Wednesday, September 19, 2007

One to Watch: Force of Evil

Directed by: Abraham Polonsky

Year: 1948

Starring: John Garfield, Thomas Gomez, Marie Windsor, Roy Roberts

Posted by: EL T. Personal Assistant #2

Joe Morse (Garfield) is a slithery up-and-coming Wall Street lawyer with an eye on making millions working for disreputable gangster and numbers-runner Ben Tucker (Roberts). Morse has conceived a scheme that will destroy the smaller numbers racket operation in the city and force them to either join Tucker or allow themselves to be bought out making him New York's most powerful crime boss. Morse and Tucker conspire to have the number 776 come up on the Fourth of July in the hopes that many will bet on the number and thus bankrupt the smaller "banks" or numbers runners. Unfortunately, one of these small time bankers is Morse's older brother, Leo (Gomez). Leo raised Morse and paid his way through law school. Joe tries to save Leo from succumbing to the scam an has his operation raided by the police, which buys him time to bypass the July fourth conspiracy. Furious with Joe's meddling, Leo refuses to shut down, eventually goes bankrupt, and becomes a victim of the scam. After the Fourth of July, Joe saves Leo financially, but the two suddenly find themselves in the midst of a seedy power struggle in the underworld of urban crime. It is a struggle one of them will not survive.

Marie Windsor and John Garfield in Force of Evil

One of the many film genres to emerge after World War II, film noir depicted post-war pessimism in the form of gritty crime dramas and dark romantic thrillers. Force of Evil is a tough-as-nails urban crime pic supported by a powerful performance by the long under-recognized Garfield. Along with actors such as Robert Mitchum, Dick Powell, and Alan Ladd, Garfield gained notice and prominence through work in film noir as romantic tough-guy leading men. Often described as a late Fonda and an early Brando, Garfield escaped a difficult life in the slums of New York when he won a fellowship to attend the prestigious Ouspenskaya Drama School where he connected with the influential Group Theater headed by method-mystagogues Stella and Luther Adler. He performed primarily in gripping social realist plays about slum life and social oppression on the New York and London stages. Garfield received a glance from Hollywood in his performance in Clifford Odett's play Golden Boy, a drama that was to launch the career of William Holden when filmed years later.

Seedy men and desperate times in Force of Evil.

Warner Brothers contracted Garfield to do several films in the era of the studio's socially conscious melodramas where he became trapped in tedious and repetitive roles. He eventually left Warner for MGM where he was able to set up his own production company which ultimately produced Robert Rossen's Body and Soul 1947), which displays Garfield's greatest performance as a soul-searching boxer. Force of Evil was his second independent project and prominently displays his talent of portraying deeply torn characters that are caught between loyalties and duties. Garfield died of a heart attack in 1952, just before a revival of Golden Boy was taking shape. Critics and biographers of Garfield have speculated that the strain of his inability to find work in Hollywood following publicity of his strong leftist views and his eventual investigation by McCarthyists directly caused his untimely death. Director Abraham Polonsky was no stranger to the communist witchhunt either. By way of his association with leftists Garfield and Rossen, Polonsky was blacklisted himself and was unable to direct a film until 1969's Tell Them Will Boy is Here.

Force of Evil's powerful narrative and performances hit home the notion that the film is a critique and satirization of emerging corruption in the American capitalist system in the post-war period, an idea that even today is difficult to pull off believably and aesthetically in an established genre film. And this subversive quality is what film noir was all about, "neo-noir" notwithstanding. But perhaps the film will be best known for the strong and emotionally-trying brother relationship between Garfield and Gomez. Just before production of Raging Bull (1980), director Martin Scorcese, so inspired by Rossen and Polonsky, screened both Body and Soul and Force of Evil to stars Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci who then modeled their performances after the brother relationship in Polonsky's film. Of course, Raging Bull went on to be voted the most outstanding film of the 1980s by both critics and cinephiles alike, thus confirming the impact of Polonsky's passionate and hard-hitting work.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dish on FGP: Dub Blows LDT Off?

Posted Sep 16th 2007 11:47AM by LDT STAFF
Filed Under: Druggy Dub

Last Thursday, an obviously out-of-shape and asthmatic LDT photog received a tip on the whereabouts of one of's superstar hosts.

Following a peculiar transaction in a dusty Hollywood alley, a flakey-looking Dub ducks our cameras, conceals a suspicious package, and takes a powder!

Watch the video:

As of yesterday morning, the FGP site is down. Perhaps Dub is taking a snow day?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

El T's Top Ten II

EL TREMENDO’s Top Ten Successful Pick-Up Lines

10. You're not a dude, right? (West Hollywood only).

9. I agree, Picard is much better than Kirk.

8. Film Geek Primer? Never heard of it.

7. You must be Jamaican, because I really think you're hot.

6. It's not just my name that's close to tremendous!

5. I think I must be dying because I'm looking at Heaven. No, seriously, I'm having a heart attack!

4. Why yes, um, I am Batman.

3. Mirror, mirror, on the wall...

2. Can you break a $50?

And the number one EL TREMENDO Successful Pick-Up Line...

1. Roll over, Paris.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dish on FGP: High Schu Musical?

Posted Sep 11th 2007 09:30AM by LDT Staff
Filed under: Geeko Relaxo

Dateline: The Desert Wastelands of Southern Arizona.

Following a disastrous encounter last week, the LDT photogs were on the loose again and ran into's Schu, only this time we found him basking in the radioactive sunlight at the infamous Winking Kitty Ranch.

Taking a break from beating paparazzi to near-death, Schu relaxed in the sun with his geeky little Mac laptop. What are you writing, Schu? Your next bitter rant on FGP or an essay on $500 shirts?

Our staff quickly exited the scene after he threatened to knock the laptop against their heads. What a HACK-er!

Later that night, our pooped-out paps found Schu sitting outside munching on some 'funny' looking brownies:

Our man in the desert was unable to properly identify the substance being consumed, but he later spotted Schu dancing naked and rubbing up against various cacti. Where are those photos you may ask? Keep reading.

The next day, the DOFGP photogs raced down the mountain following Schu in his sweet ride, a 1990 Honda Accord, to downtown Tucson where they caught him ducking into this karaoke bar.

He wilded the night way sipping Diet RC and cozying with two lovely ladies, who were seemingly oblivious to the toxic levels of geekery they were being exposed to.

Later, the 'funny' brownies made an appearance once again and Schu took the karaoke microphone and whaled away at tunes such as "Forever in Blue Jeans", "Love is Like Oxygen", and a hideously embarrassing rendition of "Natural Woman".

Unfortunately, these are the only photos we were allowed to post. This morning we were served with papers from lawyers banning the publication of Schu's druggy desert waltzing, karaoke bar parking lot antics, and after-party hook-ups.

They weren't Schu's lawyers; they just didn't want to see Schu shagging a Saguaro. Geeks gone wild indeed!

Sunday, September 9, 2007


Directed by: Adam Green
Written by: Green
Starring: Joel Moore, Tamara Feldman, Deon Richmond, Tony T
odd, Robert Englund, Richard Riehle, Kane Hodder

I first heard about Hatchet from one of my worthless personal assistants who apparently slapped down a fair amount of nerd cash to attend the 2006 Fangoria Weekend of Horrors. At the geek fest, director Adam Green pimped his slasher film along with the entire ensemble cast, which includes horror legends Candyman, Freddy Krueger, and one of the Friday the 13th Jasons. Green was refreshingly and strongly outspoken in his distaste in current horror fare: the flood of unnecessary remakes, the inundation of sequels, and the deluge of Japanese pics re-shot for American consumption. His energy and passion for the genre was infectious and damn-well justified given the hard times good horror has suffered lately. They then showed a fairly gory clip from the film and the audience was sold. The expectations for his flick were at a seriously high level in horror fandom. Following my assistant’s report, I was ready to get in line to see the thing. But then, nothing.

Flash-forward to over a year later, Hatchet is just now being released after months on the festival circuit. I attended the Hollywood opening night screening of the film with my colleagues Bill Z. Bub and the Goddess of Gore, both enthusiastic horror followers. Green and his devoted cast were in attendance and offered a Q&A after the film that will be recapped at the end of this review.

A group of proto-slackers partakes in a haunted Louisiana swampland tour, which quickly turns from hilarious to horrific as the doofwads find themselves hunted by local celebrated psycho Victor Crowley. Our killer Crowley is a freakish deformed mutant, taunted by locals as a youngster, accidentally killed by his father, and said to be a roaming the swamp as a murderous ghost. One by one, each member of the group is slaughtered, gutted, spiked, impaled, poked, and torn apart like Hooters hot wings.

Joel Moore, Deon Richmond, and Tamara Feldman prepare to be chopped in Hatchet

Hatchet bears its adoration for 80s-era throwback horror on its blood-soaked sleeve, but unfortunately the end result is mixed. Green injects a lot of humor in the script which at times is effective and appropriate, but overall hinders the feeling of suspense we are supposed to feel as the characters each journey to their bloody endings. But to label the film as a whole as ineffectual is probably unfair. I came into the movie with specific expectations, tainted by reports of something groundbreaking coupled with Hatchet’s tenuous claim of being “Old School Horror”. Unfortunately, I didn’t see evidence of either, but that’s not to say the film was not entertaining.

But I guess in a lot of ways, Green has accomplished what recent horror filmmakers have failed to do, to invoke an authentic, unconscious reaction of the “grindhouse" variety which isn’t necessarily defined as a scare, but as any reaction at all. The film does incite a reaction, be it a cheer, a scream, or even hearty laughter. And this is where Hatchet doesn’t work for me. I found myself laughing more than being chilled, on edge, or freaked out, the main reasons I watch horror in the first place.

On the other hand, any horror aficionado devoted to 80s horror will find much enjoyment in Hatchet: the gore is really good, the cast is obviously having a lot of fun with the material, and there's equal amounts of weird and wacky, although at times the rapid-fire shtick upsets the balance. My only nitpicks are with Crowley himself, who seems like a cross between Jethro Bodine and Toxic Avenger. Green presents a fairly bland origin story for the killer and never delves into his mythology or injects any sense of mystery in his reason for chopping up tourists. Also, the ending was pretty weak, but a cute nod to the original Friday the 13th.

"Hey Granny, what's for supper?"

I have to admit, that I was unimpressed and sort of annoyed once the credits rolled. At the end of the screening, each cast member came to the front and offered a story about the making of the film. I was a little bored with the silly anecdotes until Green grabbed the mike laid out his intentions, pumped his fist at corporate horror, and aroused a serious amount of excitement that I wish his film had generated. He is clearly a devotee of the slasher film, and in no way does he ever claim that Hatchet is a brilliant piece of filmmaking. And it’s not. But the film marks the arrival of an up-and-coming talent worthy of waiting another 17 months for a next release. Hatchet, despite its claims and minute weaknesses, is definitely a notch above the unnecessary remakes, the sequels, and Japanese pics re-shot for American consumption.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Balls of Fury

Directed by: Robert Ben Garant
Written by: Garant and Thomas Lennon
Starring: Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken, Maggie Q., George Lopez, James Hong

Posted by: EL TREMENDO

Last week I was in Arizona. It was hot. I was bored. And no one was putting out for ol’ El T.

So I headed down to the local desert multiplex, stared at the sad marquee for 20 minutes, noticed that I was in flames, and rushed inside and extinguished myself with an Icee.

I selected the pleasantly dumb Balls of Fury as my entertainment selection for the afternoon. From Reno 911! creators Thomas “Dangle” Lennon and Ben “Junior” Garant, the film joyfully mocks sports movies, Van Damme’s Bloodsport and its ilk, and offers more kicks in the groin for the buck since The Whales of August.

Dan Fogler, who channels Jack Black better than Jack Black, plays the portly mop-haired former child ping-pong superstar Randy Daytona, who was humiliated in the ‘88 Olympics and is now a has-been loser doing casino nightclub shows. As metal head Daytona, Fogler who I’m having a hard time remembering from anything else I’ve seen contributes a great deal to the overall enjoyment of the picture.

Cheeky Cherub Dan Fogler as Randy Daytona

The wackiness really takes off when Daytona is recruited by FBI Agent Rodriquez (George Lopez) to join the high-stakes tournament hosted by Triad gun-runner and ping-pong enthusiast Feng (Christopher Walken), who’s decked out like a Thai madam on payday.

Randy returns to form with the help of sightless ping-pong master Wong (James “Lo-Pan” Hong). Hong provides a hefty amount of laughs and cheerfully chews up the scenery with blind jokes and kung-fu mockery. Wong's hotter-than-Kung-Pao niece Maggie (Maggie Q) aids in young Randy’s training and soon becomes the beefy dude’s sweetums. Wait, did this just turn sci-fi all of a sudden???

Bucka Mao-Mao! Maggie Q. as, um Maggie in Balls of Fury

Balls flourishes in sight gags, cheeseball production design, and fun-loving, over-the-top performances by all, but especially Hong, Walken, Lopez, and comic genius in the making Lennon. Director Garant maintains a smooth rhythm and keeps the tone amiable and the jokes surprisingly sharp, something that was missing a bit from his first film Reno 911!: Miami.

Goofy and insipid, Balls is also good-natured and relatively harmless, and it arrives as a late August treat in a shit-filled summer full of overblown, hyperactive, migraine-spawning blockbusters. So just turn off your brain and prepare yourself for 90 minutes of farts and giggles. Oh, and ping pong.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Dish on FGP: Schu Bleeped Off Over Pap Snaps!

Posted Sep 4th 2007 9:30AM by LDT STAFF
Filed Under: Film Geek Rage

Screenwriter, podcast star, and giant monster raconteur Schu was spotted at a Tucson nightspot over the Labor Day weekend by the intrepid LDT paps.

Looking haggard and beat down by the unbearable desert heat, our resident bitter Film Geek didn't cotton to the DOFGP cameras and fired off a few excessively abusive curse words at our frightened photogs.

What do you have to hide, Schu, besides a nerdy Futurama T-shirt???

Unfortunately, this was the last photo sent by our Arizona LDT correspondent. We have not heard from him since.

Wow, Schu. Take a chill pill and pop in a Godzilla DVD. For Bleep's Sake!

Saturday, September 1, 2007


EL T here. Yes, I am still on vacation. I am visiting my relatives in a far-off land. My villainous brother-in-law, El Extraño, surprised me with a sneak preview of Rob Zombie’s Halloween on Thursday night. I suppose he thinks I’ve forgotten about his duplicity, sedition, and that chairshot to the brain I took from him in ‘79. Wait, what did I forget? Anyway, I now take some time from my busy schedule to treat you to a film review.

EL TREMENDO’s work is never done.


Year: 2007
Directed by: Rob Zombie
Written by: Rob Zombie
Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Tyler Mane, Daeg Faerch, Scout Taylor-Compton, Dee Wallace

Recently, Hollywood has persisted to display an irksome habit of remaking good movies instead of re-envisioning and improving bad movies. I heard the other day that someone is remaking the Seven Samurai, but not with cowboys or space rangers, but with samurai. Um, why? I think it’d be a no-brainer to redo Plan 9 from Outer Space as a post-9/11 zombie holocaust with a mega-budget, spectacular effects, and an abrasive religious subtext that would send funny pontiff hats floating. Hell, sign me up.

Rob Zombie’s mangling of John Carpenter’s slasher classic Halloween continues this nasty trend like an irritating rash. Sure, for various reasons, Carpenter didn't show a lot of blood, gore, or backstory in the 1978 original. And sure, he didn’t necessarily want to assault us with gritty viscera and expose the motives behind super-slasher Michael Meyers with twenty minutes of exposition. And hell if Carpenter didn’t end up dishing up an awesome horror film and an instant classic of the genre.

Given that, I can admire Zombie’s motives to take on the legend of Meyers and the challenge to reboot this franchise, which has suffered since Halloween 4, and died a gruesome death with the visual rape that was Halloween H20. Unfortunately, he takes a step back from his impressive The Devil’s Rejects, a knockout of an exploitation flick, which was a rebound from his disappointing debut House of a Thousand Corpses. In this latest outing, he attempts to regenerate the excitement and horror of the original Halloween while trying to modernize it for contemporary audiences, but defies logic and contradicts himself when trying to make the Michael the uber-killer a more realistic and believable evil force. And in the process he ultimately sacrifices a crucial element to enjoying horror: suspense.

The first act is perhaps the main culprit of the film’s failures. Zombie spends way too much time establishing young Michael (Daeg Faerch) as a victim of a horrific white trash family headed up by a stripper mom (Sheri Moon Zombie) and sleazeball stepdad, gleefully portrayed by William Forsythe. The ten-year-old mega-slasher-to-be is a greasy-haired chub who is abused at home and school, soon snaps, and is treated by a surprisingly boring Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell), who makes me yearn for the reincarnation of Donald Pleasance. Unfortunately, Zombie treads upon all-too familiar territory here, and the scripting is marred by cliché upon cliché. But on a positive note, this segment firmly establishes Zombie as the Yasujiro Ozu of white trash households.

After a grueling first act, it’s time to cut 17 years later to the present day and Zombie presents us with an almost shot-for-shot remake of the original. The attempt is admirable and respectful, but I was hoping for a lot more. Locked away in an asylum, Meyers (Tyler Mane) has completely traversed to the dark side, has gone mute, and has apparently grown nearly seven feet tall. Loomis has made his millions selling books about him, and Meyers finally decides enough is enough and breaks out of the nuthouse, kills Machete, and heads back to Haddonfield to find long-lost sister Laurie Strode (the instantly headache-inducing Scout Taylor-Compton) and her horny fellow babysitters which includes Danielle Harris, the child star of the fourth and fifth Halloweens). Is it me, or is it wrong to get a little aroused seeing little Jamie get banged?

Michael "I ain't no f*cking Austin Powers" Meyers

The latter part of the film gets particularly uninspired, with the tribute to the original growing a little too obvious. But this time there’s Zombie's achingly stilted dialogue killing the fun, and seasoned horror fanatics and newcomers alike will find no surprise at the plainly spelled out “twist” ending. Most disappointingly, nowhere to be seen is Loomis’ obsession of Ahab-like proportions with Meyers to be seen. Instead of focusing so much on Meyer’s childhood, Zombie should have focused more on his “treatment”, and maybe showed some sort of effort to comment on American mental health care. (What?) Anyway, even as a horrific exercise, this remake falls flat and it’s unfortunate that viewers already know what scares are coming and are not treated to Zombie's usual strengths.

Fortunately, Zombie retains the eerie echoes of Carpenter’s original score, but not nearly often enough or even at the appropriate times. And an additional treat for horror fans is the many cameos from horror vets such as Brad Dourif, Richard Lynch, Dee Wallace, Mickey Dolenz (the Monkees was a horror piece unto itself), and many others.

Now I know this movie will make a mint this weekend and all the Zombie apologists will emphasize that this is a reinvention of the original, but the sad fact is that the filmmaking here is ineffectual, no matter how Meyers slices it. This is a prime time misguided bastardization of a groundbreaking horror film, a personal favorite of yours truly.

Carpenter doesn’t need to spin in his grave (wait, he’s alive?) and I’ll probably forget this film the time Halloween rolls around this year, when the REAL SHIT comes to theaters. This Halloween is like finding one of those gross Circus Peanuts in your trick-or-treat bag: sure it’s got sugar, but it just doesn’t sit right.