Monday, July 26, 2010

BODY ROCK (1984)

It makes sense that Body Rock was made the same year as Breakin' (1984). All the good dancers must have been making Breakin’ when Body Rock was being filmed. Where as the cast of Breakin’ was largely a group of unknowns who knew how to dance, part of Body Rock’s budget went to pay Lorenzo Lamas. Chilly (Lamas) is a cut-rate rapper/break-dancer who runs a crew called the “Body Rock Crew.” The BRC are, according to Chilly, ready for their big break despite the fact that only a few of them dance competently. But the big break comes when an uptown businessmen wants Chilly to perform in his club. He goes on to achieve great fame in the club circuit despite the fact that he has no discernable talent. He is able to sleep at night under the notion that he is eventually going to ease everyone from the BRC into his club act so they can all “make it” like he has. But after a few leather jackets and sexual encounters with strangers hot for his fame, Chilly quickly forgets his roots. The BRC must struggle without him.

 First of all, isn’t this the plot of Breakin’? Krush Groove? Both of these movies came out the same year as Body Rock. The differentiator is that there were talented people in those movies. Lorenzo Lamas is hilarious as he lumbers through the movie like a rapper in a fast food training video. The best parts of the movie for me were the ludicrous stage productions put together by the club choreographers after he “makes it.” One where the lights go out and these neon skeletons dance around him incompetently is worth sitting through the whole movie to see.

Breakin’ was essentially a pretty awful movie, but the dancing saves it. Here, the dancing saves the movie as well; only it is all the terrible moves making the movie worthwhile. The best dancer in the whole thing is a young man named Magick (La Ron A. Smith). There is an awesome montage where Magick teaches Chilly to dance. Of course, when it’s over, Chilly can’t dance any better than when he started.

Another bizarro-world parallel between Body Rock and Krush Groove/Breakin’ is that Chilly forgets his friends and must eventually choose to if or not to redeem himself. I don’t want to give the story away, but I will tell you that if he does happen to come crawling back to the BRC, it is because he has no other choice. In Krush Groove, for instance, Joseph has to make a moral choice regarding whether or not to realize who he was. In Body Rock, the moral is that talentless schlubs who fall into high paying jobs should not burn bridges.

Body Rock - Monday, July 26th at 8:00 p.m.
It's MONDO MONDAYS at The Loft, celebrating weird, wild and wonderful flicks from the Mondo side of the silver screen! Admission is only $3.00, and don't forget to check out our yummy "Mondo Munchies" snack bucket ... fill a cup for a buck!

Billups Allen’s interest in writing began composing lyrics for punk rock bands. Lyrical duties led to an interest in writing poetry and short stories. Several of his short stories were published in a book entitled Unfurnished published by Florida’s now defunct Schematics Records. Allen currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes Cramhole comic zine and writes criticism for Razorcake Magazine, the Tucson Citizen, and the Tucson Weekly.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Name: Wang Dang Dingle Dangle Diddly Doodly Diggity Danny...or just Daniel :)

LOFT Staff position: Projectionist and such

I have worked at THE LOFT since: September 11th 2009

I grew up in: A lot of different places in North Carolina

My birthday/age is:  12/03/74

When I am not at THE LOFT I: to be camping on the mountain, away from it all. I also like recording original music under the banner of Project 774.

I work at THE LOFT because: I love movies and The Loft tends to show the better ones. I stay at the Loft because it's populated with good people.

A few of my favorite films are: I can only put a few? Ok. Cool Hand Luke, Shaun of the Dead, Halloween, House of the Devil, Invasion (aka Top of the Food Chain), Friday the 13th part 4, Die Hard, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Bronson, The Empire Strikes Back, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Road House, Black Christmas, Hot Rod, Caddyshack, Blazing Saddles...I'll stop now I guess...

My favorite directors are: Edgar Wright, The Coen Brothers, Martin Scorcese, Paul Thomas Anderson, Danny Boyle, John Carpenter, David Fincher

My favorite LOFT experience was: So far? Working the overnight on the Scream-o-rama last year. Such a long, silly night finished off with drinking coffee on the patio and watching the sun come up with Dan-ager and Christian.

My favorite thing about the Loft is: I couldn't pin it down to one thing. I love it all. Cleaning the theater while the Arnold Schwarzenegger Workout CD plays. Getting turned on to new movies and music by my co-workers. Mondo Munchies! Cleaning the popper (no really, I actually like doing it) Watching Rocky people lose it on the floor while running around the lobby to hit a cue. Anything Dave says.

Make up your own question here: How can I find out more about your music?  Gee whiz, thanks for asking! Just search Project 774 on Facebook. All the music is free, as music should be!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mondo Monday - CAGE (1989)

Once in a while, a movie comes along that makes you wish you could ask why. I have to be careful not to make fun of Lou Ferrigno for one, very primary reason: I wouldn’t want to fight him in a cage or otherwise. He does appears to have a sense of humor about himself as exemplified in his recent appearance in I Love You Man (2009). I can’t help wondering how it came about that he was convinced to play someone who suffers brain damage to the point of having the mentality of a child. My instinct is to feel a bit offended for him. Was that part of the original story? If so, did they consider Ferrigno because they thought he could handle portraying someone with brain damage? He seems like a nice guy, but it probably goes without saying that he is not much of an actor. A lot of my time watching this movie was spent trying to piece together how they approached this subject with him. You would be surprised to discover that there is very little written on the subject of Cage
Ferrigno’s character Billy Thomas is a soldier fighting in Vietnam who becomes a hero when he rescues fellow soldier Scott Monroe (Reb Brown). Thomas suffers heavy brain trauma during the rescue. After what I am pretty sure is an unintentionally homoerotic convalescence scene, the movie flashes forward twenty years to Los Angles in 1989 where Thomas’ hair has not changed. Monroe and Thomas are running a bar together. Across town, an underground cage match is taking place. Most of the story is about two mob guys trying to trick the dimwitted Thomas into participating in this underground fight circuit. They think he is a sure thing, but Monroe won’t let Thomas fight. Thomas is a sweet guy, but when he gets angry, well, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

The film has some wonderfully inept scenes, including some of the least suspenseful fight sequences ever put to film. There are 28 stuntmen listed in the credits but you wouldn’t know from watching it. There is also one of those really unrealistic 1980s gangs terrorizing the bar where they work. The Chinese Mafia, a device that 1980s action movies were obsessed with for a short period of time, is also involved in the fight ring. For all of the wisdom you would expect from the world’s oldest organized crime syndicate, they are not smart enough to just kill their enemies. Inspired by techniques perfected by Dr. No, they collect them all into a room for the purposes of killing them at a later, more convenient time. I don’t want to give the ending away, but I will tell you instead of waiting around to die, the good guys get it together for the purposes of trying to escape towards a terrifically abrupt ending. The film is hopelessly optimistic at the end by leaving an indicator that there will be a sequel. And there is, apparently. There is even less information available on the subject of Cage II (1994).  I guess the producers felt they had not explored all the layers of Lou Ferrigno’s performance as a gigantic child. 

Billups Allen’s interest in writing began composing lyrics for punk rock bands. Lyrical duties led to an interest in writing poetry and short stories. Several of his short stories were published in a book entitled Unfurnished published by Florida’s now defunct Schematics Records. Allen currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes Cramhole comic zine and writes criticism for Razorcake Magazine, the Tucson Citizen, and the Tucson Weekly. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

ESSENTIAL CINEMA - Buster Keaton's The General

Though it's all but disappeared as a subject for Hollywood, you could make a good case that the American Civil War helped launch the movie business. After all, it provided the spark for the first blockbuster, D.W. Griffifth's 1915 "The Birth of the Nation," a film whose first half still impresses with its uncanny visual veracity -- you could be watching tattered newsreel footage of the war itself. Only Griffith's bilious sentimentality reminds us that Hollywood's worst qualities were born here, too. (The surreal racism that blights the film's second half, which portrays the Ku Klux Klan as heroic freedom fighters battling the sinister ex-slaves, makes it seem like a film made in some parallel universe where the South actually won the war.) But 11 years later, a far greater artist made an infinitely greater film, one that the world's most famous movie critic would rank among the ten best movies ever made. Strange to say, that film was a boisterous comedy made by a great comedian, and one that can still leave them in the aisles, as they say, today.

The film is "The General," Buster Keaton's 1927 masterpiece, though I hesitate to apply the word "masterpiece" to anything this funny. But Orson Welles (who ought to know) once said that Keaton's film was a hundred times more gorgeous-looking than "Gone With the Wind," and the proof is on the screen for anyone to see. Whereas that great Hollywood epic concerns itself with large matters -- an epic romance, an epic war, the fall of a city, the disappearance of a civilization -- "The General" concerns itself with the adventures of an ordinary young man and his love for his train. His story is set in the South, but the war doesn't concern him too much, except that it leads to him getting rejected by his girl when the Confederate army turns him down. The film, loosely based on a real historical incident, concerns Our Hero's attempt to steal his beloved locomotive, The General, back from the Yankees. (Oh, he also needs to rescue his girlfriend -- but you suspect that the train is really what matters here.) Complications ensue and of course, it all winds up with a terrific chase scene -- one of the best in the movies, and apparently the single most expensive movie sequence filmed up to that time.

In his day, Keaton was eclipsed by Charlie Chaplin; later, it became hip to say that Keaton was the real genius, and Chaplin a mere crowd-pleaser. In fact, there's no reason to choose; between the two of them, you have two types of comedy that cancel each other out. Chaplin is funny because he does funny things; he can't walk into a room without the ceiling caving in, or the floor turning into a skating rink. Keaton is funny because he doesn't do funny things; instead, he remains perfectly still, almost untouched as the world falls apart around him. If the ceiling caves in, you can bet that Keaton will have his back turned to it, lost in some reverie. He greets catastrophe and triumph alike with a thoughtful, melancholy gaze -- and, of course, he always comes out on top. In my favorite shot of "The General" (also, incidentally, one of the most dangerous stunts ever filmed), after being rejected by his girl, Buster glumly sits down on one of the coupling rods between two of his train's wheels to think. The train starts moving and the wheels begin to turn. Keaton remains sitting there, going around and around and around. Still thinking.

Buster Keaton's "The General" plays at The Loft Cinema Sunday, July 11, at 1 p.m., and Tuesday, July 13, at 7 p.m.

-- Justyn Dillingham is a 2009 graduate of the University of Arizona. He ever so slightly prefers Chaplin to Keaton.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Top Ten - The Loft's Favorite Silent Films

Buster Keaton's THE GENERAL is this month's Essential Cinema film.  In honor of this classic silent film, The Loft staff has submitted some of their favorite silents.  Enjoy!

10. Safety Last

9. The Passion of Joan of Arc

8. Sunrise

7. Napoleon

6. City Lights

5. Roundhay Garden Scene

 4. Metropolis

3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

2. Un Chien Andalou

1. Nosferatu

ESSENTIAL CINEMA is The Loft's FREE monthly series of classic art films on the big screen. See old favorites, hidden gems and exciting re-discoveries the way they were meant to be seen - with an audience and on the big screen in glorious 35 mm!

Buster Keaton's THE GENERAL

Sunday, July 11th at 1:00 p.m.
and Tuesday, July 13th at 7:00 p.m.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

First Friday Shorts, July 2, 2010 - Howard Salmon

Tonight, at “First Friday Shorts”, there was something for everyone: animation, gross-out humor, art films. campy mini-dramas, gratuitous sex, gratuitous violence, and music videos. The previews alone constituted their own mini film festival: they were raunchy, hilarious, gross, and full of cool style.  For example,  there were ads for a Joan Rivers “tell all” documentary, a children’s film festival (e.g. the Muppets),  a movie called “Trash Humpers” about people humping bags of trash, a slasher flick (“Boarding House”), a documentary about the artist “Banksy”,  and “Team America World Police” Curse-A-Thon (in honor of the upcoming Fourth of July holiday).  

When the event started, we learned that Max Cannon wasn’t able to attend tonight. so local comedian Mike Sterner & his sidekick Bridgitte would takeover the hosting honors. Mike had an interesting way of hitting the gong: instead of bashing it, like in one of those old Kung Fu movies (to announce the entrance of the Emperor), Mike would gently tap it and then hold a microphone up to it. The resulting gong noise ended up sounding like weak amp feedback.  

The first movie, “Tapeworm 2”, I found to be amazing. I was very impressed by it, for reasons I’ll describe in a moment; it ended up being the crowd favorite, with it’s creator, Brian McAdams, taking home a $200 prize check for his entry at the end of the night. “Tapeworm 2” was an incredible mix of three types of animation: largely made with old fashioned stop-motion animation (using Lego toys),  with added Flash animation and what looked like CGI effects (e.g. waving computerized flames). The “sets” were just whatever furniture happened to be in the way, with the entire movie having been shot in and around someone’s house. The soundtrack was some old fashioned heroic classical music, connecting it yet again to the traditions of an earlier era. The “plot” involved the adventures of pieces of blue masking tape who inch around like microscopic organisms. Very creative, industrious,  and humourous. What a great way to start out the film fest!  

What followed after that never rose to the level of “Tapeworm 2”, but was still a lot of fun. “Taking Advantage” was a campy drama that looked technically professional, but lacked direction. It got gonged, and I found Bridgitte’s confrontational stance towards the filmmaker a bit rude (“Your movie has no passion! Oh, now are you going to tell us we suck??” she taunted the filmmaker after it got gonged).  “Nerds Gone Camping” was a low-budget ridiculous story that felt totally amateurish, except that it had an excellent sense of comedic timing (GONGED!) “Baked Alaska” was a story about the filmmaker mixing roadkill into cake batter, and cooking it for his mother, who lives out of a trailer in Yellowstone National park.  There were many shouts to gong this sucker…but Mike let it play out. (We all got to watch the filmmaker’s mother eat roadkill cake)

Of course at any “First Friday Shorts”, there are those who give up even trying to please the crowd, and instead make films that are shorter then three minutes. There were a handful of those, and one of them was actually pretty good. It was comprised of several quick cuts of close-ups of various tools at a construction site. The fast pace kept it interesting, even though it really wasn’t about anything. When it was over, Mike Sterner pointed out a lesson we could all take home with us: if your movie is cut extremely tight, it will be interesting.  

Another art film that impressed me was “Movement Andante”. This entire black-and-white silent film consisted of a closeup of a fleshy hairy crack. I couldn’t tell if it was a closeup of someone folding their arm, or if it was a piece of carpet. It was also undulating in a repetitive way, giving the illusion that something sexual was happening on the screen, but it was actually a very abstract closeup of something flexing and contracting over and over again. The audience watched it for the entire length of the film, obviously seduced. But there’s no way that a minimalist art film is going to win the $200 prize! But it was a memorable part of the lineup.

There were also some creepy horror type flicks, which felt like a tip of the hat to David Lynch, and at the end, there was a funny and erotic gameshow spoof called “Hookup”, which was very titillating, on at least two levels.

Tucson’s got talent! Tune in next month for another review of the Loft Theater’s “First Friday Shorts”