Monday, 30 June 2014

5 of the Best Bad Movies to Add to your Queue

Movies have the incredible ability to lift us out of our current state of being and transport us to worlds where anything is possible. The lights go down, the projector whirrs, and suddenly we are off on high-flying adventures, laughing, crying, being horrified, being prompted to think and feel things we might never have had the chance to experience otherwise. And yet, for all the transformative magic that the cinematic world inspires, my absolute favorite feeling to be left with after a film concludes is one of:

After having been a hardcore cinephile for nearly three decades, I can honestly say that I enjoy bad movies just as much, if not moreso, than the towering cinematic achievements of Kubrick and Kurosawa. However, these films cannot be merely inadequate in order to achieve the aforementioned Tim Gunn effect, as we see plenty of flicks every year that are either dull or passably mediocre and leave no lasting impression. Nor are they just the “so bad they’re good” guilty pleasures we get from the likes of Commando.

No, the type of films I’m talking about possess a rare quality that leaves you not so much shaking your head as staring unblinkingly and slack-jawed at a screen that has made you question the very foundations of your understanding of reality.  These movies make choices that you just cannot fathom, creating situations and characters whose actions are so far out of left field that you’re not even sure there’s a field at all. These movies make you feel like an alien on your own planet. They show you the world through such a bizarre lens that you can’t help but see things a bit differently after coming out the other side.

Here is a list, by no means essential or comprehensive, of examples of this type of film. Proceed with caution.


Drafthouse Films dug up this gem a few years back and it is truly something to behold. Taking place in Orlando (the title makes no sense), Miami Connection focuses on the blackbelt members of the rock band Dragon Sound as they take on a ninja motorcycle gang. That description does no justice, though; the interactions between the characters throughout every scene just boggle the mind. Why would anyone choose to spontaneously grab friends’ noses with their toes and engage in a weird dance on a regular basis? Why would straight grown men delight in feeding each other handfuls of grapes in short shorts? Could a band whose entire catalogue consists of songs about martial arts really make it this big? Watch to find out…


2.) Terror Vision (1986)

Where to even start? An intergalactic menace is, I guess, beamed down to a suburban American home through their new satellite dish to wreak havoc, sort of.  Really, this film is all over the place. Is it a horror movie whose flamboyant goofiness is through the roof? Is it a kids’ movie that showcases decapitation, mutation, a foul-mouthed and perverted grandfather, and uncaring swinger parents? This movie doesn’t go where you’d expect it to; in fact you’ll realize after the first few minutes that it would probably be best to throw any expectations out the window and save yourself the trouble of trying to make sense of this freakshow.

3.) No Holds Barred (1989)

Hulk Hogan in some of the most ridiculous wardrobe in movie history, in a world dominated by real-violence professional wrestling, where a man can get brutally murdered on live television and the natural reaction is just to cheer. Just watch the trailer.

4.)  Little Bigfoot 2: The Journey Home (1997)

So a really neurotic father takes his kids camping and they come across a disturbing-looking baby bigfoot and yadda yadda. I had a theory while watching this movie that the entire film is really a fantasy sequence imagined by the father as he’s experiencing an existential meltdown. Watch the clip for a good bit of supporting evidence.

5.) No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)

A real doozy. So the mob, including a very young Jean-Claude Van Damme (for some reason playing a Russian),  inexplicably wants to take over all west coast dojos. One guy doesn’t want to sell, which prompts them to beat him up and subsequently causes the former dojo owner to go into hiding. The guy’s son, a martial arts fanatic, joins another dojo that the mob eventually wants to take over and enlists in the help of the ghost of Bruce Lee to help stop the takeover. This film also features impromptu Michael Jackson dance numbers, absurd product placement, a villain that eats an entire cake one handed, insane dialogue, and did I mention THE GHOST OF BRUCE LEE??

Really, for me, these types of films inspire wonder for those too cynical to be wowed in more traditional ways. They open our eyes, humble our spirits, and inspire viewers to engage in life by asking the big questions, like “WHAT THE #$%^ IS GOING ON????”

Do you have any great examples of movies that defy explanation? We’d love to hear about them, so leave some feedback!

Monday, 23 June 2014

7 Easy Steps to Film Quality Footage

These days, everyone has a camera but only a select few are filmmakers. This blog is for the young dreamers with a budget the size of their piggy bank. I'm going to show you how to make your video clips look like real film footage by adding color contrast and depth of field. We will be using Adobe Premiere Pro for this brief tutorial and I will explain every step with screenshots or a New Girl GIF, because it's awesome. That's why. 

First you have to understand the differences between film and video:
  •  Film looks so rich in color and sharp in lines because, when captured, there is an even distribution of color across the image.
  •  Video is captured a bit differently. A video camera captures the information as scan lines which   form the image. This means there are spaces between the scan lines with missing information,  causing video to lack the luster of film. 

I know it sounds like gibberish right now, but stay with me. What we are attempting to do with this technique is fill in these spaces between the scan lines so your video looks fuller. The difference will be very subtle but the overall look of your final product will be well worth the extra render time.

  • I will be using a piece of stock footage I found of people walking on a street in Romania. Here it is: 

    As you can see, everything looks rather dull. The colors aren’t vibrant and everything has a soft edge to it. By making the colors pop we will also give everything a nice, crisp edge. So let’s start!

    The steps are simple:

    1.     In your timeline, make 2 copies of the clip you want to use. Quick tip: Hold down the Alt key then click and drag clip to the next video layer.

    2.     Hide your top two video layers, we will deal with them later individually.
    3.     Find the “Fast Blur” effect and apply it to both of your clips on V2 and V3. Start by setting your blur to 2; you may come back and lessen it later but 2 is a good starting point. You want to set your Blur Dimensions to vertical and select “Repeat Edge Pixels”.

    4.     Make V2 visible and open your effects control panel for that clip. Click the arrow next to Opacity and deselect the stopwatch. From your blend modes, select “Overlay”. Lower your opacity to around 40%-50%, you can change it later. We are trying to add that rich depth of field to the video clip so it’s ok if it looks a bit dark for now. 

    5.     Make V3 visible and open your effects control panel for that clip. Again, click the arrow next to Opacity and make sure the stopwatch is deselected. Select “Screen” from your blend modes and lower the opacity to around 20%-30%. Note: If your clip is already bright, your screen should have a lower opacity. My example shot was very bright, so I lowered my opacity to 10%.

    6.     Compare your clip to what it looked like before and continue to play with the opacity levels until you’re satisfied.



    Here's a picture of them side by side:
    In my example, you can see the colors are more vibrant and the edges are crisp. 

    7.     Render and marvel at the beauty!

    Now you can start submitting your work to film festivals and celebrate your future successes!