showed a cultural side we haven’t seen before film.  The black culture has usually been portrayed in a negative light in detective movies, where most of the crime happens and it’s a white cop who tries to clean up the street.  Shaft gave that culture a voice, not by hiding that there are seedy elements, but showing that there are people out there looking help.  Shaft is the strong character and hero that people needed at the time and his actions spoke louder about the plight of the people in that area.

Even if you have no ambition in seeing the movie, you got to appreciate that this movie has influenced music and pop culture for ages to come.  Hell the movie even got remade by the next baddest motherfucker around, Samuel L Jackson.  While not a terrible movie, still doesn’t hold a candle to the original.  Damn now I need to go out on a high note.

Isaac Hayes – Theme from Shaft

Movie of the Day – Zombi 2

Zombie Zombie Zombie Zombie Zombie.  The main staple of any horror or gore fans diet of film intake involves the love of watching Zombie movies.  The slow moving creatures of death are unmistakable in our pop culture and permeate the pores of horror fans alike.  While I may not be much of a horror film fan, I do love zombies.  In particular I love this zombie movie for the sheer ridiculousness and gore of several scenes from the Lucio Fulci directed film.  If you aren’t familiar with Lucio Fulci, he is basically one of the most revered figures in gore movies and prolific horror director.  This was a the movie that essentially made him the figure head he is in the horror genre.  To be honest there isn’t much to say about the movie other than the story and two clips I am going to show since it about sums up my love of this movie.

A boat arrives in New York with no sign of a crew, except for a corpse that comes to life and kills one of the police men and is shot and dumped overboard.  Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow) is questioned by the police because the boat belongs to her father.  She sets out to investigate the boat and the whereabouts of her father with the help of a reporter named Peter West (Ian McCulloch) and they stumble upon a note saying that the island of Matool is suffering from a terrible disease.  The two set out to the island and see what is causing this disease and find her father.  When they arrive on the island, they find out that the island is being plagued by a disease that brings the dead back to life.

So to keep this short, here are the two scenes that pretty much cement the movie as one of the best zombie movies out there.

Ahem…ZOMBIE FIGHTING A SHARK!  That’s right, a zombie, underwater, fighting a fucking shark!

And finally the one scene that makes a lasting impression on any horror and gore fan.  The Infamous Eye Gouge scene.  Warning!!!!!  GRAPHIC AS FUCK!

The rest of the movie is pretty awesome as well, but those two scenes are all you need to get you to watch the movie.  Happy Trails!

Movie of the Day – The Game of Death

I want you all to pour one out for your hoomie, Bruce Lee.  Game of Death was to be Bruce Lee’s final movie that showed off his amazing fighting style of Jeet Kune Do, but he left the film to work on Enter The Dragon and died after the making of the movie.  The Game of Death is basically the last film to have been made by Lee, but sadly never finished.  It was ambitious to say the least, with Lee showing off the versatility of his fighting style with a big final set piece and cementing his status as an icon of Chinese and American cinema.  I choose this today as it the movie wasn’t even supposed to have seen the light of day or even be finished for that matter.  Some look at it as a way to profit off of his death and others look at it as the last gift Bruce Lee had to give to his fans and those that follow his teachings.

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Trailer of the Week – Blackthorn & Detective Dee

Boy am I happy to be talking about these two trailers this week.  Frankly I can never get enough of western films and Blackthorn looks to brings back Butch Cassidy in an interesting way with Blackthorn.  Last is a trailer from the Tsui Harks latest creation starring Andy “Motherfucking” Lau as a Sherlock Holmes style detective in Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame.

Blackthorn:

If you have never seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, you are missing out on of the best western films out there.  So if you have a little knowledge about the legend of Butch and Sundance, you know that they were supposedly killed in a standoff with the Bolivian army.  Blackthorn tells the story of how Butch Cassidy survived the standoff and is living out his old days under the name of James Blackthorn.  Sam Shepard (awesome) plays Blackthorn as he sets out on one last journey to to America to see his family before he dies.  Along the way home he gets himself mixed up with a young criminal and has to embark on one last gunfight.  I am stoked for this movie to make its way to my neck of the woods.  As much as I loved Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, having a continuing story about Butch is a great plot device and story to be told.  The film looks gorgeous and the pace of the trailer has a nice mix between gun play action and some long stretches of Butch reflecting on his life.  If you like westerns, this is going to be your kind of movie.

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame:

So ignore the dubstep soundtrack for a second, while cool and paced well with the trailer, focus on what you just saw.  If you aren’t familiar with Tsui Hark’s work, well let me tell you that this looks like one of his most ambitious and visually stunning movies to date.  Mixing mind bending action scenes and unique, over the top visual style, and great story about a Sherlock Holmes style character and you got an exciting film on your hands.  Tsui Hark is bringing the big guns with Detective Dee and it seems like it will be an incredible ride with Andy Lau playing the decorated detective trying to solve the mystery behind 7 murders for the empress.  High-wire kung fu, fast pacing and unique flair not seen in a lot of Chinese films, means Nick is going to chomp at the bit when this comes anywhere close to my theater area.

Movie of the Day – Hoosiers

So I don’t cover or talk a lot about sports movies, except for the fictional sport of rollerball, and it is mainly out of this notion that most, if not all sports movies are rather formulaic.  It’s always about the underdog team, scraping and fighting for a chance to make it to the big show and that one final motivational speech to push them into the stratosphere of excellence.  We watch them achieve the impossible and cheer for their victory over the odds, whether that overcoming a tough opponent or some other social injustice that plagues the team.  You can see why I am not much of a fan of a genre of film that follows the same story format that most love stories follow.  Now this doesn’t mean I go out of my way to avoid sports movies, I will sit down and watch one if the right actors and story are present in the movie.  Sometimes I just can’t avoid watching them because my dad really loves inspirational sports movies and I see a lot of movies with him.  There is one in particular that I chose today for the resonance that it had on me and if I had to choose a great sports movie, this is it.

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Movie of the Day – Choke

I love Chuck Palahniuk books, so when they decide to make a movie based on one of his book, I am intrigued.  I love Sam Rockwell and when they cast him a lead role in a movie, I am going to watch.  Combining the two into a film immediately means I am going to see it.  If you haven’t read any Palahniuk books before, they have a certain satiric bite to them.  Very dark comedy interspersed between these satiric looks on current society.  They are fascinating reads and some of my favorite books.  Choke, which movie is based on, is one of my favorite novels next to Invisible Monsters and Fight Club.  The subject matter is dark in terms of what happens to the characters and how they interact with one another.  It is a series of maladies and lies that plagues characters and it makes for interesting dark comedy situations.  More fucked up observational humor and weirdness plague the book.  So to take a book like Choke which is filled with sexual deviance and childhood trauma and make movie out of it might seem a bit difficult, but like all of Palahniuks works, there is this beautiful madness to be found in the work and the translation to film.

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Movie of the Day – Anvil! The Story of Anvil

I am not much of a metal music fan.  I don’t have the long hair, tattoos, and my head hurts sometimes if I try and head bang.  I know it makes me seem fucking old but seriously, not much of a metal fan.  So I was never familiar with the band that the documentary is about and frankly, so are a lot of people as well.  Anvil has been rocking in obscurity for decades to most of the music loving public, but they have influenced some of the most well-known metal bands to date.  Metallica and Slayer are successful in their own rights, each band admires the influence that Anvil has had on them.   If a band has this much influence on our current music, why such obscurity?  Why isn’t this band headlining major music and metal events across the world?  A little thing like lack of fame might be enough to derail dedicated bands, but there is something special about a band that will go through hell and still come out rocking even when things look grim.  That is the story of Anvil.

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Movie of the Day – Food, Inc.

I don’t often choose a lot of movies that have this closed, social agenda to watch.  Don’t get me wrong though, I think documentaries have an incredible opportunity to move a point across to the public.  Think back to An Inconvenient Truth where Al Gore gave a stirring power point presentation about how we are killing our planet.  It created a movement where people took action to reduce their impact on the Earth.  Heck I talked about two documentaries that dealt with the Green Movement and also electric cars.  They were both interesting looks into a social movement or topic and presented a well thought out argument.  Where I sometimes feel lost in documentaries is when they lose focus on telling me about issue and focus on pushing a message across to the viewer forcefully.  It can be polarizing to be one minute informed about a subject and the next have this agenda beaten into your skull.  This is why Food, Inc. is somewhat of an enigma to me in my enjoyment of the documentary.  On one hand you have an informative documentary and the other you have a strong social message that turns into an agenda by the end of the film.  How are you supposed to feel and what questions does it leave to be answered?

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Movie of the Day – Duck Season

We have all seen movies that deal with that awkward phase in a teens life.  I am not talking about growing hair in weird places or the act of watching your voice drop an octave, but the act of coming into your true self and the shape in which your personality will become.  It is the classic coming of age story that usually finds our intrepid young actors figuring out life and their place in it.  These themes usually revolve around parental strife, a girl/boy that the character likes or some form of hardship that a family goes through.  For better or worse we get a happy ending of the sorts when the main character figures out their place in life and all goes well in the world.  So while the genre might seem stale, all it takes is one movie to shift that established notion of the coming of age story, which director Fernando Eimbcke did with his minimal film Duck Season.

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Movie of the Day – Man on Wire

I guess today is the sort of day that needs a little inspiration.  Whether work has you down, life is at odds with you, or even your future outlook is uncertain, we all need to take a chance or find something to strive for.  We all have some sort of goal, whether written down on a post it note or scribbled in a notebook, we all have this drive to see something we want to achieve and just do it.  Man on Wire might not get you inspired enough to tight rope walk across two buildings, but you have to feel a bit of admonishment from this mans actions to do what he did because it was there to do.  I don’t normally look at two buildings and think “I got walk between the two buildings, thousands of feet up in the air” but rather I look and think maybe I can take a cue and just do something because it is there to do.

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