Thursday, December 31, 2009

Quintology III: American Ninja V

It seems fitting to close out 2009 with the review of a film that closed out a popular 1980s film franchise. After four films, what kind of story can be left to tell? If you guessed 'a cliched tale of crime, drug dealers and ninjas,' then you would be a winner! Of course, anyone watching American Ninja 5 could hardly be considered a winner in anything. Here's the up-side though: David Bradley is back. Try to contain your joy for a moment, so I can continue. The film takes the series in a new direction, which is interesting. Of course, it is also the last film in the series, so this is a moot point. No more stalling! This is...
The film begins with Mr. Bradley teaching karate to some children. Well, at least he wasn't teaching them acting! All of a sudden, Mr. Miyagi shows up! Actually, he is a different Japanese man, who is actually an old ninja. He drops his grandson off with our hero in order to get him in touch with his ninja roots. The boy, you see, is all about playing video games (on his giant Sega Game Gear) & not about flipping or killing. Can you imagine?!? So the young kid comes to stay on our hero's house-boat. Man, government jobs really don't pay that much. He gets hit on by a woman, although it takes him a while to figure it out. Are you really surprised by this? Ever the romantic, he has a private dinner with her...and the kid. The thing turns worse as the woman is kidnapped by ninjas before desert! Way to be a mood-killer. If you think that there is any reality in the film, it vanishes the second that our hero fights a series of ninjas as he walks down the docks. One chase scene later, both our hero and the kid end up on a plane headed for Venezuela. This can't end well.
So what is the evil villain's plot? Basically, he has some weird bio-weapon that he is making for some evil general. This series really makes you distrust military men, doesn't it? The problem is that the thing is not finished and the kidnapped scientist he got refuses to finish it. Want to guess who the girl is? That's right- his daughter! Our duo ends up getting split up and wandering around the city. Eventually, they rejoin and the kid gets a talking-to about how 'life is not a game.' Within five minutes of this scene, Bradley is fighting off a group of purple clad ninjas. Mixed messages, much? Incidentally, the kid in this movie is an actual martial artist (Lee Reyes) who does all of his own stunt work. Of course, his character has all the depth of a thimble. All of this amounts to a series of ninja fights that culminates in a battle at the enemy's base. Just to really drive the point home, the villain ties up an old man, a kid, the daughter and a puppy in a room that will fill with gas. Was that last one necessary, movie?!? The lead ninja villain is pretty damn ridiculous and all of the stunt choreography is as cliched as you would expect. They escape and go home, leading to Pat Morita's only other scene. Thanks for your three minutes, Miyagi. The whole thing ends with Bradley getting the girl and the kid doing a 'ninja vanish.' Hurray? The End.
This movie is really not good. There is nothing all that really bad about- it's just not good. The plot is basic and the acting is...well, what you expect. They sort of tease you with the idea that Pat Morita is going to be a main character and then just pull it away from you! Mind you, Pat was also in Bloosport II and III, so he did not always do 'good' movies. The problem with the movie relates to both it stars and its tone. The series tries to incorporate more kid-friendly aspects to it, such as ninjas being knocked out rather than killed. Bradley cannot carry a scene based on his personality and nobody else really has anything to work with. It is not the worst ninja film out there (those all have Godfrey Ho's name on them), but it is just supremely-underwhelming. I just miss Dudikoff even more. Come back to us! We'll be nice this time, I swear!
Next up, I begin the new year with a film about scanners, cops and melting bodies. That could only be one film...since I did Scanner Cop already. Stay tuned...

Mondo Trivia: Brotherhood of the Wolf

*The art design for 2009's 'Fable II' is said to be based on the look of this French film.

Don't you feel silly for thinking that video game designers do nothing but sit around and play games? They also watch obscure, French werewolf films too!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Quintology III: American Ninja 4

*I apologize for this being up late. I was just not up to finishing this last night. I felt like I was being scanned the whole time*

So what's new this time? Given the past history of the series, you know that something would be different. This time, we get to keep David Bradley (damn!), but we lose Steve James. While he is not the lead of the series, I have to question the idea of doing a film without him. The producers did not think that way, however, and pushed on. The big get of the series has always been the ninja action, so they figured that they could get by. However, there is some hope here- Michael Dudikoff is back. Depending on which story you believe, he came back because the shooting location was changed from South Africa...or he just needed the money. But wait, you're saying to yourself, this is American Ninja not American NINJAS! How will the producers work this out? Well, find out for yourself in my review of...
The film begins by reintroducing us to our hero from the last film- Sean, Davidson. When will you guys makes up your minds?!? Anyhow, he is now a CIA Agent, since most people who kicked Marjoe Gortner's ass in the 1980s got promotions. It was like a rite of passage to beat up that Brillo-haired man. As it turns out, there is a grave- and somewhat illogical- situation going on that he must attend to. Okay, try to keep up with me here. An evil British General (character actor James Booth) has teamed up with the evil Sheik Maksood to destroy New York City. This is back in 1990, mind you, when you could still do these stories without being eerie, not that terrorism was ever 'cool.' Anyhow, to help carry out their plans, they are also training an army of NINJAS! Okay, I'll be the one to ask this- why? Are you planning on red-suited ninjas flipping into the New York City subway system to drop off the bomb? Is the ability to vanish in a puff of smoke part of your master plan? So yeah, these guys must be stopped Davidson-Cunningham. Good thing he has some help in the form of a nurse. It's time to kick ass and...oh, they got captured. Never mind.
So yeah, the producer's solution to having two leads was to have one of them get capture less than halfway into the movie. Interesting choice, guys. Desperate, the military calls in Joe, who has apparently retired from the army in the mere three years since the last film he was in. The play up the 'I quit and will never come back' angle from Rambo III (which came out first), but that ends when Joe is told about the evil ninja behind it all. Back in the bad guy's camp, the movie amps up the 'evil quotient' by having the British man attempt to rape our heroine and revealing that he killed her father. Okay, movie, we get it! Packing up his silliest ninja outfits, Joe goes to save the day. With the help of some rebels, the tide begins to turn. By the way, if you ever wanted to see what someone who is only doing a movie under protest looks like, check out Dudikoff here. He is more 'zombie' than man here, even managing to look bored while fighting ninjas! In the end, everyone gets something to do. Joe beats up the Ninja leader (of course), Sean kills the Brit and even Sean's partner- who is so forgettable that I'm only mentioning him now- gets to blow up the Sheik's helicopter. Everyone who is evil in this country is now dead. The End.
Yeah, this movie has some real problems. Having two leads is something that most movies can handle. For example, Crimson Rivers has Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel. They investigate their two cases for the first forty minutes or so before meeting up and realizing that their cases are related. Instead, our movie has to make one of them look bad and have the original hero of the series come back to save everyone. It's not even really balanced out all that much, since the ninja villain (and most of the ninjas themselves) are dispatched by Dudikoff. It's like 'here- you can have what I don't feel like killing.' The pacing of the movie is also made odder by this choice, since it builds up an area, has Bradley fight and then has to stop to reintroduce Dudikoff. Have you heard of momentum, guys? On the plus side, the movie does have Dudikoff catch an arrow with his teeth, which is as funny and ridiculous as it sounds. I still recommend staying with the first two films, although this movie does have some fun parts at the end. Overall though, it is actually weaker than most of the series because of having two leads.
Up next, I conclude the Quintology with a film that dares to ignore every other film in the series. Hey guys, you know this is actually the FIFTH film, right? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mondo Anniversaries: 10 Years!

You never quite realize how long ago some films are until you really look at them. Case in point: today's films.

Star Wars- Episode 1: Ah, the movie that made the whole franchise look simultaneously great and terrible by comparison. Has it really been 10 years since Jar Jar Binks burned his visage onto the celluloid? Has it been 10 years since Jake Lloyd underwhelmed millions? Quite frankly, it has not been long enough!

The Matrix: It is hard to place another film that has so quickly placed two directors/writers on the map so quickly. In addition, it made Keanu Reeves viable again after numerous flops like Johnny Mnemonic. Mind you, most of the ideas were lifted from other sci-fi films (and would later be lifted themselves) and Eastern religion. Even so, this movie is bad-ass and should make no apologies for it. I should also mention that I actually like the sequels, although the MMORPG based on it was a bad idea. Really, guys?

The Blair Witch Project: Yeah, I didn't like this movie then and I don't like it now. I get the appeal of the 'lost footage' angle and seeing a movie that is purported to be real. Of course, this is a blatant rip-off of many other films, including The Last Broadcast (the most recent one to it at the time). In spite of that, I will give them credit for making a hit. How have the follow-ups gone, by the way? Just one bad sequel and a movie nobody saw in 2008? Oh, I see.

Deep Blue Sea: Ah yes, the movie whose greatest moment inspired a whole segment on my page. What's not to love about this movie? Giant sharks- check. Silly characters who take everything seriously- check. LL Cool J with a parrot- big check! This movie still holds up pretty well to this day, even if its CG is a bit dated at times. If you have not seen it, shame on you. Go watch Samuel L. Jackson get eaten already!

The Sixth Sense: This would be another film that put a filmmaker on the map so quickly. The whole movie is built around the twist, although it is mostly a human drama throughout. There is a certain appeal to watching it a second time and seeing if the twist holds up, which it mostly does. A couple of moments are framed in a certain way that doesn't fit, but it's not a deal-breaker. Unlike the guys from Blair Witch, he managed to follow-up on his film well...for a while. Now he's making the live-action version of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Oh well.

Some special shout-outs go to the other films, which include: Payback, Stir of Echoes, The Iron Giant, Godzilla 2000 (in Japan), Dogma, Galaxy Quest, Election, 8mm, The Thirteenth Warrior, Sleepy Hollow, The Muse, American Beauty, Three Kings, Mystery Men, Wild Wild West, The Mummy, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.

Secondly, a nod to some of the especially awful films put out in 1999 like Wing Commander, Inspector Gadget (live-action), EdTV, Forces of Nature, The Haunting, K-911, The Rage: Carrie 2, House on Haunted Hill and Universal Soldier: The Return.

Finally, just for Carl, this year was also the 10th Anniversary of Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.

This segment will return sometime in 2010 to celebrate those anniversaries as well. Stay tuned...

Quintology III: American Ninja 3

Do you want to know how to take the winds out of a movie franchise's sails? How about you drop your lead actor and try to replace him after two movies? That would work. Actually, there are conflicting and varied reports on why Dudikoff bailed on this movie. One says that he did not want to be type-cast, which doesn't really hold up (you'll see why). The more logical one, however, is the fact that all of the Ninja films were made in South Africa during a time where it was not exactly popular to do so. Supposedly, he feared the backlash for doing another film there and said 'no.' Regardless of that, we still have Steve James...dammit. On top of that, we have an interesting actor playing the lead villain, even if his barely-there career was on the down-swing. Before I scare any more of you of, I will bring you...
The film begins by introducing us to our new hero: Sean Cunningham. Make note of his name for later. Anyhow, this guy is a shorter man with black hair, but still possesses the dead eyes and vacant expression required to be an American Ninja. He is joined by Steve James' character, who is known as the Master of Swords. I'm sorry, but did he ever even pick up a sword in the first two movies? No, I didn't think so. Anyhow, both of them are in town for a karate tournament. Gee, I hope ninjas don't get involved in this. Meanwhile, an evil man is making plans to do some, well, evil. That man: Marjoe Gortner! Well, the movie does have one thing going for it. Does this karate tournament really add anything to the plot? No, not really. It does, however, give us a magazine cover touting our star's prowess in the circuit. However, his name is listed as Sean Davidson! Well, at least this shot is not in the trailer. Oh crap, it is!
How does this plot involve ninjas, you ask? Well, up and fight our heroes. Actually, they are the minions of the evil Marjoe Gortner, who is known as The Cobra. Hmm, a villain from the 1980s and his name is Cobra. Gee, I wonder what their inspiration was?!? Anyhow, he is experimenting on people as well and trying to make some weird formula. If you are getting a feeling of deja vu here, it's not just you. Anyhow, we get a bunch of scenes with our heroes fighting ninjas that don't really add anything. On the plus side, they are that they are so hideously stupid and funny. One of my favorite moments comes from when our hero catches two arrows, does a tumble and stabs the offending ninjas with their arrows. However, his poor friend gets shot to death while he shows off. Poor Bastards of Cinema, anyone? Incidentally, all you fans of the great SNL skit where ninjas plan out their attacks better, the ending footage is from this movie! I feel smarter for knowing that, don't you? Oh yeah, the bad guy infects our hero with a virus too. I should probably have mentioned that, shouldn't I?
The rest of the movie is a whole bunch of silliness, even in comparison to the rest of the film. Sean gets captured by the enemies, as does a female ninja/love interest of sorts. Steve James' character shows up with, I guess, the Phillipines' National Guard to kill some soldiers. You get the usual stuff- people flipping from explosions, people fall over with squibs all over them, etc. Bradley has a long, silly fight with some ninjas after they do a 'show of their skills' bit. He wins, in spite of the lead ninja's bright red outfit. If I wanted colorful ninjas, I would watch a Godfrey Ho film...and then kill myself. Anyhow, he battles some more ninjas who simply appear after the lights flash out for a second. It has to be seen to be believed...which it can be done here. I would be remiss without mentioning the whole plot thread with the female ninja whose masks fool everyone...until the movie decides that she has to be caught. Score one for lazy writing! The best moments are still Steve James' fight scenes, especially the ones where you can see the stuntmen pause to wait for his next move. The villain dies and the day is saved...for now. The End.
This movie is good...for what it is. The story is bare-bones and mostly just an excuse to string together action scenes. As deadpan as Dudikoff was, Bradley has him beat! In fact, I would almost say that Gary Daniels has more personality than he does! Marjoe and Steve are the only two who really muster up enough personality to keep the movie going. You aren't here for characters though, are you? You are here to watch ridiculous action scenes involving ninjas and muscular men. In that regard, this movie delivers in spades. In pretty much every other regards, it is inferior to the previous films. If you go in expecting much, you will be disappointed. If you enjoy disappointment, follow me on the short journey through parts 4 and 5 of the series.
Next up, just that thing I said. Now without Steve James...for some reason. Whose idea was that again? Stay tuned...

Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: Snakehead Terror

Very rarely do Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) films really impress. More often than not, the reaction is 'Eh, that could have been worse.' Of course, try telling that to the Japanese, who made this poster for a 2005 film...Damn! I want to see that movie! I can't wait to see how cool this movie really is.
*2 Hours Later*

Dammit! It was just a movie about killer fish. You got me again, Japan!

Up next, a trio of posters about a Satanic classic. Somehow, they got it completely wrong! Stay tuned...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Poor Bastards of Cinema: Future War

I have to give a shout-out to MST3K for getting me this one as there is no way that I would watch that movie on its own merits.

The plot of this movie- quite frankly- is stupid. Our hero (Daniel Bernhardt) is from an alien race of people that look human (how convenient!), but are enslaved by an evil master race. When slaves run away, they send cybernetic trackers with dinosaurs in tow! This leads to our TWO moments today.

*First, our hero flees down an alley and past a homeless man. Faster than you can say 'piling it on,' one of the dinosaurs crosses his path and kills him. Damn, he didn't even do anything!

*A mere minute later, our hero runs onto a shipping dock full of workers. One man turns the corner, but is greeted by one of the cyborg trackers and promptly has his neck broken. Why?!? Did he look like the guy you were after? Are you afraid of witnesses on a planet that you don't even occupy? Did his shirt offend you?

Next on the chopping block, a man who learns that there is no dignity in death. On top of that, his death serves only a minor purpose. Stay tuned...

Quintology III: American Ninja 1 & 2

Since Sunday proved to be a busy day for me and my main review did not get done, you get a DOUBLE FEATURE. You're welcome.

These films were the brainchild of Golan and Globus, two people that really defined action movies for the 1980s. If you are not familiar with the name, they are the guys who brought Chuck Norris into the mainstream with Good Guys Wear Black, Firewalker and other films that nobody remembers. They are also the company responsible for such classic comic book/cartoon films such as Masters of the Universe, Captain America (not the TV ones) and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. But I'm not here to talk about those movies...yet. Instead, I am going to talk about a series that defined the 1980s video market- the American Ninja series! This film series that originally-starred Michael Dudikoff was almost called American Warrior. Good change, guys. Well, let's just dive right into...
The film is all about our man Joe (Dudikoff). He is a soldier, but he does not exactly have the 'go get 'em' attitude that you would think. Basically, he enlists because his choice was either that or prison. If any of you have seen Life, you know that he made the right call! His skill-set comes into play when his platoon is attacked by soldiers as they guard a weapon's cache. Oh and just for fun, the general's daughter is with them. All goes well until NINJAS show up. I should mention that this movie is set in the Phillipines, shouldn't I? He saves the girl and we get the usual 'hero has a romance with the film's lone woman' plot point. When he returns to the base, he is not given a hero's welcome. They call him 'a coward' and want to punish him, even though he did save the general's daughter. As John Travolta can tell you, that is not easy! Oh and the master of the ninja's vows revenge. The title line does take place, but feels really forced and made solely for trailer's. Should I be surprised?
Around this time, we are introduced to one of the coolest guys ever to be put on film (and he knew it): Steve James. Before his death of pancreatic cancer (it strikes again!) in 1993, he put on some of the most awesome movie performances ever, even if Uta Hagen would tear them apart. He plays another soldier who is bested by Joe at a martial arts contest, in spite of Joe having a bucket on his head. They become friends and join forces to battle the evil businessman who is selling weapons to terrorists and the evil ninja clan. A lot of action ensues and we learn some back-story on Joe. Basically, his parents were killed and he was raised by a good ninja. An explosion separated them and gave our hero amnesia (of course!), but his training stuck with him. Blah, blah, blah, ninjas die and the day is saved. There is a little more plot than this, but not enough to really merit attention. The End.
After being accused of cowardice two times, betraying orders and killing his officers, Joe- along with Steve James- is promoted to being an Army Ranger. Man, the military is screwed up! The film begins with our heroes being sent to a lovely island in the Phillipines to help out the Marines with a problem. Cliched lines about the Army being better than the Marines- big check! They meet up with a nice Marine who becomes their buddy/comedy relief. By the way, Joe's girlfriend from the first film plays no part in this movie- continuity be damned! Anyhow, the problem that they are having is that Marines are go missing while out on patrol. Of course, in spite of this, our heroes go to a beach. Given the movie you are watching, it should come as no surprise that they are attacked by NINJAS. Are these the same ones from before? No. Apparently, there is a serious ninja outbreak in the Phillipines! Back on the mainland, they run into a woman who knows all about the problem, but she runs into some trouble of her own. I smell a fight scene!
The evil plot involves a scientist who is kidnapping the Marines and turning them into super-soldiers. If you want to maintain a low-profile, maybe you should not kidnap military personnel! One of the corrupt Marines tries to talk, but does the stupidest thing in the world: stand by an open window as you turn on your evil boss! Yeah, he dies. The woman manages to be able to help them, since her father is one of the scientists that is forced to work for the evil crime lord, who is known as 'The Lion.' Since nobody believes their story (they have zero proof BTW), our heroes must go to the island themselves. This sets up a scene where our heroes fly a tiny plane and fill in some shots that are tailor-made for a trailer. The funny part too is that you never see them in the vehicle when it moves- you only hear their voices. Not surprisingly, our heroes kick tons of ass and save the day. That pretty much goes without saying, doesn't it?
These movies are great, mindless fun. The plots are silly ideas used solely to string together action scenes. As the series progresses, this becomes more and more true. The first film has a more layered plot, although the characterizations are about as complex as an Atari game. The second film is pretty much a cash-in and does not try to hide it. The pairing of James and Dudikoff worked really well, which makes it a shame that they only made three films together. As a side note, Dudikoff has not made a movie since 2002's Quicksand. Come back to us, you stoic bastard! Like I said in the review, I love Steve James' performances in every film, even when they are crap. The man chewed up more scenery than Orson Welles chewed up frozen green peas! If you go in expecting quality, you will be sorely disappointed. If you go in expecting some cheesy fun, you will have a blast.
Next up, we get the third film in the series. Unfortunately, something is missing from this movie. Fortunately, it is not Steve James. Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mondo Anniversaries: 20 Years!

I know that this is one will make a lot of us feel old, but, embrace it. Age ain't nothing but a number. Well, until you hit 50- then you're just plain old! Seriously though, here are the notable releases...

Batman: You had to know that I would include this, didn't you? As a kid, I loved this movie and I still do. Mind you, I have some problems with the execution in hindsight, but that is just part of growing up and becoming a jaded film critic. This movie is still great, even if some of the other films in the series are not so good. For the record, I think that The Dark Knight is a better movie.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Oh, how I wish this was true! Since an Indiana Jones film is apparently a requirement to show up on my lists, here is this one. This one is great and really embodies the spirit of adventure that the series tried to establish. It is a shame that they lost that for the fourth film, but maybe the fifth one will get it right. Yeah, they are doing one...apparently.

The Abyss: It's ironic to see this movie here as this was another James Cameron film that 'changed the way we saw movies.' It is a shame, however, that some of the special effects in the movie are overshadowed by his re-use of them later in Terminator 2. I don't have to tell you that this is a good film, so I won't.

Meet the Feebles: I really, really love this movie. It is bizarre, twisted and pure genius. Any film that is about puppets and includes an extensive Vietnam War flashback/Deer Hunter parody is a winner in my book. Unfortunately, it has taken us a long time to realize how great this movie is. If you have not seen this movie, do so now.

UHF: I love 'Weird Al' Yankovic and it is a pity that his movie did not do well. Of course, if you look at everything he was up against that year, it's no surprise. This movie satirizes so much of what made the 80s so strange, i.e. Donahue, kid's shows. It has a really strange and warped sense of humor, which is what makes it so great.

License to Kill: While not a great film, it is a notable one for history. It is the last of the Timothy Dalton films and the one that preceded Goldeneye, arguably one of the best ones of the series. After this film failed to connect, the series went on hiatus and fans feared that it would never return. Of course, everyone- save for Dalton- would say that things took a turn for the better.

I want to give a special shout-out to the other films, which include Teen Witch, Major League, Deepstar Six, Leviathan, Field of Dreams, Fletch Lives, Hard to Kill, Heathers, Look Who's Talking, Parenthood, Pet Sematary, Weekend at Bernie's, The Punisher, Cyborg, The Dream Team and When Harry Met Sally...

I also want to give an extra special shout-out to all of the sequels, which include Lethal Weapon 2, The Toxic Avenger: Part II, Star Trek 5, Sleepaway Camp III, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5, Prom Night III, Halloween 5, Friday the 13th: Part VIII, The Fly II, Police Academy 6, American Ninja III, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud, Karate Kid III and Godzilla vs. Biollante.

For the finale of the series, let's look at some of the movies celebrating their 10 year anniversaries. Ah, fresh ones. Stay tuned...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Blockbuster Trash: Kibakichi

I have a storied history with this movie and, as such, this review is a long time in the making. My friends and I originally rented this movie over three years ago, but, for reasons I cannot get into, I missed most of the movie. A month or so ago, I thought about this movie again, having seen it occassionally in video rental stores between then and now. Given this movie's premise, it is no wonder that I felt the urge to finally complete my viewing. Kibakichi is the story of a werewolf samurai (or, more accurately, a Ronin). Yes, this is a real movie and its actual plot. Of course, there is more to the story than that, which is why I am here for you. Incidentally, I should also mention that this film is by the same director who did Mikadroid: Robokill Beneath Disco Club Layla. In spite of that, I will give you my review of...

The film opens with a mysterious man wandering through a field, who is almost immediately set upon by bandits. Good to see that they are not wasting time jumping to cliches! Anyhow, you pretty much know how this is going to go, don't you? They attack and he kills them. The one thing that's different is that our hero has unexplained fangs. Massive over-bite or plot point- you decide! A bit later that night, he crosses a small bridge and is besieged by...some Power Rangers

villains? No, these are actually Yokai, which are mythical Japanese spirits who take on the form of Earthly objects. Of course, if you watch the dubbing, this is explained a bit differently. In fact, most reviews that I have seen list them as 'demons,' which explains which version of the film they watched (I watched it subtitled, in case you didn't get that). He knocks the odd turtle-mutants away, but another one says that he will not return from the town ahead. Mind you, he doesn't actually say this to our hero, but, rather to us. Is there no Fourth Wall in Japan?

He gets into town and discovers that it is full of lecherous weirdos. A group of them pester Kibakichi until he goes gambling with them. They partake in some odd game where you simply guess 'odd' or 'even' in regards to what a group of dice add up to be. A game with zero skill and a 50/50 shot of success- sign me up! One of them- a man with a giant eye-patch- loses after they change dealers and complains about it. He is taken to another room and dumped in, finding out quickly that it is full of man-eating skeletons. Okay, I get that they could tear your flesh, but why would they? They don't have stomachs or any other organs? After this, the town's evil-looking leader invites Kibakichi to join them, saying that he has no connection to the humans. You mind explaining that yet, movie? I have to wait, huh? The next day, another gambler experiences a rash of luck and a quick loss of it, causing him to throw a similar hissy fit. He is taken to a room with his 'entourage' and met by geishas. This is the kind of punishment I can live with! Unfortunately, they are actually spider-mutants (not that the film is lit enough to see much detail). Kibakichi busts in and they explain everything to him. Finally!

The town is home to the Yokai, who, as the opening narration explains, have not had a good relationship with humans. Our hero can relate, as a woman from his past shows up to kill him. His relationship soured when they tracked him back to his own town of Yokai and killed them. When others show up, she vanishes and never reappears. Sequel bait, perhaps? The village has made a deal with some humans to get a new town and establish some harmony between the two groups. Of course, the humans are bastards and only used the Yokai to kill some rich criminals. They get their hands on some semi-anachronistic machine guns and start mowing everyone down. No, not these random characters that I have almost no attachment to! The lead bad guys are dressed up like the Xilians from Godzilla: Final Wars, which is an odd choice given the 19th Century setting. Most of the people die- including the leader- but Kibachi slowly fights his way to the lead guys. He gets their before they kill the lone human- aka the cute girl- and turns into a werewolf. I hope that was worth waiting an hour and twenty minutes for. Lots of wire-work, blood and gore effects later, the day is saved...for the living & Kibachi walks off into the sunset. The End.
This movie is very odd, but feels merely passable. You can get away with using cliched conventions if you mix it up a bit. Case in point: Sukiyaki Western Django. This movie, however, uses all of the cliches, but only has some weird monster suits and a werewolf that feels like it was pulled out of The Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf. The fight scenes are good and the gore is there in some of the big scenes. Ultimately though, the movie falls flat. The pacing is not all that good in the middle and almost seems to be overcompensating at the end. It's like 'we're sorry for the middle- here are some exploding heads.' A movie like this lives or dies by its characters and the connections you form with them. As Rambo taught us, nobody cares when CG blurs die in a hail of gunfire. I did not form a connection with these characters and their bloody deaths were just effects to me, no matter what pathos they tried to attach. Who knows, maybe the sequel will be better.

Up next, I work my way through another Quintology. This time, I cover a series that started off well and ended with a dud...ikoff. Stay tuned...

Syndicated Incorporated: Conan

Conan has been done in several forms, be it books, movies, cartoons and even an MMORPG. Hell, the guy has been done in so many medias that he has been done by Ron Perlman, which is sort of like a rite of passage for many characters. In this case, however, I am talking about the live-action series done about him in 1997.

The show has a pretty basic premise and stays close to the books/movies' themes. Conan is a man who wants to be king, battles an evil wizard (a different one though) and has to regain his kingdom. There are some differences though.

For example, Conan is not a complete dick. However, his niceties are thrown off by his near-incomprehensible accent! He has a group of warriors that fight with him, although none of them are from the books. Also, as you can see, he has a midget with him.

The show never strayed far from the norm and did not do much to distinguish itself from its obvious inspirations: Hercules- The Legendary Journeys and Xena- Warrior Princess. In fact, it only ran one season (or 22 episodes), which was the same fate as Young Hercules (a future entry)- although that show made 51 of them.

If you like fantasy stories and syndicated-style action, it's worth a look. It's not the best show that you will see, but it gets the job done. Besides, it has Michael Berryman dressed as a wizard in its finale. What more can you ask for?

Up next, William Shatner turns his books into action-show fare. How does that turn out? Stay tuned...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: Gremlins

The planned update will have to wait until another day, because this one just seems more fitting.

Thank you for this misinterpretation of the film, Poland. I was not aware of any pop-up monsters in the movie. Of course, given how the 1980s were, I would not be surprised if there was a movie about that.

Next up, a Sci-Fi Channel film gets a makeover from Japan. Yes, it will really happen this time. Stay tuned...

Yuletide Crap: Feeders 2- Slay Bells

I really regret having seen this movie- as my friends can attest- and I want to save you the trouble. You could just stop here, but you would not realize why I hate it so much. As I stated in my original review from a couple of years ago, the movie is chock full of comedic potential. However, the filmmakers 'smothered their potential like a bag full of kittens.' A harsh metaphor, but very fitting one for this movie. The film is the brain-child of low-budget horror auteurs Mark and John Polonia, the latter of whom died in 2008. Even so, I will still not hesitate to stick it to them, especially considering that both of them also act in the movie. To give you a proper perspective, their films include The House That Screamed, Night Crawlers and Peter Rottentail. Yeah, this is going to hurt. This is the cinematic travesty of...
The movie begins, for some reason, in black and white. This is not a promising start for a movie made in 1998! The man is being interrogated by an unseen person and explaining that the aliens came and killed everyone. For no clear reason, we cut to color footage of an alien spaceship...or rather a crappy CG model of one. It makes a bunch of lights flash and some tiny aliens end up in the basement of the house. These are the worst aliens you will ever see in your entire life. The sad thing is this: they are the funniest part of the movie. These things are so hilariously-bad that you will wish they were the whole movie. Sadly, you have to watch Actium Maximus for that kind of film. Instead, the movie focuses on a family of people who have zero personality or charisma. The father is played by John Polonia, whose acting makes me wish I had died of a sudden heart aneurysm and not him! The wife is played a family friend, since she also appears in the original Feeders. How do I know this? Because the movie shows us her scenes, including the one where she dies, in the flashback parts! This hurts.
For all you who mock Silent Night, Deadly Night 2's use of stock footage for padding really need to see this movie (plus The Human Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy) for some perspective. At what seems like random, we get black and white flashbacks to the first film, as told by the man who 'survived it.' I should also mention that the original film ends with the Earth being blown up a la Save the Green Planet. This is both jarring and annoying. Case in point: a flashback showing the film's other protagonist, who is played by John Polonia. They never bother to address why he is a different person here or why he too dies! Unfortunately, the film also sticks to its real plot involving the man going to work, becoming interested in UFOs and being yelled at by his boss. These scenes really drag the film down...even lower than it already is by being immensely stupid and boring. There is a level of bad acting that is funny, but this film shoulder checks its way past that marker and just causes pain. In summary, Ed Wood acting = funny, Polonia Brothers acting = utter shit. By the way, the aliens show up and kill some random people in a warehouse. No, it adds nothing.
At this point, you are asking yourself why I ever rented this at all. Allow me to explain: Santa fights aliens with a laser gun. That premise alone is enough to lure most people to this film, where they will meet their untimely death. The siren's song of silliness here is ruined in execution by the movie. In short, you have to wait until the end for any of the good stuff. Santa's tiny model sleigh- complete with strings- is shot down by the aliens, they feel like it. He gets to the family home for safety and must battle the creatures. If you thought that the monster attacks in Attack of the Killer Shrews was bad, wait until you see people having puppets thrown at them in this movie. Fortunately, Santa has an answer for the tiny aliens and their annoying sound effects: a laser gun. He blasts them with his gun via some of the worst special effects ever and chases them off. For the grand finale, he teleports a present up to their ship and blows them up. Ho ho holy crap, this had better be the end. Thank God- The End.
I have regretted many rentals in my life (Sex Medusa, Blood Freak, etc), but none as much as this. It is one of the worst films ever made for every reason you can think of. Bad production values- check. Bad script- check. Acting so bad that it blemishes the word- big check! On top of that, it does not have the decency of at least being funny. Many of these movies at least have their moments. Hell, even Blood Freak managed to do the bit where the man's leg gets cut off, but the table is covered in blood before it happens! In terms of painfulness, this movie is on par with One Million AC/DC, although without any drug-addicts humping in it. The actual story of the film is bad enough, but they felt the need to splice in the first movie as filler. If I wanted to watch Feeders, I would...why they would I want to do that again? Rent anything else but this movie and have a Merry Christmas!
Up next, I celebrate the post-Holiday time in the way that everyone does- with a Japanese film about a werewolf. I'm not weird, am I? Stay tuned...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Yuletide Brit: Don't Open Till Christmas

I'm breaking the first rule of the movie by reviewing it today, but I don't care! Second, I must admit my love for Edmund Purdom- as an actor, mind you. I don't know what it is about him, but he has that odd intangible factor about him. In many ways, he has this swagger about him in all of his movies, even if they are crap like Lucifera: Demon Lover (a surefire review for 2010). In a way, he reminds me of someone like a John Steiner (Yor, Sinbad of the Seven Seas), who has a fun time making stupid films. Now, as a director, Purdom certainly has his faults. As The Cinema Snob can tell you in better detail, the shooting had some serious problems. The important thing is that a movie got made, for better or for worse. This is...
The movie begins with a naughty Santa doing some snogging in his motor with a bird. The pair don't take a-kindly to some first-person interference, but their tone takes a turn for the worse when both of them get stabbed. By the way, in case you are wondering, I'm not drunk- the movie is just British. Escaping my British expressions, the movie cuts from this bit of murder to a fancy party at disco. I should mention that this movie was released in 1985, by the way. There is a whole exchange with a man getting made up as Santa for the party and talking about how he looks like 'a queen' with all the make-up. Thanks for going there, movie- you stay classy. The movie attempts to make up for this by having the man speared through the throat by another P.O.V. killer. Damn those evil cameramen! The film cuts to Scotland, New Scotland Yard, where the police are discussing the rash of Santa killings. It doesn't pay to wear red and fur, it seems.
It seems that the police want to look into the two people who were there at the party with the man. He was the father of the girl, so they naturally look into her, but find nothing. Enough plot- more killings! This time, a man is stabbed by someone in a mask right out of Alice, Sweet Alice and falls on a roasting bin. For no apparent reason, his body sets on fire in a matter of seconds. I love logic, don't you? Around this time, a package is delivered to a rich guy's house and marked as 'Don't Open Till Christmas.' Ha, I got the title line in! We get another murder scene involving a man being shot with a gun, but it's so short and random that it is not worth mentioning...more than what I just did. Incidentally, these were all added in post-production without Purdom's consent, which is really obvious. It's real plot time and it involves the girl with the dead father, her boyfriend and a photographer. Things get awkward when he does a photo shoot and wants her to dress in a sexy Santa get-up. Too soon! Fortunately, the film had the decency to write him out of the movie
The whole thing gets trickier as we see a mysterious man make some threatening phone calls. Gee, I wonder if he is the killer? Another creepy Santa goes to a strip show and watches a woman from behind a glass door. While he's doing so, the masked killer cuts his throat and tries to get to the woman. She runs away and seems to be safe- sure, she is. Oh look, she got captured- big surprise. The choppy editing of the film makes the later parts a bit confusing as Purdom's character investigates and is then 'taken off the case.' This is told to us by one man on the phone, which is about as lazy as you can get. During all of this, we get another random Santa killing and a cameo by Caroline Munro (of Starcrash fame) as a disco singer. When did she date Prince? Skipping a bit, the stripper makes a break for it and knocks down the killer, but does the 'I'll slowly approach the body to make sure that it is dead' thing. Yeah, she dies. Oh and a Santa gets his 'member' cut off- thanks, movie. Speaking of bleak and sudden, the movie ends with Purdom opening the present from earlier, which is a bomb. The End.
This movie is good, but further review does not treat it too well. I watched this movie last Christmas and was fairly-entertained by it. Looking at it now, it definitely has some problems. On the up-side, the movie features a good flip on the killer Santa idea. Of course, that is all just in theory. In reality, it is simply substituting half-naked girls for men in Santa get-ups. As history documents, the production of the film was rough and involved two different directors after an incident with Purdom. This actually makes the odd continuity issues and Purdom's vanishing act mid-film all the more logical. Mind you, an explanation does not really make it better. It's sort of like knowing the story behind Zombi 3 and realizing that it is still not, you know, good. Given the obscurity of the film and the story involved, it is worth a look. It is just not going to replace Black Christmas.
Up next, I bring you yuletide cheer in the form of a low-budget horror film. I sure hope you like stock footage! Stay tuned...

Mondo Anniversaries: 25 Years!

This one will really tug at the heart-strings of all you '80s movie buffs, so let me get right down to it.

Red Dawn: Obviously a sadder induction than expected with Patrick Swayze's death this year, but it does not detract from the film's appeal. Nostalgia makes us forget that this movie is over two hours long, features a dozen characters & is a tad melodramatic. Also, despite being about the common man winning the fight, they cannot succeed until a soldier joins their fight. Even so...WOLVERINES!

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: This cult classic has been diagrammed by every weirdo with an internet connection (my brothers!), so a plot summary is unnecessary. What is interesting to note about the film, however, is how it teased a sequel in its closing credits. This is really more of a joke about the film's serial nature, but good luck explaining that to any twenty-something watching it for the first time!

Beverly Hills Cop: The film that put Eddie Murphy on the map was nearly a Stallone vehicle. No, really. The original draft was a straight-action film starring the iconic actor, but he dropped out to do Cobra. What we ended up was a fun, sarcastic movie that proved that some films only work once, not three times!

Police Academy: Speaking of not working three times, how about a film that popped out seven sequels, a live-action series and a cartoon show. The original film is a good example of how you put together all of the cliches for an 80s comedy. It also made a star of Steve Gutenberg, although that did not stick.

This is Spinal Tap!: The film that every rock band- and most people that play Rock Band- love is celebrating an anniversary this year! This set-up the prototype for a series of films by Christopher Guest that would make people laugh for many years and still do. It dared to turn up the awkwardness level to 11!

Top Secret: If you have not seen this gem of the Zuckers' film catalog, you owe it to yourself to do so! In a rare comedic role, Val Kilmer plays an avatar of Elvis Presley's movie character that entertained people for 20 years. The whole film is a combination of both an Elvis parody (see the songs and swagger) and a WWII spy film parody! I defy you to find another film like that, let alone one that features Peter Cushing with a giant eyeball. Seriously, watch this movie!

Sheena: Lastly, a film that is most notable for reminding us of how hot one woman can be. Tanya Roberts is so hot in this movie that you can almost forget that the zebras are merely painted horses. The really not all that important. You get a topless scene with Tanya Roberts- do I really need to sell you on this?

I also have to give a shout-out to all of the other big movies from 1984, including Purple Rain, Starman, Sixteen Candles, The Terminator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Romancing the Stone, Night of the Comet, Repo Man, The Last Starfighter, Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, C.H.U.D., Bachelor Party, Firestarter and Silent Night, Deadly Night.

Why couldn't I have been cognizant of films then? Dammit!

Up next, a look at the films of 1989. Can it get close to matching this?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yuletide Toons: He-Man/She-Ra Christmas

I loved He-Man as a kid and I still do. That said, I somehow missed this thing. Maybe I had better things to do on Christmas like play Atari or go outside. Regardless, this thing is 100% real and is currently sitting on my DVD rack. The popularity of this thing has increased on the video market and the producers actually packed a ton of crap onto this. Aside from a special packaging and audio commentary, they also produced two collectible cards to go with. Unlike The Star Wars Holiday Special, the people behind it are actually proud of it! Should they be? Let's find out in my special review of...
Our story begins with the gang from both He-Man & The Masters of the Universe and She-Ra getting together for the holidays. Not our holiday, mind you, since this is another planet. The fact that this is another planet rarely came up in the show, but it does here. It is at this time that you get to meet all the bizarre and random characters from both show. This scene also makes the demographic differences between the two shows all the more clear. She-Ra's cast is full of rainbow-bright characters (most of them literally so), while He-Man's is full of big, burly men. The fact that one of the few guys on She-Ra's show plays the lute should say it all! The Queen talks about celebrating Christmas on Earth, which is another plot point that rarely pops up. At the same time, Man-at-Arms and Prince Adam are working on a device to launch a spy satellite. What is this, Blackwater? To cut a long story short, Orko accidentally sets off the rocket. and is launched into space. Hurray- he's gone!
At this point, I have to address one of the oddest plot points of all time. Man-at-Arms explains that he has a device that can teleport Orko back, but it is powered by a crystal that does not exist on Eternia! A couple things: how did you make it around such an object? Why would you make it based on that object? Plus, how do you know about this object- let alone if it powers your device- if it does not exist on your planet? Once I de-Scanner-ed my head, I learned that this twas just a flimsy pretense to have some of the special take place on She-Ra's world. She flies around, battles a sea monster & comes back. Meanwhile, the limb-less wizard ends up another planet: Earth! He saves some children from a snowfall and they immediately befriend him. It truly is a mark of the 1980s that children can just embrace creepy, floating guys who appear out of nowhere. After telling Orko about Christmas, they get teleported back to Eternia. Um, guys, you just kidnapped those kids...
The remainder of our plot involves Horde Prime, who is apparently a major She-Ra villain. That would explain why I have never heard of him until this movie. He sends both Skeletor and Hordak (basically, her Skeletor) to capture the children because it fears the spirit of Christmas. I am not making that plot point up, by the way. The whole thing gets a bit silly as the children- with Orko in tow- go from being captured, to being saved & back to being captured by different forces. Hordak nearly has them at one point, while Skeletor does at another. Along the way, He-Man and company battle some stock robot villains that feel lifted right out of another '80s cartoon- you know the one. We are also introduced to some silly robot creatures called Manchines, which are obvious attempts at toys. The part most people remember about this special is the bit where Skeletor leads the kids on a march through the snow towards Horde Prime. He somehow gets turned nice by their cuteness and that of a Manchine puppy and saves them. Completely out-of-character moment that never resurfaces- this truly is a Christmas special.
Yeah, this one is really weird. The whole story is just, well, odd. They take the idea of spreading Christmas to new cultures (see The Nightmare Before Christmas), the idea of children in peril and spaceships & cram them into one story. The thing has so many characters that just appear and don't get to do anything. Between the two shows, you have at least two dozen characters, but the producers decided to introduce a ton more! If you wanted to see the show's casts interact in any major way, forget it. What we get is an odd morality play, some typical Saturday morning fare and fun bits of rotoscope animation. He-Man and She-Ra do get a good amount of screen time, so it does not disappoint. Of course, the movie also features some horrendous songs that make Frosty the Snowman look like Rambo! This odd piece of nostalgia is worth a look if you are both brave and curious, just set your expectations at the proper level.
Incidentally, if you want to see clips from this, check out the Nostalgia Critic's review of it. He beat me to it, sadly.
Next up, I return to Christmas horror with a film that flips the idea around. Of course, it is directed by Edmund Purdom, so I don't know what to think. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Forgotten Sequels: Silent Night, Deadly Night 3

I'll admit that the movie is somewhat well-known in the internet movie community, especially with the new DVD release. Let's be honest though: we're a bunch of weirdos. How many normal people find a movie like Ghoulies IV or Eko Eko Azarack II and go 'I need to see this right now?' Self-analysis aside, this movie is notable for being a sequel to an iconic Christmas horror film, but ignoring most of what made it work. Mind you, it is better than just literally playing clips from the first film for at least a third of it and killing someone with a car battery. Of course, that film featured a lead that looked related to the original killer and this one has Bill Moseley. He does a decent job, but the whole idea of him being there is just odd. The plot is not exactly Christmas-related and they miss one of the key things necessary for this to work as a Christmas horror film. Before I say too much, let's jingle our way into...
The film begins with a woman running around a white room. In fairness, she is at least not running around a junkyard. However, like Psycho Santa, the movie takes its sweet time explaining any of this. She runs into another room and finds a comatose man on a hospital bed who looks like Cesare from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. In some quick-fire editing, he is up and covered in blood. She runs at full-tilt, but he seems to be casually-shambling and keeping up with her- a cliche that's deconstructed by Behind The Mask. A minute or so later, she wakes up on a hospital bed covered in leads. As we are explained via exposition, a scientist has been doing scientific tests on people with psychic powers. I should also note that the young woman is blind, which makes me question how she can see anything with her mind. Ignoring the non-science related to this, how does she have any concept of what anything looks like?!? She goes 'into the rabbit hole' again and runs into a flashback from Silent Night, Deadly Night. This is happening because she tapped into the comatose man's mind, who is apparently Ricky from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2. He was a baby when this part happened! There's no way he remembers any of that!
Things get odder as our heroine runs into a rude hospital receptionist. Geez, it's a good thing that she wasn't dying or anything, lady! Our heroine has a flash of the woman with her throat cut...somehow, despite never really seeing the lady the first time! Her brother- who seems like he walked right out of Hard Rock Nightmare- takes her in his truck and they deliver more exposition. They are going to their grandmother's house for Christmas and he is bringing his girlfriend. I would complain about this bit of logic, but she is played by Laura Harring, so go right ahead. Meanwhile, anorexic Ricky wakes up from his coma to go find the young woman, since she 'touched his mind.' Yes, they really do say that. In one of the biggest disappointments of the film, he kills a man dressed as Santa, but does not take the outfit! Instead, he just wanders around in his hospital gown with his exposed skull. He gets picked up by a man and somehow gets to grandma's house before our leads! Even after stopping to kill a gas station attendant for no reason he is ahead of them! A bit later, our heroes show up and only our blind heroine thinks that something is up. The brother has more important plans: taking a bath with Laura Harring.
Finally, after some filler, the killer decides to make his presence known. Before that, we get numerous scenes with the lead detective (played by a character actor that the VHS box promotes the hell out of) and the doctor driving around. This is so disconnected that it almost feels like a parallel film. When they finally show up, only the doctor is there- huh?!? He gets killed and the brother gets stabbed, leading our two heroines to run inside. In fitting with movie tradition, the blind woman is the brave one and the normal girl is scared shit-less. The latter goes to check for the killer, but gets pulled under a bed. So, he was hiding under there? For a 6-foot tall man with an exposed brain, he is freaking Solid Snake when it comes to stealth! To cut a long story short,- kind of- the killer confronts our heroine in the basement. Yes, we do get the cheap fake-out scare when she discovers grandma's body. Our heroine knocks out the light, but walks right into Ricky, killing the whole point of that. Blah blah blah, they struggle, she gets outside and someone finally shoots Ricky dead- for real this time! The End.
This movie is not terrible, but it has some obvious flaws. First and foremost, the connection to the series is really stretched here. I get that it counts on the basis of this being Ricky, despite him not looking remotely-similar. However, he does not act like crazy, sporadic-killer Ricky from Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, nor does he dress up like Santa Claus or even say 'Punish.' I should reiterate this point from earlier: why doesn't he dress up like Santa Claus?!? For the only time in all three films, he has a legitimate reason to disguise his identity and doesn't! On top of that, this Ricky seems calculated and patient- the kind of guy who would use a disguise. I won't even get into the many medical issues with this film, the least of which is a man getting up and walking after being in a coma for six years! That said, there is some good atmosphere and some interesting ideas. I applaud them for only using one bit of stock footage from Silent Night, Deadly Night, although that is a back-handed compliment for sure! Honestly, it's better than you might think, but is questionably a Christmas horror film.
Just to cleanse our palettes, here is a Christmas special from the 1980s. It has children, robots and winged horses. Oddly enough, this was made for guys. Stay tuned...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Yuletide Crap: Santa Claws

It would be nice to stumble upon a few good holiday horror films that I have not seen before. Sure, the stand-by films like Black Christmas and Silent Night, Deadly Night are there, but you just want more! Lo and behold, a film that seems like it cannot fail shows up: Santa Claws. It looks like it will be tongue-in-cheek and is directed by John A. Russo. Unfortunately, the film turns out about as well as Russo's post-Night of the Living Dead career did. Go ahead- look it up. This movie has a lot of problems, most of them relating to budget, aimless directing and a confused story. I'll get into that in more detail with my review of...
The film begins with a kid wandering around his house, taking a gun and walking into his mother's room. She is in bed with a big, fat guy in a Santa's hat, who is apparently the kid's uncle. Before you can say that this is a mix of Psycho II and Hamlet, the kid shoots them both. Of course, we get some topless shots here to make things all R-Rated. In a deleted scene, the kid is arrested by two detectives, one of whom is played by John Russo. Hey, only Lucio Fulci is allowed to do that! In present day, he is a loner who lives next door to a semi-retired porn starlet. She is married to a porn director/photographer with whom she has two kids, although they are separated. He makes this abundantly-clear when he has torrid sex with a model after he does a shoot with her. As we learn, the crazy guy is obsessed with the woman (Debbie Rochon). He is so obsessed with he has dolls of her and even bought the all-black outfit that a killer wore in one of her horror movies. A porn star make horror films- what are the odds?!?
The man decides to do things: start killing people and befriend our heroine. This bring up one of my biggest problems with the movie: the crazy guy's motivation. He is somehow both 'The Killer Next Door' and 'The Detached Stalker.' You can't be both of them! First on his kill menu is a Producer at the company. The man puts up a fight, although his decision to go grab his gun rather than run away is a bad one. Our killer gets up after getting four shots pumped into his bullet-proof vest and kills the man, because his ribs would not be shattered by that. Next, he kills a model in her home, but only after she takes a shower for the audience. Yeah, that was necessary. I should mention that neither of these killings are done dressed as Santa. During this, the husband has another sex scene with the model. I mention that for later impact. Finally, our killer decides to dress up like Santa Claus and kill another model. Immediately following this, however, he spray paints the outfit. *sigh*
As the film gets closer to wrapping up, it takes an odd turn. After the second sex scene, the guy decides to go back to his wife...for some reason. At the studio, they meet up to try and catch the killer. They figure this out through a bit of logic that escapes me right now, which really speaks to how memorable this movie is. At the studio, they run into the killer who is...wearing the mask and gloves from the first outfit under a burgundy Santa Claus outfit. Was it too hard to just keep him in the outfit for more than one scene, Mr. Russo? He attacks the husband with his weapon of choice: a plastic rake head. I should mention that this was the same weapon that the killer apparently used in the movie. That's right- he is killing people with a movie prop! He stabs the husband, but get shot down by the wife. We get an oddly-happy ending with the family back together. All is forgiven, apparently. The End.
This movie sucks. It is not scary, not funny and not interesting. The whole thing is super low-budget, although they could at least afford working lights. The story has barely any momentum since it keeps stopping for modeling scenes and nudity. Nudity in a horror film is not terrible, but it is when the movie grinds to a complete halt to show it! Our killer is really dumb too & nothing could really redeem him. He has one mildly-good scene where he talks to a poster of our heroine, but it comes right after a scene where he talks to her in person! Why does he need all the posters when he can just use his window? As a Christmas horror film, it is barely-passable. The movie is set around Christmas, but you would lose nothing if you cut all the references to it. Don't think of this as a movie by the co-writer of Night of the Living Dead. Instead, think of it as a movie by the director of Midnight 2: Sex, Death and Videotape.
Up next, the weird middle child of the Silent Night, Deadly Night series. Is it worth the $2.50 I paid for it? Stay tuned...

A Rare Case: Terror in Beverly Hills

Today's feature involves a movie that I had to wait a long time to become available (I guess they only had a few copies). Was it worth the wait? Um, no. That point will become clear when you see this low-fi shot I got of the movie's title screen.

Yeah, this is the only one I've EVER had do that. Considering that I could not even feasibly count the number of DVDs that I have seen, that is saying a lot! Plus, aside from not fitting on my screen, what about Arial font and puke green backgrounds screams 'Terror in Beverly Hills' to you?

Up next, a film that breaks the mold and dares to cast small. They also sing. Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Yuletide Classic: Silent Night, Deadly Night

I feel like the last guy at a wedding who has to tell a story about the bride and groom. The other guys have taken all the good stories (how you set them up, their first date, etc) and you have to think of something interesting. 'Hey guys,' I start to say, 'remember that time that you accidentally killed a drifter and tried to hide it from everyone? That was fun, right?" That is the situation that I am in today writing about Silent Night, Deadly Night. You all know the movie, you all know the plot, but I would be remiss without talking about it. It's like talking about The Omen and not mentioning killer monkeys- it just can't, and shouldn't, be done. So, let's take a different approach in my review of...
In case you don't know, the movie is all about Billy, who gets driven crazy by a series of events and begins to kill people while dressed as Santa Claus. Rather than giving you my usual in-depth plot summary, I want to highlight some of the odd moments that stand out to me.

*Why do the people at the grandfather's rest home not notice his condition? They're doctors and nurses, but can't see that he is faking it? Or is the kid supposed to be imagining this?

*Billy's really just unlucky, isn't he? The odds that there is a crazed robber dressed as Santa that night and he crosses his parent's path has to be pretty damn low, doesn't it?

*The idea of letting out the giant mental patient out in the public is just bad to begin with.

*Why does the girl he likes yell at him when he breaks up a rape attempt against her? How about a thanks before you scream at him, lady?!?

*On the scale of the 'sins' done by the citizens, how high can sledding at night against your parent's wishes be?

*Make note of how the younger brother is a baby in the traumatic bits- it's important for when you see Parts II and III.

For a full review of the movie, look elsewhere. I do enough of those to be allowed one exception, don't I? Besides, I think 600 other pages are doing that.
I liked this movie, in spite of all the controversy. As people like The Cinema Snob have pointed out, the movie actually spends a good amount of time building up its villain and explaining his motivations. Compare that to a movie like Halloween, which just says 'he's Michael Meyers, he's crazy and and he kills people- enjoy.' If you are going to compare Silent Night to a normal film, it has some plot holes and very underwritten characters. As far as slasher films go, it actually has a pretty high pedigree. It's not just controversy- it's an actual, decent film.
I know you're probably expecting me to do Silent Night, Deadly Night 2, but I don't feel like it. Instead, I'm going to cover a Christmas slasher film by the co-writer of Night of the Living Dead. It has to be good, right? Stay tuned...

Mondo Trivia: Transylmania

*This recent box office bomb from National Lampoon debuted at #21 in its opening week, pulling in a mere $263,000!

Bear in mind that the movie opened in 1,007 theaters. This makes the gross from the film about $263 per theater, with tickets being around $10 each.

At least Zzyx Road pulled in $25,000 dollars from one theater, albeit in the star's hometown. At that rate, the movie would have made $25 million...which is not exactly all that great either.

*Incidentally, the CEO of National Lampoon got in trouble this year for falsely inflating his company's stock prices to buyers. The inflated price: $6 a share! I wonder how it got so low...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Yuletide Crap: Psycho Santa & Satan Claus

I'll be direct with you: these movies are simply terrible. Not 'bad funny' like your Starcrashes or your Space Mutinies. No, these are the 'oh dear God, this hurts so bad' kind of movie like Sex Medusa (more on that movie later), Idaho Transfer or Waiting for the Giants. The thing is that I pretty much expected this, but was willing to fall on the sword for all of you. How about you repay my ignoble sacrifice by clicking on my Ads? I should also mention that these films are part of a three-movie set. The third one is called The Christmas Massacre & is apparently just as bad. When you get three movies on one disc, you are not getting quality! This is a fair warning to anyone that sees as Something Weird disc and thinks 'this should be fun.' Let's get down the nitty gritty though in my review of (first)...
Psycho Santa
The film begins with a woman running around a garbage dump as a man in a Santa suit meanders after her. Hey guys, you want to explain any of this? They don't and instead jump to a man watching television- scintillating. After a bit of nagging (don't yell at me for bad writing for women), she convinces him to go to a Christmas party with her. Just because he is a 'dick,' he decides to tell her the tale of a crazy killer that murdered on Christmas. Isn't it nice to spend the holidays with the ones you love? The first tale involves a trio of women who rent a cabin to have some 'lady time' every Christmas. Again- a movie clearly written by a man. What we get as character establishment is a five minute scene in which one of them wanders around and picks up rocks, while the other takes a shower (complete with random close-ups). We get more padding in the form of a 'dance' scene with one of the women before they finally question their friend's location. As it turns out, she has been segmented and placed in the Christmas present boxes & the killer shows up. Mind you, we see none of that & merely told it by our narrator. His second tale involves a burglar duo who rob a blind woman's house, decide to drown her for no reason, but open the wrong door and die.

What killed them, you ask me? As it turns out, the killer was hiding out there. We find this out in an interrogation scene so badly lit that you can never see the cop's face! The interrogatee is the husband- who was out that night- and he explains a bit about the killer. I'll spare you it, save for the fact that he is obsessed with Christmas music. In another tale, the killer dresses up as Santa and kills a kid in a cabin (off-screen, mind you). He stabs the mother as well, who proceeds to drag her near-dead ass across the ground for over 3 minutes straight, only to unplug the phone line when she gets there! We get another related tale involving two siblings going to see the woman and child at said cabin. Their car breaks down and they wander around...and around...and around. Finally, he attacks the girl when the duo split up (always a good call!), but she runs away. This is where the credits footage comes from, by the way. He catches up to the guy, but the husband shows up, turns on a music box to make the killer freeze up & sets the house on fire. To close out the tale, the couple stops the car to check the trunk and gets attacked. The f-ing End!

Satan Claus
Another movie about a crazed man dressed as Santa? Hurray! This character begins the film by driving around and singing a Christmas song, just replacing nice words with 'blood' and 'entrails.' He randomly attacks one lady and cuts her head off, at least giving us actual on-screen gore! The woman is questioned about the attack at a police station that has a few, well, let's just call them odd things. First off, a board above the chief's desk has a picture of Bill Clinton, despite this movie claiming to be made in 2008. Secondly, and most importantly, the place has no power! At night, the police station is running off of moonlight and reflections from neon signs! How low-budget do you have to be to not be able to afford electricity?!? Anyhow, we learn that the woman was the police chief's wife and we get some ACTING! Our focus switches to a young man (read: 3o) who wants to be an actor, but all he can do is work as a Santa on the street. He also has a voodoo lady for an adopted mother, which may play a part in the story. At his job (also with no light), a friend of his is randomly-attacked by the Santa killer. He chases after him, but the film's lack of light makes it appear that he is running in space!

The killer continues his habit of taunting the cops and leaving no evidence behind. We also get to see that he is decorating his tree with human limbs. That's ho ho horrible. He kills more people, but my interest level is really not that high. The super-low production values show through in many of these scenes, including a bit where a passing train's shadow blocks the shot! We do more with the story between our hero and the woman whose boyfriend was attacked earlier. The voodoo lady gives our hero a necklace early on that is supposed to protect him from evil spirits. As it turns out, this is a good thing to have. The woman he protected, you see, is actually an evil woman who has taken a man's soul & made him into the titular killer. That man: the police chief. Of course, this movie blatantly cheats by having the Psycho Santa played by a different actor! She explains her whole plan like a bad spy movie villain before the police woman shoots her. The End.
These movie suck in every way you can think of. Psycho is a bad slasher movie disguised as an anthology film, only it is all about one person. On top of that, there is almost no blood, no plot and no direction. You think that with a narrator in the story that we would not have two people wandering around like Hansel and Gretel! The killer is silly, stupid and uninspired. The only interesting aspect of him is that he is entranced by Christmas music, but film counteracts that both times it comes up. Satan is worse in many ways, since it has the plot of a decent horror film in theory. The budget kills this movie even more than the bad acting and bad direction. Mind you, it could be argued that the money could have gone to hiring good actors, but their bigger priority should have been getting some damn light! You can do a million times better than these films and should.
Up next, an iconic 80s horror film that everybody is already talking about. Why shouldn't I join in? Stay tuned...

Mondo Anniversaries: 30 Years!

We're getting into movies that were still made before I was born, albeit closer than any ones so far. So what kind of movies did 1979 bring us?

Alien: It's sort of sad to mention this anniversary with the recent passing of writer Dan O'Bannon, but this movie still a notable achievement. It showed just what you could do with the right director, camera-work and props. A classic through and through.

The Muppet Movie: Another sad one to celebrate since Jim Henson as been dead, although his death was quite a while ago. How many people would have thought that the Muppets could work on the big screen? It really takes a creative guy to make this work and work so well.

Caligula: Ah, this hallmark of indecency, sneaky production work and chacenery is celebrating 30 years as a film. I'm sure that Helen Mirren and Peter O'Toole are proud to have this on their resume, considering the additional footage added by the man behind Hustler. Interesting stuff.

Meatballs: While not quite as much of a classic as some other 1979 films, this one is notable for having Bill Murray in it and spawning three sequels...with other people in them.

Phantasm: How many of you are surprised to read how old this movie is? I, for one, think of the films as 80s classics, but forget that the first is technically a '70s movie. In spite of this, the movie is remembered quite well. How many new horror series' do you think we will say the same thing about in 20+ years?

Star Trek- The Motion Picture: The mission- to boldly disappoint filmgoers everywhere. Instead of taking five years, this only took two hours of long, expansive space shots and a so-so plot to achieve. It did, however, take three years to return fans faith to the series with 1982's The Wrath of Khan.

Other notable films include Apocalypse Now, Dracula (with Frank Langella), Murder by Decree (an all-star Sherlock Holmes movie), The Life of Brian, Mad Max, HAIR, Escape from Alcatraz, Hercules in New York, The Black Hole, 10, The Amityville Horror and All That Jazz.

I also want to give a special shout-out to 1979's presentation of two long-forgotten sequels: More American Graffiti and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure. Can't we ever get beyond The Poseidon Adventure!

Next up in the series, the films from George Orwell's favorite year: 1984. Will this list be the cream of the crop or just crap? Stay tuned...