Happy holidays, listeners! Every year, we take on an unconventional Christmas movie around the Yuletide season, and this time we (along with returning guest Mark Soloff of Blastropodcast) dip back to investigate Tim Burton's deeply strange, fascinatingly weird superhero flick Batman Returns!
After Burton's first Batman revitalized the superhero movie as a pop culture phenomenon, he decided to get real strange with it in Batman Returns. Ostensibly, the film features a pitched battle between the Caped Crusader (Michael Keaton) and his arch-nemeses, the Penguin (Danny DeVito) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer); but it manifests itself in a strange story about mayoral races, masquerade balls and fake news campaigns to discredit Batman. The most dastardly plan anyone has in the film is Trumpian billionaire Max Schreck (Christopher Walken), who schemes to, like... build a power plant?
None of the plot dressing matters, though, since the film itself is a dazzling display of Burton's biggest idiosyncrasies - pale outcasts with mountains of guyliner, Gothic cityscapes, and mountains of quirky Danny Elfman scoring. This is the least Batman-y Batman film to date (and we should know), which might well be the biggest point in its favor.
Anyway, listen to us debate the film's finer, freakier points, along with our custom drinking game!
Every year, the Alcohollywood podcast takes the week before Christmas to celebrate the life and works of Sir Harry Connick Jr. - actor, musician, Renaissance Man.
Harry Connickuh, listeners! For this episode, we take our appreciation for Harry Connick Jr. all the way to the beginning - his breakout film debut in the 1990 WWII drama Memphis Belle. Connick joins a cavalcade of other young 90s stars (Matthew Modine, Sean Astin, Tate Donovan, Eric Stoltz, Billy Zane and more) as the crew of a B-17 bomber on its last mission before ending its tour of duty.
While director Michael Caton-Jones (Asher) does an admirable job replicating the oo-rah spirit of old WWII pro-US propaganda films, that's also what keeps Memphis Belle from really taking off. It's hard to make a movie all that compelling when you have to keep track of ten similar-looking white dudes with one personality trait, all working as a unit to accomplish a pretty tension-free mission. The claustrophobic action, which mostly takes place inside the cramped bomber of the title, is novel, but it all gets dull after a while. Still, Connick's his laconic, charming self as always, and he even gets a couple songs to sing!
Check out our thoughts on this WWII homage, along with our custom drinking game for the film, here.
We only had time for one episode last month, so we're double-dipping this week by extending 00-vember into 00-cember! We move from Timothy Dalton to Pierce Brosnan with the 1997 007 flick Tomorrow Never Dies!
Sure, Goldeneye revitalized the Bond franchise, introduced a stellar new Bond in Pierce Brosnan, and updated the secret agent to reflect more on his "sexist, misogynist dinosaur" nature. But then Austin Powers came out and made a bunch of money, so 007 had to get goofy again with his next adventure. And goofy he gets, as Tomorrow Never Dies is a quaintly dated spy caper in which James Bond must stop a mincingly evil media mogul (Jonathan Pryce) from starting a war between Britain and China just to soak up all the ratings.
Still, for all its goofiness, it absolutely has its charms - from David Arnold bursting onto the scene with a bombastic score, a couple of great theme songs at both ends of the film, and Michelle Yeoh kicking ass as one of the most capable Bond girls to date.
It's an ugly duckling that Clint loves far too much for his own good. Hear us talk about its pros and cons on the podcast, and check out our drinking game!
As a busy Thanksgiving month winds down, we realized that we haven't talked about a James Bond film for literally 200 episodes. To that end, we decided to get in a little 00-vember action with the severely underappreciated James Bond film The Living Daylights!
The first of Timothy Dalton's two films as 007 (a criminally short tenure), The Living Daylights is one of the most thrilling Bond pictures no one talks about. Sure, the story is a bit muddy and convoluted - a disorienting spy caper involving botched defections, diamonds, opium, arms deals, cellos and two different villains (Joe Don Baker and Jeroen Krabbe)- but Dalton's stripped-down, intense take on the secret agent is a breath of fresh air after 14 years of Roger Moore camp.
The Living Daylights also has some of the most exciting, comparatively grounded action scenes in the franchise, and a cracking final score from John Barry that mixes electronic sounds in an unobtrusive way long before David Arnold came along. This film tends to be one of the unsung children of the Bond franchise, but damnit, we're going to sing its praises till the opium comes home.
Check out our thoughts on the film and its legacy in the Bond franchise, along with our custom drinking rules!
As we continue to wrap up our coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival, it's important to take a look at some of the smaller stuff that came out of the fest, especially those set in the city the festival calls home. Gregory Dixon's vibrant, energetic indie coming-of-age dramedy Olympia is a rather fun breath of fresh air - the tale of a conflicted thirtysomething (writer/star McKenzie Chinn) struggling to make ends meet at a dead-end job, dealing with a dying mother in the hospital, and fighting with her boyfriend (Charles Andrew Gardner) about whether Chicago is really the right place for her.
Chinn's script is relaxed and acerbic, the performances are naturalistic and witty, and Dixon's stylized approach captures the verve of Chicago alongside the jazzy, pop-infused score from Josh Coffey and Otto Sharp. (You can read our capsule review from our CIFF dispatches here.)
While at the festival, I got the chance to sit down with Chinn, Dixon and Gardner to talk about the struggles of getting the film made, Chicago as an vital artistic resource, and the importance for women of color to tell their own stories.
Howdy, listeners! Today we're saddling up and sucking back some moonshine to an old Western classic, 1969's True Grit! (NOTE: I have used my pun quota for this episode; the rest of this post is safe for consumption).
Along with guest panelist Gavin, Jared and Clint tackle the impertinence of Mattie Ross, a little history of Oklahoma, and the nuances of a John Wayne performance, as they provide their signature drinking rules for this film.
Happy Alcohol-loween! We close out our Seven Deadly Sins edition of Horror Octorbor by going old-school for Wrath - the vengeance-filled slasher Friday the 13th!
Sure, this is the one that doesn't have Jason in it - see our Freddy vs. Jason episode for our thoughts on the hockey-mashed butcher - but Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) still has some bloody fates in store for the counselors at Camp Crystal Lake. From Kevin Bacon's horny teen to, well, the less-famous fodder around him, Sean S. Cunningham's inaugural effort in the long running franchise serves up plenty of arrow piercings, machete decapitations, and more.
But is it enough? Can we go back to a franchise almost forty years old and see the strengths of a straightforward slasher that was innovative at the time? Or do the kills and stripped-down simplicity seem quaint in today's world of horror pastiches and self-aware tropes? Let's find out - check out our podcast and drinking game!
While dysfunctional family dramas are arguably a dime a dozen, Elizabeth Chomko's Chicago-centric debut What They Had stands out substantially from the pack. A touching, heartfelt tale of a woman (Hilary Swank) who returns home to help her brother (Michael Shannon) and father (Robert Forster) care for her Alzheimer's-afflicted mother (Blythe Danner), What They Had is refreshingly nuanced, filled with strong, witty dialogue and incredible performances from its lead cast.
While at the Chicago International Film Festival, we sat down with Chomko for a roundtable discussion (along with Pat McDonald of HollywoodChicago.com and Al and Linda Lerner of MoviesandShakers.com) - with Forster popping in as a late-interview surprise. Check out our roundtable, along with that wonderful cameo, in our podcast below.
The world of contemporary art is a wild, wild thing - millionaires bidding incredible amounts of money to collect works from modern artists based on reputation, potential future valuation, or even (on occasion) the actual aesthetic value of the piece. In his upcoming HBO documentary The Price of Everything, filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn (My Architect) takes an in-depth look at this strange mix of art and commerce, getting unfettered access to art collectors and the artists who themselves toe a precarious line between artistic statement and financial solvency.
We were lucky enough to sit down with Kahn himself to talk about the film, these issues, and the value of artistic merit in an increasingly commodified art world. Check out our podcast minisode featuring the interview here, and read the edited transcript below.
Horror Octorbor keeps a-chuggin' along this month, as we continue to break down the seven deadly sins! This week, we take a look at Envy in the context of 1992's erotic psychological thriller Single White Female!
In the vein of other 90s domestic horror films like The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and Unlawful Entry, Single White Female explores the kind of dangers that could happen even in the safety of your home. Here, that's manifested in Hedy (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the mousy new roommate of recently-separated fashion designer Allie (Bridget Fonda). The more time Hedy spends with Allie, though, the more she affects Allie's speech, mannerisms and appearance - right down to making moves on her estranged husband Sam (Steven Weber).
Does she want to be like Allie? Does she want to become Allie? The answers are surprisingly grotesque, and more than a little complicated - rooted in some clumsy, but well-intentioned, queer subtexts and a couple of deliciously arch performances from Fonda and Leigh, directed with a certain lurid sensibility by Barbet Schroeder.
Check out what we thought about this ominous tale of female sexuality and psychological desire, along with our custom drinking game!
DRINKING RULES FOR SINGLE WHITE FEMALE:
- Any time you see a red flag (Hedy adopts another Allie-ism)
- Every time you see a scene outside the apartment
- Whenever you see nudity (this is an *erotic* thriller, after all)
FINISH YOUR DRINK WHEN:
Hedy looks into a mirror and says, "I love myself like this."
Join us next week as we conclude our Seven Deadly Sins edition of Horror Octorbor with Greed - best personified by Michael Mann's bat-nuts crazy 1983 film The Keep!
Beautiful Boy is the latest brick in Amazon Studios' foundation of establishing itself as the new Miramax - the home of middlebrow American indies featuring sad white people going about their lives. Sometimes they're great, like Jim Jarmusch's Paterson; other times, well, it's Woody Allen's latest thing or Life Itself. Beautiful Boy is closer to the Paterson end of the spectrum, a handsomely-made actors' showcase telling the real-life story of David (Steve Carell) and Nic Sheff (Timothée Chalamet), a father and son dealing with the latter's addiction to hard drugs, including crystal meth.
Director Felix van Groeningen (Broken Circle Breakdown) presents a handsomely tragic look at drug addiction, Nic's addiction coming in cycles of hope and despair while David tries desperately to save his son, before realizing that maybe that's not his job. While van Groeningen's direction is intriguing, structuring the film around elliptical flashbacks detailing the moments that punctuate Nic's relationship to drugs, the real meat and potatoes is seeing Carell and Chalamet's wounded, authentic performances. Carell's a master at this kind of anguished, darkly comic pathos by now - hell, he's about to do it again in Welcome to Marwen - but Chalamet continues to be one of cinema's greatest new discoveries. As Nic, he displays the kind of deeply felt pain and adolescent ennui of James Dean in his prime, his yearning eyes and squirming vulnerability as he runs through cycles of dependency and hope about drugs. It's not a perfect film by any means, and it certainly wastes fine actresses in Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan, but as a heartfelt two-hander about addiction, it's one to watch.
I actually got the chance to sit down with van Groeningen around the time of opening night for a roundtable discussion with fellow critics Leo Brady of AMovieGuy.com and Lee Shoquist of ChicagoFilm.com - together, we talked about everything from adapting a book from two memoirs and working with such esteemed actors at the top of their game. Take a listen to the On Tap podcast below.
(Thanks to our sponsor Overcast as part of the Chicago Podcast Coop!)
Horror Octorbor keeps on chugging, as we keep exploring the seven deadly sins with our entry for Lust, Species!
This 1995 sexy-alien chiller (courtesy of Dante's Peak and The November Man's Roger Donaldson) features Ghosts of Mars' Natasha Henstridge as Sil, a sultry alien-human hybrid from outer space who escapes Ben Kingsley's government facility to seek out a mate for her alien babies. In hot pursuit is a rag-tag team of scientists (Marg Helgenberger, Alfred Molina), an 'empath' (Forest Whitaker) and a smarmy guy with a gun (Michael Madsen), all with personalities as loud as their clothing.
Species is a hell of a 90s time capsule, from the bulky fashions to the ridiculous character names (Madsen's character is literally called Press Lennox), and the Showtime-ready alien sexuality that was the film's clear draw. The creature design is the most direct translation of Alien designer H.R. Giger's bonkers techno-sexual style, rendered with the expected dated CG and prosthetic effects. It's Andromeda Strain meets Emmanuelle, and we're here for every ridiculous minute.
Take a listen to our thoughts, and check out our drinking game for the film below!
Press quips after saving Forest Whitaker's life, "I thought you'd drank your last Long Island Iced Tea there, Dan."
Join us next week as Horror Octorbor chugs along, exploring more of the seven deadly sins with the envy-fueled erotic thriller Single White Female!
Novelist, screenwriter and Pulitzer-nominated playwright Theresa Rebeck is a woman of many hats - the latest of which is the director of the independent ensemble comedy Trouble. A film with modest ambitions but no small amount of charm, its tale of a small-town sibling rivalry is bolstered by tremendous performances from a more-than-qualified cast (Anjelica Huston, Bill Pullman, David Morse, Julia Stiles, Brian D'arcy James, the list goes on).
For this special minisode of the podcast, Clint sat down for a phone interview with Rebeck to talk about the prevailing themes of her works, working with such an overqualified cast, and the intimate appeal of rural America. Take a listen!
(CONTENT WARNING: use of the word 'gypsy')
We explain the full context of its usage in the episode, and its ubiquity in the film itself makes it relatively unavoidable as a term. However, we understand its seriousness as a pejorative to the Romani people, and apologize in advance for anyone who might be offended.)
Seven years in, and Alcohollywood is on its seventh Horror Octorbor! Some Kind of Goblin sets upon us a mission to explore films related to the seven deadly sins, so we're temporarily back to weekly episodes as we try to take this on!
For our first foray into sinful horror films, we dig into the sin of gluttony with 1996's Thinner, a goofy, more than a little racist bit of Stephen King schlock in which an unscrupulous, obese attorney (Robert John Burke) gets cursed by an elderly Romani (Michael Constantine) as punishment for running over his daughter. His curse? To grow "thinner" each day, no matter how much he eats, until his body consumes itself.
It's a wackadoodle premise told with incredible relish by director Tom Holland (the original Fright Night), and the film's latter half is full of fun beats courtesy of Kari Wuhrer and Joe Mantegna. But all of its outsized pulp can't quite overcome its unsympathetic, ugly characters. And, well, the whole "gypsy curse" premise itself doesn't age well (much like the makeup, though it's not like horror master Rob Bottin could anticipate the coming of HD).
Enjoy a heaping helping of our podcast, along with our drinking game for the film!
Tadzu Lempke tells Billy to "Die clean, white man from town! Die clean!"
Join us next week as we continue our exploration of the seven deadly sins, moving on to Lust with the sexy-alien movie Species!
Hey, we're back! Clint's wedding and subsequent marriage has kept us busy, but now we're answering some mailbags (however indirectly) with the 2011 DreamWorks picture Puss in Boots!
The Shrek spinoff wisely dispenses with a lot of the obnoxious, dated pop culture references of its parent series, and focuses on the adorably blustering outlaw Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) as he embarks on a quest to steal some magic beans from Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris). Along the way, he has to repair a fractured friendship with Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) and romance the sultry cat burglar Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek). By DreamWorks standards, it's actually... not all that bad?
Check out our custom drinking game and enjoy! (Sorry, no cocktail this time around.)
The Self-Transcendence Race in New York City is a grueling, unrelenting 3,100-mile race held every year around a single block in Queens - 60 miles a day, 52 days. There's no prize money, no corporate endorsements - each of the runners who travel from around the world to participate do it for the higher purpose of self-improvement and spiritual practice. The documentary 3100: Run and Become explores this race, contrasting it with other examples of world cultures using running as a spiritual practice - the Navajo communities of Arizona, the Kalahari bushmen in Africa, Buddhist monks in Japan. It's a riveting, inspiring doc that'll make you want to lace up your old running shoes and jog a mile or two just because.
We sat down with 3100 director Sanjay Rawal on the week of the film's Chicago premiere (perfectly timed, as the Chicago Marathon starts in a few weeks) to talk about the film's many challenges, as well as the mindset of those who use running as prayer. Take a listen, and read the full interview below.
3100: Run and Become makes its Chicago premiere Friday, September 21st at the Gene Siskel Film Center, with Rawal in attendance opening weekend for audience discussion. For more information, head to 3100film.com.
For the latest On Tap minisode, we air an interview Clint conducted for the new John Cho computer-screen thriller SEARCHING - about a frantic father searching for his missing daughter by going through the clues on her laptop! Clint sits down with SEARCHING director Aneesh Chaganty and producer Sev Ohanian to talk about the origins of the project, the narrative possibilities of conveying narrative through technology, and the importance of telling stories from an Asian perspective.
This week, we make a triumphant return to the mailbag, taking a listener request to discuss Paolo Sorrentino's ponderous arthouse quirk-fest This Must Be the Place!
Consequence of Sound film editor Dominick Suzanne-Mayer joins us in this exploration of one of Sean Penn's stranger performances, as a washed-up Robert Smith-type rock star who returns to America to hunt the escaped Nazi who tortured his father during the Holocaust. Like a lot of Sorrentino joints (see also: The Great Beauty), This Must Be the Place dabbles in complicated themes of aging, legacy, and the emptiness of excess and fame - unfortunately, it's saddled in an atonal, sluggish script that doesn't know when to laugh at itself or take itself seriously.
We throw on our red lipstick and Tim Burton wigs to deep dive into this relic of late-aughts navel-gazing indie cinema, so take a listen and check out our custom cocktail and drinking game!
Happy Shark Week everybody! It's the most fin-derful time of the year, and since The Meg is foolishly coming out two weeks after Shark Week, we're celebrating instead with one of the craziest Sci-Fi Original Movie-level shark flicks out there - Shark Attack 3: Megalodon!
Starring a pre-fame John Barrowman (Doctor Who, Torchwood), Megalodon sees a Playa del Rey beach resort beset by a giant, roving shark thought extinct - now revived with the power of blown-up stock footage. Along with a sexy paleontologist and a grizzled ex-Navy John McCain-type, Captain Jack is ready to kill some sharks and make lewd remarks to costars!
As Jaws-y a Jaws ripoff as you'll ever see, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon is an unexpected bad-cinema curio we can't help biting into. Check out our podcast, along with our custom cocktail and drinking game!
Lifechanger is a sneakier, more fascinating thriller than it might seem at first glance - the tale of a man doomed to feed off and inhabit the bodies of those he encounters to survive. His psychology twisted up in the memories of those he impersonates, and his lingering obsession with an old flame (Lora Burke), the protagonist of Lifechanger turns the film into a fascinating reversal of genre conventions.
For our latest On Tap mini-podcast, we sat down with Justin McConnell, the writer/director of the shape-shifting horror film Lifechanger, to talk about how the project got started, the subtextual appeal of living in a different skin, and the excitement of his impending sold-out world premiere at Fantasia 2018. Enjoy, along with the rest of our Fantasia coverage!
The main podcast is back, baby! Since Ant-Man and the Wasp has us thinking about all things shrinking, we decided to look at 1987's fun-sized adventure comedy InnerSpace!
Film critic for HollywoodChicago.com (and now Alcohollywood!) Jon Espino joins us to dive into a movie from our 80s-kid childhoods - a Joe Dante romp of the finest order that sees hotshot pilot Tuck Pendleton (Dennis Quaid) shrunk down to a microscopic level and injected into the body of nebbish hypochondriac Jack Putter (Martin Short). Together, the two have to evade corporate spies, silent Terminator-types, and navigate a very strange love triangle with Tuck's girlfriend Lydia (Meg Ryan).
In classic Joe Dante style, InnerSpace features a wonderful blend of surprisingly mature elements for a PG film (Dennis Quaid butt!), a charming sense of whimsy and lightness, and his signature stable of actors, from Dick Miller to Robert Picardo. Dante's a master of these kinds of breezy high-concept adventures, so it was a real treat to finally visit his delightfully devious oeuvre.
We had a blast talking about this crazy time capsule of a movie, so take a listen and check out our custom cocktail and drinking rules!
(This review and interview originally ran as part of On Tap's previous run as its own separate feed. We're re-running it here in conjunction with All the Queen's Horses' release on Netflix.)
This week for our On Tap minisode, Clint discusses the new indie doc from Kartemquin, All the Queen's Horses. Plus an in-studio interview with All the Queen's Horses director/producer Kelly Richmond Pope!
Arthouse queer enfant terrible Bruce LaBruce has crafted an interesting career as an underground director of gory, sexy, splatter-ific screeds on radical topics like terrorism, feminism, and gay liberation. His latest, The Misandrists (read our review here) is no exception; for this latest episode of On Tap, Theo Estes sits down with LaBruce to talk about the politics of his films, their bawdy B-movie inspirations, and the need for confrontational movies like these.
(We also pepper in a few updates about our recent podcast hiatus, and some fun news for the future of the show.)
(Thanks to our sponsor Overcast as part of the Chicago Podcast Coop!)
Alcohollywood's spinoff mini-cast On Tap returns! Every so often, we'll be providing you with exclusive interviews, reviews and festival coverage alongside the regular podcast. Hope you enjoy!
To kick off our (semi-) inaugural installment, Clint reviews Leigh Whannell's upcoming sci-fi thriller Upgrade. After losing his wife and the use of his limbs after a tragic attack, a man (Logan Marshall-Green) equips himself with an experimental technological upgrade to regain the ability to walk - using his newfound powers to track down the men who killed his wife. It's lean, bloody and immensely entertaining, with more than a few neat tricks to spice up its bone-crunching action and enticingly rendered near-future world.
Along the way, Clint sits down with Whannell to discuss the conception of the film's cyberpunk world, choreographing intricate fight scenes, and finding the perfect voice for Upgrade's all-powerful technology. Take a listen!
(To read Clint's full review of Upgrade, head over to Consequence of Sound.)
For this episode, we crashed Hotel Moxy in downtown Chicago for their inaugural Moxy SoundOff Podcast Series, trapping ourselves in a little glass booth for the entertainment of our live audience. Since this live podcast took place in a hotel, and we've already done The Shining, we decided to tackle the second-greatest movie set in a hotel - Dunston Checks In!
This kiddie caper set in an art-deco Manhattan hotel stars Jason Alexander as your classic overworked '90s dad, who must suddenly contend with a jewel-thief orangutan loose in his hotel. Luckily, his adorable kids (including Eric Lloyd from The Santa Clause) have already befriended Dunston, and they set out to stop his former master (Rupert Everett) from... stealing stuff, I think?
To our great shock and horror, we ended up liking Dunston Checks In a lot more than we expected. Come listen to our astonished, modest praise of this slapsticky kid's flick, and check out our custom cocktail and drinking game here!