Greetings from the apocalypse! Jimmy Cliff sang that song on the soundtrack for "Cool Runnings," and now that spring is in full effect I've got a spark in my step and an abiding hope that this weekend will mark the beginning of a fruitful harvest from the movie gods ... or another season so dreadful it'll make me wish I'd died with John Candy. A geek classic and a remake of a geek classic are stomping their way into theaters, let's see how they stack up …
Friday, April 5
POW! IN THEATERS
The big budget Hollywood remake of "Evil Dead" won't so much swallow your soul as burp it out. Directed by Uruguayan newcomer Fede Alvarez, this offering is bigger and slicker but lacks the energy and homemade invention of Sam Raimi's original, falling prey to the recent trend of making franchise reboots as deadly serious as possible. There's plenty of possessions, creepy cellars and tree rape to be had, and can you say "a tsunami of blood?" You bet. The gore flows like wine, but where's the playfulness? Alvarez is clearly more infatuated with creatively disfiguring his gorgeous leads as they battle demons in a remote cabin in New Zealand … er, Tennessee, but who am I to begrudge a guy this insistent on doing everything in-camera? Oh, and definitely stay through the end credits for a little extra sugar, baby. If you're in Austin, Texas, head down to the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz where for a minimum donation of $5 to Scare For a Cure a scary make-up wizard will transform you into a demon straight out of the Necronomicon today or tomorrow.
JOIN US for the jolts. JOIN US for the scares. JOIN US for the Fake Shemps. JOIN US for 1981's original ultimate experience in grueling terror, "The Evil Dead," streaming on HULU fo free yo, and also without commercials on Netflix Streaming. Raimi and his bestest pal Bruce Campbell went through hell in a handbasket during the tortured twelve-week shoot of this cabin-in-the-woods scarer, but all the cuts and bruises were worth it as it spawned many careers as well as a franchise that keeps on keepin' on. Stephen King hailed it as "the most ferociously original film of the year," and given the lack of originality of the new one, that statement holds even truer in 2013. Watch it in its entirety below.
I chuckled to myself during "Evil Dead" when Lou Taylor Pucci mentioned that a character was "not having a panic attack," because that was a subtle in-joke to the title of the film that got Alvarez the gig directing that movie in the first place. "Panic Attack!" ("Ataque de Pánico!") is a scrappy little short from 2009 about a bunch of giant mechas blowing the s**t out of South America. Although it's more reminiscent of "Sky Captain" than Deadites, you can see what made Sam Raimi pluck this young man out of obscurity to helm what's likely to be this weekend's #1 movie.
YOU DOWN WITH VOD?
This must be our week for revisiting classic terror! I finally got to check out the doc "Room 237" and man oh man does it deliver, which is why it's my highly-touted "Survivor of Thunderdome." Available on VOD, iTunes and in limited theatrical play, this is a minute examination of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" by several obsessives who reveal their theories on the film's (often tenuous) connections to Native American genocide, the holocaust, the Apollo moon landing and the MANY creepy impossibilities/mysterious errors built into the film, seemingly on purpose. Whatever you think of these bug-nutty theories, it will only deepen your appreciation of Stanley Kubrick's success in crafting the scariest Rorschach test masquerading as a movie ever made. Ever. For a more immersive experience the doc will screen at 7 p.m. tonight at Chicago's Music Box Theater, followed by a Skype Q&A with director Rodney Ascher. Meanwhile, at the stroke of midnight tonight and tomorrow IFC Center in New York City will be playing "The Shining" in addition to running all-day shows of "Room 237" and a special Kubrick-centric exhibit in their lobby.
Saturday, April 6
BASIC CABLE BLUES
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have pretty much solidified their standing as the modern British equivalent of Laurel and Hardy, and one of the vehicles that achieved those lofty heights is "Hot Fuzz," which you can catch on Comedy Central at 10 a.m. this morning. This 2007 follow-up to "Shaun of the Dead" finds Pegg as a goodie-two-shoes supercop stuck in a one-horse town in the countryside who finds some unexpected action. Pegg, Frost, and director Edgar Wright will complete their "Blood & Ice Cream Trilogy" this summer with "The World's End," and all three will come into play later today. How's that for a slice of fried gold?
POW! IN THEATERS
Despite references to CD-ROMS and UNIX Systems, the original "Jurassic Park" hasn't aged a day. In fact, if this was a new movie people would be calling it a "return to form" for Steven Spielberg, who hasn't really made a popcorn movie with this much command since. A virtual treatise on the ethics of dino-cloning colliding with the untamable nature of chaos … or the untamable chaos of nature, depending on if you're Jeff Goldblum or not. Aside from a few awkward floating lens flares, the 3-D conversion works marvels with Dean Cundey's stellar cinematography, with the T-Rex-baiting goat so delicious-looking you can almost taste him. "What's the matter, kid, you never had lambchops?"
NETFLIX RECOMMENDS WITH A VENGEANCE
Okay, so I said Spielberg hasn't made popcorn with that much command in a while, but "The Adventures of Tintin" on Netflix Streaming was made with the gleeful abandon of someone who's earned the right to just have fun and play with the medium. As an animated adaptation of a couple of classic comics by Herge, it's completely true to the spirit of the intrepid boy reporter, his fluffy dog Snowy and his drunkard sidekick Captain Haddock. Frost and Pegg of "Hot Fuzz" appear as bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson (in a script co-written by Edgar Wright) and Spielberg stages some of the most outlandish set pieces of his career, including the greatest pirate battle ever filmed. It's the true fourth "Indiana Jones" movie.
Stand-up comic/inventor/magician/genius Joel Hodgson is a Gen-X hero for taking snark and turning it into a cottage industry with the cult show sweetheart "Mystery Science Theater 3000." Now he's a little older, a little wiser and able to turn his snappy comment ray upon himself in a one-man show "Joel Hodgson Live: Riffing Myself" at The Loft Cinema in Tuscon, Arizona tonight at 7 p.m. Twenty bucks gets you in, but for $45 you get to scope out a seat right in front for you and your robots shaped like gumball machines so you can heckle the crap out of him and then unironically ask for his autograph afterwards. That's called karma, Joel.
Sunday, April 7
PAY CHANNEL PAYBACK
Remember when all the Marvel movies like "The Punisher" and "Fantastic Four" sucked ass and barely saw the light of day outside of convention bootlegs? Those days are long gone with comics now at the top of the cinematic heap, and the 1960s-set "X-Men: First Class" at 10:45 a.m. on Cinemax is one of the best of the best. Director Matthew Vaughn of "Kick-Ass" proves that a dude can live, breathe and eat comic book culture and still sleep next to Claudia Schiffer at night, and he brings that bravado to the screen by showing the origins of Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) and his mutant professorship. Meanwhile, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) gets to live out both a James Bond style and a Jewish revenge fantasy. Hells yeah.
NEW ON BLU
Speaking of the Marvel Universe, some of you geeks with a little more disposable income should take a long hard look at that charity you were gonna donate to and say "F THAT!" Why? Because you need to spend that cash on the "Avengers Assembled" Phase One six-movie collector's set, which features "Marvel's The Avengers" (duh), both "Iron Man" movies, "The Incredible Hulk," "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger" all in one cool-ass suitcase, some in 3-D, and with a real active (?) Cosmic Cube!!! I'm a sucker for fancypants repackagings so as soon as I rob a liquor store (or two) I will (probably) be able to afford this.
STAR WARS CORNER
If you're in a literary mood why not check out the latest piece of exhaustive research into that galaxy far, far away with "Star Wars: The Blue Prints." Written by J.W. Rinzler, who has penned the definitive Making Of tomes for both "Star Wars" and "The Empire Strikes Back" (his "Return of the Jedi" book drops in October), this one goes into detail on the various craftsmen/designers who engineered everything from Han Solo's Millennium Falcon to Obi-Wan Kenobi's bedpan. It features tons of spiffy art showcasing the nuts and bolts involved in bringing George Lucas' vision of hamburger-shaped spaceships and donut-shaped hair to life.
As I ride off into the distant horizon, here's wishing you fellow weekend road warriors the best outing possible from this burnt-out, blighted wasteland. Enjoy your fast Internet, clean-ish movie theaters, plentiful gasoline and all the comforts of home, for this world lives now only in my memories …