Friday Night Flix: The Devil’s Rock

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Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Every week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie that’s currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every one is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

I know what you’re thinking but you’re wrong. The Devil’s Rock (free on Netflix, $2.99 on Amazon) is NOT about the dangers of smoking crack. It would have been a great name for a movie about demonic drugs but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Move past it.

DevilsRock2The Devil’s Rock is the story of two Kiwi commandos in World War II who- Okay, let’s just stop for a moment. First off, was New Zealand even involved in WWII? Was it even a country then? Second, it had an army big enough to support specialized commando units? Were they made up of hobbits???

HA! That was a trick. You were probably thinking some of that stuff too, weren’t you? Well I’ll have you know the mighty New Zealand military declared war on Germany years before the U.S. got its sorry ass in gear. Over 200,000 New Zealand…ites served during WWII and 11,000 gave their lives. According to Wikipedia that’s 0.8% of their entire population. If America had the same casualty rates, we’d have lost over a million men.

DevilsRock3Sorry about that. I felt obliged to get all history channel there because I myself laughed at the idea of Kiwi commandos sabotaging a Nazi fortress in the middle of the ocean. I scoffed at the obviously tight budget and the weird accents, including the head German officer, whose English sounds a wee bit too New Zealandy. And I double scoffed at an unheralded foreign horror movie trying to carve out a stake in the well explored territory of Nazi occultism. But Devil’s Rock manages to be a little scary, a little gory, and totally engaging. It’s certainly horror but it’s almost like a filmed stage play. The major draw is the tense relationship of the two main actors who, dialect quibbles aside, are really quite wonderful. And I adore the idea that iron is the only material that can restrain evil. Fuck silver man, that shit is IMPOSSIBLE to keep clean.

Added Bonuses: casual demonic nudity has me praying for a stateside remake just so there can eventually be a porn parody called The Devil’s Rack.DevilsRock4

Friday Night Flix: Black Death

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Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Every week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie that’s currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every one is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

Black Death (available on Netflix & Amazon) takes us to jolly old England right around the time of the bubonic plague. Sean Bean and some other badass killers-for-Christ are on a mission to capture an alleged witch who has the patently evil audacity to keep her village plague-free while the rest of Europe suffers. FIENDISH.

BlackDeath2Wait a tick: black plague, witches, crusaders…isn’t this that movie with Nic Cage and Ron Pearlman, Season of the Witch? Fuck and no, it is not. That movie was so horrible I couldn’t get past the first ten minutes, and I made it all the way through Sharktopus. It’s a shame vaguely similar backdrops and proximate release dates make it seem like Black Death is a lower budget/non-studio version of Season of the Witch. Black Death is a serious drama wrapped in period horror trappings, complete with a constantly shifting moral compass, clever misdirection, and authentic looking production design. And never once do two characters laughingly bet a round of drinks on who can kill the most infidels.

BlackDeath3Perhaps a little surprising: while Boromir Stark’s presence obviously looms largest among the no-name cast,  he is not the central character. The focal point of the film is a lovelorn young monk, a character that would typically be not only useless and annoying but utterly unnecessary to the narrative. In this story, however, the monk’s emotional journey is engaging and even a little shocking. It’s drives a modest but effective movie. Too bad Sean Bean’s star isn’t bright enough to merit a wide release Stateside. If only he’d made a few really awful Ghost Rider movies first.

Added bonuses: well choreographed sword fights and plenty of hideous, weeping plague boils. You didn’t order pepperoni on that pizza, did you?

Christopher Lee Released a Heavy Metal Christmas Album. Yeah, that Christopher Lee.

Metal Lee DraculaColor me uninformed but apparently 90-year-old Christopher Lee, Saruman the White himself, has been doing vocals for a questionable heavy metal/fantasy rock project for a while.  I took a gander at a music video for that insanity and, hoo boy, pour yourself a drink and enjoy. It’s like that time your D&D group formed a metal band, stole your dad’s camcorder and spent the afternoon waving swords in front of a green screen. But only if you played D&D with Christopher Lee.

That stuff is cable access madness, but the Christmas tunes have a decidedly more listenable quality. So why not liven up your holiday party with some classic carols, sung by this man? It’s a conversation starter.

High Falutin’ Fantasy

(New contributor thegreekdog has arrived; your reading list is squarely in his sights.)

There is some cross-genre pollination as between video gamers, comic readers, and fantasy readers. If you’re knowledgeable about arrow-studded ACLs preventing one from fighting dragons, you’re also likely knowledgeable about the newest Batman retcon, and you’re also angrily awaiting George R.R. Martin’s next book (the dude has to write faster, if only because the HBO show is going to catch up with him). In any event, I spend much of my time reading fantasy and science fiction. I skip around a lot. I may be reading a book published in 2011 (see below) or I may be reading a book published in 1959 (yes, yes, I’m a Philistine for not reading Starship Troopers until now).

In any event, I like classifications for my fantasy reading pleasure. There’s kid fantasy (David Eddings), there’s classic fantasy (LOTR), and there’s realistic fantasy (GRRM or GoT or whatever acronym we’re associating with the overrated series written by a walrus). There’s also realistic and high-falutin’ fantasy. And that brings me to Steven Erikson.

Steven Erikson (a Canadian, but we won’t hold that against him) has written one of the most epic fantasy series I’ve ever read: Malazan Book of the Fallen. If you want more biography, history, etc., hit up Wikipedia.

Erikson writes fantasy novels that are ultra-realstic in the vein of GRRM. People die. People die a lot. People that you care about. That’s surely not the only “realistic” part of realistic fantasy, but that’s the part that gets people like me to keep reading. And Erikson delivers that.

Erikson also delivers to the thinking man a version of philosophy that’s hard to resist (if you’re a thinking man… or woman). Once you get through the first book, which is as ponderous as LOTR and quite hard to follow, you’ll be treated to a treasure trove of great stories and grand philosophical ideas. There’s the mortals turned gods; there’s the philosopher king and his godly assistant; there’s a sergeant that plays the fiddle; there’s a guy that eats too much; and, of course there are dragons. There are discussions of the meaning of life, why people go to war and fight, what it means to sacrifice, and what is love. It’s a funny and intelligent series. It completely took over my personal life for the last six months. And, at the risk of killing your ability to do anything other than read ponderous fantasy, I highly recommend the series.

And, to complete matters, I literally cried real, big boy tears for the entire last two chapters of the last book.

So, start with Gardens of the Moon (published in 1999) and read through The Crippled God (published in 2011). Thank me later.

The Coolest Poster You Can’t Buy: Mondo’s “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”

I’m damn sure going to try though! Created by artist Aaron Horkey for the magnificent poster creation arm of the Alamo Draft House. Apparently posters for the The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers are forthcoming, featuring a number of different artists for each film.  (ed.note: The Return of the King poster is already sold out, as it was only available at a screening held on 07.05.12.  DAMMIT.) (Via)