<p>I&nbsp;have a dream... a dream of a full-contact NBA&nbsp;using Hong Kong stuntmen and flaming baskeballs... a dream that looks an awful lot like 'Fireball'</p>

I have a dream... a dream of a full-contact NBA using Hong Kong stuntmen and flaming baskeballs... a dream that looks an awful lot like 'Fireball'

Credit: Grindstone Entertainment Group

The M/C Review: 'Fireball' and 'Marantau'

If business is kicking ass in Asia, then business is good

I'm not even sure what the first martial arts film I ever saw was.

With a lot of films or genres, I can tell you where my interest began, but with martial arts movies, it's not that easy.  All I know is, I have always had a deeply-seeded love for watching dudes kick the ever-lovin' crap out of each other in the movies.

It's strange that it doesn't translate to real life.  MMA fights and ultimate fighting and even pro wrestling... that stuff does nothing for me in a real-world context.  But movies in which guys bust out the same skill sets and battle?  Count me in.

Like most martial arts fans, I'll sit through a whole lot of crap in a movie to get to a great fight or even just a couple of great moves within a mediocre fight.  And when you see someone who can handle themselves fairly well on-camera, doing it as real as possible, it's exciting.  It seems like every few years, there's a new guy or a new country with a new industry, and we gets lots of potential new movie stars, although of course, not all of them connect in the long run.

The reason Bruce Lee was one of the most amazing movie stars (which is something totally different than an actor) ever was not because he fought well, but because of HOW he fought well.  Bruce Lee was intensely aware of the camera and how he looked when he was running through a fight.  He thought like a filmmaker. 

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<p>Basil Fawlty, a modern-day Sisyphus, prepares to paste Manuel with a solid right in just one of the many crescendos of frustration that typify &quot;Fawlty Towers,' one of the best sitcoms of all time</p>

Basil Fawlty, a modern-day Sisyphus, prepares to paste Manuel with a solid right in just one of the many crescendos of frustration that typify "Fawlty Towers,' one of the best sitcoms of all time

Credit: BBC Home Video

DVD & Games Forecast: 'Blackadder' and 'Fawlty Towers' remastered

Plus 'Transformers 2' and 'Easy Rider' on BluRay

Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast for October 20th, 2009.

It's a strange time for those of us who have been writing about DVD since the early days.  I started my coverage of DVD back in 1998 or so for Ain't It Cool, and I've been writing about it continuously ever since.  And for years, the studios wanted coverage of the product they were selling.  And to make sure you knew what you were writing about, they sent that product to reviewers.  These days, they seem to want people to buy the product, but they don't want to show that product to anyone ahead of time.

Imagine if the studios told every reviewer that they were having a screening of their biggest movies, and then told every reviewer that they only had four seats available to see the film.  At all.  That's the situation with DVD these days.  So I'm pretty much out of pocket on a good half of what I write about in this column, or maybe even more at this point.  I don't know if the studios have just decided to let DVD die, or if they figure no one cares at all about DVD reviews when it comes to buying them.  Whatever the case, the paradigm is shifting, and I expect it will affect the coverage you read not just here but everywhere online.  Unless they're one of the four or five.  Good sites that do nothing but DVD and BluRay coverage are having to consider their policies right now, and it makes me sad to see.

I'll be honest... it affects how I choose my featured titles.  I certainly don't feature everything that's sent to me, but I would have a hard time featuring something I haven't seen unless there's an undeniable significance to the release.  I consider my featured titles to be the recommendations each week, and recommending product you can't take for a test drive is, at best, an iffy proposition.

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<p>Gianna Jun is a movie star just waiting to happen, but 'Blood The Last Vampire' isn't doing her any favors</p>

Gianna Jun is a movie star just waiting to happen, but 'Blood The Last Vampire' isn't doing her any favors

Credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

HorrorFest 2009: 'Blood The Last Vampire'

Disappointing horror-action film mixes many elements, ruins all of them

Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.

If you want wire work that always feels like wire work, CG gore that never once feels wet, and action that just lays there onscreen, totally inert, then I have great news for you.  "Blood The Last Vampire" is about to hit BluRay.

I love "Kiss Of The Dragon," the Jet Li action film that Chris Nahon directed for producer/writer Luc Besson.

I love "My Sassy Girl," which features an amazing performance from Gianna Jun as the title character.

Seeing the two of them work together to adapt a popular anime series should have been an easy home run, a favorite of mine right away.  So why is it that it took me three attempts just to make it through the movie on BluRay?

Maybe there's only so much pandering condescension I can take from one film, and "Blood The Last Vampire" pushes the envelope past overstuffed and well into spilling over, and the result is one of the most cynical, boring, by the numbers examples of either horror or action in recent memory, a totally joyless affair that feels like it was made by an artificial intelligence that had only ever had vampires and demons and martial arts described to it second-hand.

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<p>If&nbsp;I tried to explain what was going on in this scene from 'Love Exposure,' or if I even explained the context, you wouldn't believe me.&nbsp; I barely believe me, and I&nbsp;actually saw the movie.</p>

If I tried to explain what was going on in this scene from 'Love Exposure,' or if I even explained the context, you wouldn't believe me.  I barely believe me, and I actually saw the movie.

Credit: Omega Project

The M/C Review: 'Love Exposure'

Can a four-hour movie about an upskirt photographer be one of the year's best films?

What would you say if I told you that one of the best films of the year is a four-hour movie about a cross-dressing kid whose life ambition is to be the very best upskirt panty photographer of all time?

And, no, it's not "The Harry Knowles Story".

When I went to the FanTasia Festival in Montreal back in 2003, one of the movies that made an impression on audiences, leading to rabid word of mouth that led me to check out the second screening, was "Suicide Club," a film that has only grown better in memory.  That word of mouth is one of my favorite things about being at a festival.  Having that conversation with someone who tells you that you absolutely have to see something if you can.  I've taken advice and seen some things I've loved that I would have otherwise missed.  But I've also taken advice and seen insufferable misfires as a result, walking out confused about why anyone would recommend the film to another person.  I'm always happy to give somebody else's favorite a try at a festival... it's the whole point of being there.

At Fantastic Fest this year, this was that movie.  It screened twice, and after that first screening, I had several friends tell me how much they liked it.  And since it was from the same director of "Suicide Club," I suspected that it was probably a wild ride of some sort.  Still, when I was getting my tickets for the next day, I had a choice between "Love Exposure" or "Mandrill," and I got a ticket for "Mandrill" originally.  When I ran into the Drafthouse's Matthew Kiernan, I told him what my choice had been.

"You chose wrong.  'Love Exposure.'  Seriously."

Alright.  Fine.  I'll admit that the four-hour length was the stumbling block at first, which is silly.  After all, I was seeing four or five movies every day anyway, so why should I care if four hours of my day is made up of one movie or two?  I'm still in a theater for more than four hours, right?

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<p>Because, seriously, what good is a flying car if you don't plan on flying it through some crazy explosions?</p>

Because, seriously, what good is a flying car if you don't plan on flying it through some crazy explosions?

Credit: Universal International

Watch: Flying Cars? The director of 'Wanted'? Craziest trailer of the year?

You be the judge

Timur Bekmambetov is not anywhere near a household name yet, probably because I'm sure most Americans see the word "Bekmambetov" written out and just get a nosebleed rather than trying to learn how to say it.  On the heels of the success of the comic book adaptation "Wanted," though, I'd say the industry is starting to pay attention to this scrappy Russian filmmaker.

His earlier films, "Night Watch" and "Day Watch," were super low-budget Russian fantasies replete with special effects that were created on no money, but which made the films look like they cost 20 times what they did.  Obviously, the guy knows how to pull off major look on minor money, and that makes him a dream as a producer.

Now that he's had some Hollywood success, he's able to give other Russian filmmakers a shot, using his name as the bait, and it looks like that's going to pay off with "Black Lightning," a film that opens in December in Russia.  What is it?  Well, according to Bekmambetov, it's the Russian answer to "Batman" and "Transformers," and it's the story of a college student who lucks into a flying car that he uses to fight crime.

Yes, it's a beat-up junky used car.  And yes, it's got a lot more going on under the hood than first glance would reveal.  Beyond that, I don't see the "Transformers" comparison.  And I can see why Bekmanbetov wants to make those comparisons... it's sort of like what John Woo did with "Red Cliff," where he set out to make a Chinese film that is very Chinese in subject matter, but which looks and feels like a Hollywood production in terms of scope and technical polish.  The same thing appears to be true here, and although Bekmambetov isn't directing (those duties are split between Alexandr Voitinsky and Dmitriy Kiselev), you can feel his sensibilities in the footage that you glimpse in the new trailer:

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<p>Watching the new short film collaboration between Kanye West and Spike Jonze, you get the sense he almost saw the Taylor Swift incident coming.</p>

Watching the new short film collaboration between Kanye West and Spike Jonze, you get the sense he almost saw the Taylor Swift incident coming.

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Kanye West in a new short film by Spike Jonze

A fascinating collision of music, film, the weekend's biggest movie, and pop's biggest ego

Okay, now this is just weird.

I remember when we got word that Spike Jonze was directing a short film starring Kanye West.  Spike said repeatedly that it is not a music video, and it turns out, he's serious... it's not a music video.  Since I'm not a huge fan of Kanye's music, I'm not even sure if the one song you hear is a new one or not.

The weird part, though, is that this was all shot well before the Taylor Swift incident that turned Kanye into a target for all sorts of outrage, and yet if you'd told me that this short film was a direct reaction to that incident, I would believe you.  It feels that directly connected.

So now here we are... it's the Monday morning after Spike's film finally opened, capping off a five year journey to get this thing onscreen.  And Kanye's still trying to recover some sort of public standing after making himself look like a drunken ass who picked on a little girl on the best night of her life.  And although this film actually premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival earlier this year, and there have been images from it online already, but this is the first time I've seen the entire thing available, and it's fascinating.  Kanye absolutely plays a miserable, drunken, egotistical version of himself, so obnoxious that no one can even maintain eye contact with him.

And after he heads into that bathroom, well... let's just say it is obvious that this is not just a simple music video.

So here we go... as Kanye West has to deal with what I can only interpret as his own Ego...

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<p>Is Babyface a new horror icon, or just the latest attempt?</p>

Is Babyface a new horror icon, or just the latest attempt?

Credit: Warner Premiere

HorrorFest 2009: 'The Hills Run Red'

Direct-to-video slasher films can't be good... can they?

Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.

When my first "Masters Of Horror" episode aired, reviews were generally pretty good, but there was a vocal percentage of the audience that immediately accused my partner and I of being "rip-off artists."  The particular sources I saw cited most often were Roman Polanski's "The Ninth Gate" and the Theodore Roszak novel Flicker.  Thing is, I hadn't read Flicker.  I'll cop to having read and admired Throat Sprockets, a great Tim Lucas novel, but even that is something I just admire in terms of taking film seriously as a source of horror, and not as any direct inspiration.  I've read Flicker since, and I think it's about two-thousand times more dense and amazing than anything we were trying to do with "Cigarette Burns," but I don't really think they're connected in any way.  And the "Ninth Gate" comparison works on a very surface level, but not really on any sort of beat-for-beat comparison.  I don't think our story for the show was something groundbreaking... it's a procedural, with supernatural and horrific stops along the way, each one advancing the mystery in some way.  Verrrrry basic structure.  We grafted on my experiences with the people in the print collecting community and the darkest underbelly of horror fandom, and we tried to figure out a way to tell a globe-trotting mystery on a $2 million budget and ten days to shoot.  You know?  We didn't create the supernatural mystery looking for an artifact any more than Polanski did, and both of us working in the same basic form doesn't mean one led to the other.

So I'm sensitive to the issue of being accused of borrowing from someone else's work.  That's why I didn't respond to any of the early e-mails or messages sent to me saying that there was a film coming out that sounded "just like" our script for "Cigarette Burns."  I know how easily stuff like that gets blown out of proportion.  And seeing the film, I can say with confidence that what they were trying to do is nothing like what "Cigarette Burns" tried to do.  Dave Parker's "The Hills Run Red" is indeed the story of a long-missing film, but aside from that, there's nothing that is similar to my film, and anyone trying to make that case is selling short a genuine attempt to subvert the slasher genre in interesting ways.

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<p>Jocelin Donahue, star of 'House Of The Devil,' obviously doesn't know what happens to babysitters in horror films.&nbsp; Silly babysitter.</p>

Jocelin Donahue, star of 'House Of The Devil,' obviously doesn't know what happens to babysitters in horror films.  Silly babysitter.

Credit: Magnet Releasing

HorrorFest 2009: 'House Of The Devil'

Ti West's '80s homage is effective and evocative

Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.

Ti West has been building a reputation among horror fans as an expert in the art of the slow burn, and more power to him for exhibiting something that seems to be increasingly rare in filmmakers in any genre:  patience.

"The House Of The Devil" is currently available via VOD, and on Halloween, there will be a limited theatrical run as well.  I think Magnolia is on the cutting-edge of distribution models right now, and if you want to know what the future of distribution looks like, don't look to the studios... look to Magnolia/Magnet and the way they have all but collapsed the typical windows of the past.  I saw the film at Fantastic Fest, and I thought it was a smart, slight, stylish film that plays some clever riffs off the "Satanic Panic" phase of the early '80s, paying tribute to '80s horror without being a broad, obvious exercise in nostalgia, which is what I was sort of afraid it might be.

If you weren't alive in the early '80s, you probably don't remember how much the mainstream media played up the idea of Satanic cults and human sacrifice.  Geraldo Rivera, for example, built much of his early success out of the exploitation of this sort of paranoia, and even then, I was amazed at how easily people swallowed such obvious nonsense.  Still, it crept into mainstream culture in such a pervasive way that even now, there are people who believe that there really were a rash of Satan-worship murders back then, and Ti West obviously remembers that moment with unabashed fondness.  His film, a period piece that never winks at the audience about when it's set, doesn't just recreate the era onscreen.  It actually feels like a film that was made in the '80s that just got lost somehow and rediscovered now.  There's an authenticity to the filmstock, to the visual zoom-friendly vocabulary of the piece, and West plays it all so straight, so sincerely, that I stopped thinking about it at a certain point.

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<p>Honestly... who hasn't had at least one date end up like this?</p>

Honestly... who hasn't had at least one date end up like this?

Credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

HorrorFest 2009: 'Night Of The Creeps' is resurrected on BluRay

Fred Dekker's '80s cult classic lives again

Welcome to HorrorFest 2009.

This almost never happens to me.  It's rare that I revisit a film almost 20 years after my first viewing and suddenly like it a lot more than I originally did, but in this case, "Night Of The Creeps" surprised me.

Fred Dekker directed two films in the '80s that have always had a fairly vocal fanbase, and to some extent, I've always been on the outside looking in on both.  I know people who are rabid about "The Monster Squad," and almost to a person, they're about five or six years younger than I am.  When the film came out, I was a projectionist at the theater where it played, and it left me sort of cold.  I was at that age where the mere whiff of something being "for kids" was enough to put me off.  With "Night Of The Creeps," I thought it was okay, but not great, and it was never something I felt drawn to revisit.

Over time, though, both films picked up a healthy cult, fed in no small part by their total unavailability on video, and a couple of years ago, "The Monster Squad" finally got its moment when it was released on DVD for the first time.  I gave it another chance, and while I think it's perfectly okay, it's still not really a film I feel a connection to, and more than anything, it reminds me of "The Goonies" in all the ways I don't like.  I know, I know... that's a sacred cow, and I am required by law to love and worship "The Goonies," but I don't.  I've always thought it was more noisy and frantic than anything else, and "The Monster Squad" hits me in the same way.  I can appreciate that they have their fans... but they're not really for me.

"Night Of The Creeps," though?  I'm onboard now.  I'm not sure what my initial complaints were, but looking at it now, with essentially fresh eyes since I have so little knowledge of the film overall, I thought it was a fun, inventive sci-fi horror film that demonstrates exactly what makes Fred Dekker's horror geek heart beat, and the new BluRay release from Sony is a gorgeous gift for longtime fans that should make the discovery of the movie for new audiences a pure pleasure.

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<p>How is it that people who look this happy all want to scare the crap out of you?&nbsp; From left, John Erik Dowdle, Drew Dowdle, and M. Night Shyamalan</p>

How is it that people who look this happy all want to scare the crap out of you?  From left, John Erik Dowdle, Drew Dowdle, and M. Night Shyamalan

The Dowdles and M. Night Shyamalan send Chris Messina to the 'Devil'

They finally pull the trigger on the first on the 'Night Chronicles'

It was inevitable.

I've long maintained that in his heart of hearts, M. Night Shyamalan wants to be Rod Serling when he grows up.  Which is a good goal for any writer to have, in my opinion.  Serling was a guy who never met a twist ending he didn't like, and who believed that every fantastic premise needed a kernal of moral truth at the center, and he was a prolific writer as well as a deeply influential producer.

When the announcement was made a while ago that Shyamalan was developing a branded series of projects called "The Night Chronicles," there was much eye-rolling and sarcasm, and he's certainly earned a bit of that.  But I like the idea of him using other writers and directors and giving them a chance to make something under the protective umbrella of the M. Night name.  In particular, I like the idea of him giving John and Erik Dowdle the chance.

I took a lot of heat for programming "The Poughkeepsie Tapes" at Butt-Numb-A-Thon a few years ago, and I regret nothing.  I know that horror is a very personal genre, and what you respond to depends on your own experience and your own personal fears, and I am of the opinion that the horror genre is frequently misrepresented by filmmakers and fans who don't like real horror.  They like the idea of watching a horror movie, but they don't really want to be horrified.  I don't believe that the notion of "safety" has any place in real horror.  When I'm watching a scene like the Girl Scout scene in "Poughkeepsie," it makes me deply uncomfortable precisely because I don't trust the filmmakers to steer me safely through the sequence.

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