By BRUCE HARDT
Director and musician Rob Zombie’s latest film, “The Lords of Salem,” is a stunning work of low-budget horror done at its very best.
The movie opened to a limited release on April 19. It is playing at the El Con Mal Century Theatre, 3601 E. Broadway Blvd., and the Harkins Spectrum Theatre, 5455 S. Calle Santa Cruz.
Zombie’s previous films include his original “House of 1000 Corpses” and its sequel “The Devil’s Rejects.” He also directed a remake of the 1978 classic “Halloween,” and a sequel, “Halloween II.”
In addition, he directed the animated film, “The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.”
“The Lords of Salem” is likely Zombie’s most original work, and his most intelligent.
Zombie substitutes the vicious bloodbaths of previous works with atmosphere and portentous imagery. He signature is all over this film, in bold, thoughtful crimson.
The movie centers on the slow mental breakdown of Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie, his wife and a regular in his films).
Zombie couples her dissolving psyche with the impending rise of a coven of vengeful witches who are poised to claim the descendants of the founders of Salem, Mass.
His retro-approach to horror is at its best here. Made on a shoestring budget of $1.5 million, the film makes expert use of limited resources. It projects its intentions through uncomfortable imagery, haunting shots and thrifty directing.
This film will appeal to any casual horror audience. However, those put off by blasphemous content should steer clear: “The Lords of Salem” will not settle well with you.
Horror alumni round out his well-selected cast. They include Ken Foree (“Dawn of the Dead,” “The Devil’s Rejects”), Dee Wallace (“The Hills Have Eyes,” “The Howling”) and Udo Kier (“Blood for Dracula,” “Suspiria”).
John 5, known for his collaborations in Zombie’s musical projects, composed the superb soundtrack. Songs from The Velvet Underground, Rick James and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band also contribute.
A foreboding mood, shocking visuals and a well-executed cast make it not only Zombie’s best since “The Devil’s Rejects” but likely one of the best horror flicks of the year.
“The Lords of Salem” is rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content, graphic nudity, language and some drug use.
By BRUCE HARDT
The “Evil Dead” series stands as one of the most beloved horror brands ever made. As has become inevitable, a remake of the first film is upon us.
Unlike other remakes that are barely even a half-thought of their source material, “Evil Dead” conducts itself accordingly.
“Evil Dead” follows a similar premise to its predecessors. Five 20-somethings travel to a remote cabin in the woods, where they find an ancient book that unleashes demons onto the world. Bland sounding I know, but “Evil Dead” handles itself with rarely seen confidence.
Director Fede Alvarez, known for his short films, infuses his version with gallons of blood and enough fan service to forgive the movie of its faults.
Easily one of the most graphic films I’ve ever seen, “Evil Dead” achieves its visceral results with convincing practical effects.
Sam Raimi, director of the originals, and Bruce Campbell, whose iron chin graced them gloriously, served as producers for this remake. In addition, long-time series producer Robert Tapert returns.
“Evil Dead” comes with my highest recommendation. While it does not replicate the demented whimsy of the original, it latches onto the franchise’s mythos, granting itself a unique identity with a genetic makeup comprised lovingly from elements of its predecessors.
“Evil Dead” is now in theaters. It is rated R for strong bloody violence and gore, some sexual content and language.
‘Game of Thrones’ returns
The end of March brought us the season premiere of HBO’s seminal fantasy-drama series, “Game of Thrones.” It will run every Sunday at 9 p.m. through June 9.
The adult-oriented show weaves an elaborate tapestry of political intrigue, medieval warfare and foreboding prophecy.
Taking place dominantly on the continent Westeros and to a lesser extent, Essos, the show chronicles the war for the Iron Throne and dominion of the North.
The war is fought between powerful noble Houses, the most prominent being Stark, Lannister, Baratheon and Targaryen.
Adapted from author George R.R. Martin’s epic book series, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” Game of Thrones is named for the first novel, “A Game of Thrones.
The first season was an adaptation. The next season loosely followed the second book, “A Clash of Kings.”
The third season has the monumental task of bringing to life the third and longest entry in the series, “A Storm of Swords.”
Season three is dedicated to the novel’s first half, while the already announced fourth season will cover the remaining half.
Narratively speaking, “A Storm of Swords” is the series’ most rewarding read, a complex paper brick that gives Tolkien a run for his money.
Season three of Game of Thrones is poised to be the best installment yet in HBO’s staggering vision of Martin’s opus.
Seasons one and two are now available on home media. The current five books of “A Song of Ice and Fire” are available at your local bookseller.
The two remaining novels, “The Winds of Winter” and the tentatively titled “A Dream of Spring” are yet to be released.
Loft to screen cult ‘Evil Dead’ trilogy
The films of the “Evil Dead” trilogy will play at The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd., on April 13 starting at 9 p.m. The films featured will be “The Evil Dead,” “Evil Dead 2” and “Army of Darkness.”
Directed by Sam Raimi (“Oz the Great and Powerful”), the Evil Dead trilogy stands as one of the cult cornerstones of 1980s cinema. As a whole these films are a perfect medley of gore and giggles that chronicles the one-boomstick war between Ash (Bruce Campbell) and the Deadites.
Deadites are people possessed by the supernatural Book of the Dead, an ancient text bound in human flesh and inked in blood. When read from, the book unleashes ancient demons whose bloodlust will put any possession movie of the last 20 years to the chainsaw.
“The Evil Dead” (1981) and “Evil Dead 2” (1987) are classic “cabin in the woods” trope, pitting Ash against his demonized friends and eventual self in the setting of a remote mountain hideaway.
“Army of Darkness” (1992) raises the stakes and slapstick several notches. Ash and the Deadites clash in a final, epic battle in medieval Europe.
“The Evil Dead” will show at 9 p.m., “Evil Dead 2” at 10:30 p.m. and “Army of Darkness” at midnight. Single film admission is $9 general and $5 for Loft members. All three films are $20 general and $13 for members.
For information, including tickets, visit loftcinema.com/film/dead-by-dawn-the-evil-dead-trilogy-triple-feature.
No loopholes in ‘Looper’
2012 yielded a film trove of geeky goodness. We rejoiced at a sequel to “The Dark Knight,” were wowed by “The Avengers” and celebrated in unison with the long overdue death of “The Twilight Saga.”
“Looper,” one of the smaller gems from last year, is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Its quality is surprising, given its ambition. “Looper” is easily one of the best science-fiction films in recent memory. Director Rian Johnson (“Brick”) threads genre into a masterful tapestry of time travel and all of the mindfuckery it entails.
Meet Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an assassin hired by mobsters to kill targets sent from the future. A looper’s contract is closed when his older self is sent back to be killed, effectively “closing the loop” and covering the mob’s tracks.
One day Joe meets old Joe (Bruce Willis), who has a score to settle with the elusive “Rainmaker,” a criminal warlord prematurely closing loops, among other atrocities, in the future. A literal race against time ensues that will challenge young Joe to the core of his very humanity.
“Looper” is a simultaneous wonder of action and thought, provoking your adrenaline and heartstrings. A self-aware screenplay deftly juggles the film’s myriad plot points while injecting believability into its characters and world.
This aspect is further enhanced by the performances, particularly Emily Blunt as Sara, a single mother with an explosive secret. Savvy sci-fi viewers will notice “Looper” influences, namely “The Terminator” and the works of manga artist Katsuhiro Otomo.
For information, visit sonypictures.com/homevideo/looper.
By BRUCE HARDT
Skrappy’s hosting punk show
North, Old Wounds, Vices and Territory will perform on March 21 at 7 p.m. at Skrappy’s, 191 E. Toole Ave.
North, Tucson natives, play a mesmerizing blend of sludge metal and post-rock, a combination that conjures an attention-grabbing, hardened atmosphere. North released their third full-length album, “The Great Silence,” last year and can be heard at galacticdads.bandcamp.com.
Old Wounds come all the way from New Jersey, bringing with them the metalcore apocalypse. Their addictively aggressive album, “From Where We Came is Where We’ll Rest,” was one of the freshest examples of its genre last year.
Vices, from Jacksonville, Fla., plays a moody brand of bluesy hardcore punk, a melodic sound with drenched in world weariness. Vices’ discography, including the knuckle-throwing “Demo 2013,” can be heard at vicesfl.bandcamp.com.
Territory, also from Tucson, play hardcore of the highest, unholiest caliber. Their crushing 2012 album, “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” and their entire catalogue, can be heard at territory.bandcamp.com.
This show is certain to be among the best Tucson will offer this year. Come out, rage and support these hard working artists and your local scene.
For further information, visit facebook.com/tucson.shows.
Cine Mexico 2013 at UA
The Cine Mexico 2013 film festival will continue through March 24.
An award-winning Mexican documentary, “Tierra Brillante” (“Brilliant Soil”), will have its Arizona premiere March 21 at 7 p.m. at the Harkins Tucson Spectrum 18, 5455 S. Calle Santa Cruz.
Producers Omar Foglio and Paola Rodríguez will be on hand to introduce the documentary, which was named best film at the International Festival of Indigenous Film and Video in 2011.
The documentary explores the issue of toxic lead used by thousands of Mexican artisans in their glazed pottery.
A wide variety of other films will be shown at venues throughout Tucson.
For details on the films, venues and tickets, visit tucsoncinemexico.org.
By BRUCE HARDT
Catch Lariats show March 16
Local emo/punk band Lariats will play an all-ages show on March 16 at 6 p.m. at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St, for $5. The show will commemorate the release of the band’s new EP, “Our Native Tongue is Bad News.”
Lariats consists of members from other local talents such as The Bled, Youinseries, Versus the Mirror and American Black Lung. The concert will also feature Arizona hardcore punk bands American Standards and Territory, and psychedelic rock outfit Hollow Hills.
Following the positive reception to their 2012 debut, “If Mediocrity Was a Body of Water, We Would Have All Drowned by Now,” Lariats has won fans far and wide with their energetic, honest sound and lineup of seasoned musicians.
For information, visit hotelcongress.com/music/lariats-our-native-tongue-is-bad-news-album-release-party, facebook.com/lariats or on Twitter at @lariatsrock.
Children of God sets fire to the sky, review
Every once in a while a band will come along whose talent is evident from their demo moving forward. Orange County’s Children of God is such a band.
Starting out as a noisy hardcore punk band on their demo and “Coup de Grace” EP, Children of God began to incorporate elements of sludge metal and black metal starting with their split with peers, Seven Sisters of Sleep.
The result is a more contemplative sound that is no less vicious.
“We Set Fire to the Sky,” the band’s first full-length effort, is a culmination of the band’s previous work, and sets the bar to dizzying heights.
A package of torrential blasts and bleak landscapes, this record is mesmerizing, ambitious and loyal to the fiercely honest aesthetics of its genre.
A self-released piece, “We Set Fire to the Sky” has much to say about the state of society. Eight songs wreak havoc and impose peace, each a testament to Children of God’s unique brand and a dedication to combating personal and theological ills.
“We Set Fire to the Sky” can be purchased in vinyl from hellfishfamily.com or cvltnation.com/store-front and listened to and downloaded at cogofficial.stereokiller.com.
The Amazing Arizona Comic-Con
Compiled by Larry Gaurano
The third annual Amazing Arizona Comic Convention is back in Phoenix, Arizona, touted as the first comic convention of the year.
Legendary comic creator Stan Lee famous for creating Marvel Comics classics such as Spider-Man and Iron Man will be headlining the event alongside the head of DC Comic and top-selling comic artist, Jim Lee.
Over 100 exhibitors are set to have comics, toys, clothing and other comic related items for sale. Just as many artists will be selling their work and services in the famous “Artist’s Alley”.
Discussion panels held by comic companies, groups, and other industry individuals will be held all 3 days. Many previews for up and coming 2013 products will be showcased.
The convention will take place January 25-27, 2013. Weekend passes are available for $50, Saturday passes are $35, and Friday- or Sunday-only passes are $25.
Ticket information, VIP upgrades, and regular event updates are available at www.AmazingArizonaComicCon.com.
Lofty viewing of Miyazaki films
Compiled by Bruce Hardt
The Loft Cinema will be featuring the works of revered and seminal Japanese animator, Hayao Miyazaki from Jan. 24 to 30.
“Spirited Away” is one of Miyazaki’s most acclaimed films and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the ceremony’s 75th installment in 2002. In addition it is a darling of critics worldwide and considered among the greatest animated films.
The film is also one of the highest grossing films in Miyazaki’s native Japan, overtaking the record previously held by box office juggernaut, “Titanic.”
“Spirited Away” is the story of Chihiro, a 10 year old girl in the process of moving, and her adventures in a spiritual realm after her parents are transformed as punishment for their greed.
A modern fairy tale, “Spirited Away” will transport the viewer to a different, tender and dazzling world.
“Spirited Away” will play from Thursday, Jan. 24 to Saturday, Jan. 26. The film will play at 1 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9:45 on the 24 and 11 a.m., 2:15 p.m., 7:15 and 10:15 on the 25 and 26.
All showings of this film will be in Japanese with English subtitles.
Jan. 27 through 30 will feature Miyazaki’s 2004 wonder, “Howl’s Moving Castle.” Based on the novel of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, “Howl’s Moving Castle” is the story of a powerful magician, a young hat maker and their efforts against a growing war.
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2006, “Howl’s Moving Castle,” like “Spirited Away” is among the highest grossing films in Japan and received critical praise worldwide.
“Howl’s Moving Castle” will play at 11 a.m., 2:15 p.m., 7:15 and 10:15 on all dates.
This film will be the American dub featuring Christian Bale, Billy Crystal, Emily Mortimer, Jenna Malone, Jean Simmons, Blythe Danner and Josh Hutcherson.
Admission prices are $8 general admission and $6 for Loft members and children 12 and under.
For more information visit loftcinema.com/showtimes-tickets and loftcinema.com/coming-soon/?series=miyazaki.