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Sunday, 27 July 2014

Sugar Hill: Classic Blaxploitation Zombie Film

From guest blogger Brandon Engel

When you're seeking to settle in for the night with a movie and a nice glass of wine (or whatever suits your mood), it's important that the flick you pick matches the precise mood that you're in. Need a good cry? Maybe it's a three hankie weeper a la The Notebook you're looking for. For most other moods, the name of the game is comedy, or perhaps a sweet, high volume, action flick and then, for some of us, there's blaxploitation zombie films! Read on for a very interesting recommendation that very few of you were hip to — until now.

George Romero Has A Lot To Answer For

There wouldn't be a genre of zombie horror, in the movies or on TV, without George A. Romero. He's not the inventor of the zombie myth, but he's the guy who more or less got the modern zombie film conventions rolling. Of course, what worked wonders for Romero also proved to be a rich source of inspiration for other movie makers who followed in his wake.
As most readers will be aware, George A. Romero's immortal Night Of The Living Dead was the first (and still most legendary) zombie movie of the modern era. The film has spawned several sequels, and gone on to become a recognized classic. Of course, the film has also been picked apart to yield all sorts of allegorical and symbolic meanings. Suffice it to say that the film could probably not have arrived in any other decade but the 1960's, when cynicism and unrest among the populace began to receive serious expression in all of the arts.
Sugar Hill: One Bad Zombie Mother...Shush Yo' Mouth! 

One of the most interesting and criminally neglected films that followed in Romero's wake was the little known blaxploitation classic, Sugar Hill. We're talking about the 1974 film, not the later film by the same name from 1994. This particular Sugar Hill featured the acting talents of Marki Bey, in the title role of Diana "Sugar" Hill.
In a nutshell, "Sugar" is engaged to be married to the owner of a very hip and lucrative night spot with a heavy Haitian theme. Of course, with this being a horror flick, it all goes to hell in a handbasket for poor "Sugar" when white mobsters muscle in on her fiance and beat him to death.
Like any good horror classic worth its salt, this is hardly the end of the story. "Sugar" calls upon the services of Mama Maitresse (ably and creepily portrayed by the veteran B-movie actress, Zara Cully) who arranges a deal with Baron Samedi, the lord of the undead in the voodoo religion. It doesn't take long for a pack of African zombies to be unleashed on the evil white vice lords who ruined "Sugar's" love life. One gets fed to a pack of wild dogs, another ends up imprisoned in a coffin filled with poisonous snakes, and so on. We need hardly mention that badass Blaxploitation music sets the appropriate mood throughout.
Horror With An Afro-Centric Pedigree 

Midnight screenings of the film are still held from time to time, and it’s been showing pretty regularly on Robert Rodriguez's new El Rey network which is available through TV specials from Direct TV and DVD copies of the film are also popular. As a stand alone film, it's a dynamite view. Yes, it's low budget, clumsy at times, and certainly shows its age but it's a very interesting attempt at conveying an underlying message of justice, revenge, and self-actualization, all with an appropriately Afro-centric slant. Like its immediate predecessor Blacula, Sugar Hill was meant to serve notice that blacks were taking control of their own destinies, not only in the workplace, but also in the world of the arts.
Forty years on, Sugar Hill remains a worthy memento of that noble intent.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Purge: Anarchy T-Shirt and Flashlight GIVEAWAY!

On July 18th, prepare for Anarchy by checking out the “5 Things To Know Before You Watch The Purge: Anarchy” Interactive GIFs. Move your mouse across the GIFs to control the scene!

The New Founders of America invite you to celebrate your annual right to Purge.
The Purge: Anarchy follows an unlikely group of five citizens who, over the course of the night, are hunted across the city in a kill-or-be-killed series of survival scenarios during the annual Purge. 

We have ONE official The Purge: Anarchy Prize Pack to award to one lucky reader!
The Purge: Anarchy Prize Pack includes:
 - The Purge: Anarchy Promo T-shirt (size L)
 - The Purge: Anarchy Promo Flashlight

Giveaway ONLY open to people in the U.S.
Each household is only eligible to win One (1) Purge Prize Pack via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

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Thursday, 12 June 2014

Mortal Remains from Cryptic Pictures EAST COAST SCREENINGS

Want to know all about an awesome new indie horror movie Mortal Remains?
Then Listen here:

Or DOWNLOAD the show by right clicking HERE

And if you want to see the film then here are 2 upcoming
Film titleMortal Remains 
Running time: 94 minutes
Names of Film DirectorsMark Ricche and Christian Stavrakis 
Brief synopses: An docu-thriller investigating the life and career of notorious Maryland filmmaker Karl Atticus, director of the original 1972 "Mortal Remains".
Atlantic City Screening Info:
Venue addressBizarre AC Convention - held at the Tropicana Casino and Resort 2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ 08401 / (609) 340-4000
Event dates and time: Saturday June 14th (afternoon screening/ exact time is TBA)
Event price: Ticket price is $20 in advance and $25 Day of
Telephone number for more info: (301)257-9275
List of artists on the billMark Ricche and Christian Stavrakis.
An exclusive screening with the filmmakers in attendance!

NYC screening info:
Venue address, including cross streets and nearest subwaysAnthology Film Archives at 32 Second Avenue (at 2nd St.) New York, NY 10003
Telephone: (212) 505-5181
Subway: F train to 2nd Avenue, walk two blocks north on 2nd Avenue to 2nd Street; #6 to Bleecker St., walk one block north on Lafayette, then two blocks east on Bond St. (turns into 2nd St.) to 2nd Avenue.
Bus: M15 to 3rd Street.
Event dates and time: Sunday June 15th 3:00pm
Event price: Ticket price is $10
Telephone number: (301)257-9275
List of artists on the billMark Ricche and Christian Stavrakis.
An exclusive screening with the filmmakers in attendance!
Contact information:

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Q&A with Alexia Anastasio star and director of Little Fishes

We get an in depth view on the ins and outs of behind the scenes of an independent feature film.

Q: How did this all start? 
A: It started with me being a fan of playing make believe. Oh, you mean this movie. Oh, yeah, That started with me being a fan of movies that make people think and feel. I love John Cassavetes, Lars von Trier, Yasujir┼Ź Ozu, Maya Deren, Jane Campion, Lea Pool, Sally Potter and Patricia Rozema to name a few. They all bring you into their stories and do it in a way that you are completely immersed in the characters moment. I decided to organize a Mumblecore Film Festival which I hosted 4 Q&A’s after the screenings with the directors and producers last year and that was when I got the idea and support to make my own.  I now plan to tour with this film and others like it world wide. You can get updates for that here:

Q: What is your favorite part about making Little Fishes?
A: Working on set is always my favorite part. Each day on set I am usually repeating out loud - oh wow - this is going to look beautiful and because I was lucky enough to work with the most talented cast and crew ever it does. 

Q: Was it hard getting the actors to agree to do a daring movie?
A: I found it easy. I made sure that I told each actor before they got to set that they would be kissing another actor. I asked if they were 100% okay with that. It’s all about preparation and they appreciated it.

Q: What is it like being a director and actor in your own film? 
A: I love acting and directing simultaneously. I love the creative control. I like being able to do improv on set and play with the form. I am always open to contribution and ideas from my fellow actors. I allow my actors to have voice on set and give suggestion. This technique builds mutual trust and respect on set. One contribution was my fellow actress, Brenna Gwyn Snowe, ran the bathtub with a little too much water in it and when I got in water spilled over the side and we both had a good laugh. It made the scene. 
Q: How do folks find out more about your work?  
A: Well you can see my last film, Adventures in Plymptoons! on many platforms like Hulu, Vimeo, Amazon by going here:

You can sign up for my email list and get updates whenever I have a new project on my website:

And you can view the new trailers and sneak peak scenes and even give to the campaign for Little Fishes here:

BIO: Alexia Anastasio is an artist, actress and filmmaker. She was featured in HBO's Bored to Death, VH1 “If you like...” commercial and Vetiver "Everyday" music video. Her work on the feature documentaries includes: Editor of Vampira: The Movie; Associate Producer of The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels; Co-producer of Beyond the Noise: My Transcendental Meditation Journey; Director of Adventures in Plymptoons! documentary on Oscar nominated animator Bill Plympton; Director of documentary, Ginger Girls: The Secret Lives of Redheads and Director of narrative, Little Fishes.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Bad Words

Jason Bateman makes his directorial debut with this R Rated indie comedy that sees him attempting to drop his Mr.Put-Upon-Nice-Guy persona while starring in a film that doesn't exactly work without it.
Bateman plays Guy Trilby a foul mouthed, negative, man-child with a savant way with words who has, through a loop-hole and with the support of reporter Kathryn Hahn, entered the Golden Quill spelling bee much to the chagrin of it's organisers Allison Janney and Philip Baker Hall and the parents of the children, the other participants.

The film is a short, well acted and competently directed, verbal, indie comedy. The humour is, at times, very rude, crude but pleasingly inventive and Bateman, especially, seems to be relishing the role. Good thing too as he holds the whole thing together.
Which is more than can be said for the script. The tagline to the film is 'the end justifies the mean' and the fact of the matter is, it really doesn't. Whether you find spelling competitions important or not, nothing really justifies the cruelty Guy Trilby unleashes on, not only, the people directly involved in the competition but just general people in the world, funny though a lot of it is. His personal vendetta effects way more people than the actual, solitary focus of it and I guess it's just down to Bateman's like-ability as an actor, the genuinely funny dialogue and the fact that we are stuck following him for the whole movie that keeps us, the audience, dubiously 'on his side'.

There is a sub-plot about his befriending a child, a fellow contestant, and 'tearing up' the town with him in the evenings which, I suppose, is intended to endear him to us a little and play to the rebel in all of us but some of the things they do, including causing a stolen lobster to lacerate a man's genitals, seem a tad cruel for no reason, as well.

Now before you think I am taking this all too seriously, let me explain. The film IS funny. Taken on face value, if you find vicious, dark, crude humour for the sake of it funny, then you are going to love it and there was much about it I did enjoy. Films, however, whether people like it or not, have to have characters, plots and motivations that make relative sense within their presented frame work and while "it's just a comedy" may excuse a lot of illogical or unforgivably cruel behaviour, the fact that the film, ultimately, asks us to give a hoot about this selfish, arrogant arse hole of a man means that we have to, at least, buy into the story and care a little, when it doesn't give us a lot of satisfactory reasons to.
Had he participated in the contest without cheating and eliminating some of his opponents in humiliating ways or had he befriended the kid, torn round the town but not hurt a man's penis with a large clawed sea creature then his character might have been a little more redeemable, while being no less funny.

There are echoes of Wes Anderson in the characters and the plot, especially Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums without, of course, it being anywhere nearly as charmingly presented or stylish.

A worthy debut, though, for Bateman as a director and interesting to see the R Rated comedy given the mumble core indie treatment.
7 out of 10
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