Friday, July 31, 2009

Great Moments in Race Relations- Fu Manchu

Villains come in many shapes, sizes and colors. One particular villain only comes in one of those: yellow. The subject of today's piece is a pop-culture icon who has graced cinemas for the last 50 years, though not nearly so much lately. Back in the hey-day before political correctness, we had this man, played by many a British, American or Canadian actor. Note that he was pretty much never played by a member of his own race. He is the man, the myth, the mustache:
Fu Manchu
The gist of the character is that he is smart, evil and obsessed with world domination. As we all know, the Chinese are only two of those (you can pick which two). In spite of this handicap of logic, the character has persevered. Let's take a look at some of the greats that have played him on screen, both big and small.
1. Boris Karloff
2. Christopher Lee
3. Peter Sellers (in his last role)
4. Henry Brandon
5. Nicolas Cage

Now, to be fair, a couple of these people were British and China was a colony of the Empire, so...yeah, it's still bad. This is not the only time this has happened. Who can forget the weird thrill of watching famed horror actor J. Carrol Naish play Dr. Tito Daka in the Batman & Robin movie serials? Or the unmitigated joy of Flash Gordon's (1980) Ming, played by esteemed actor Max Von Sydow?

One famous incident of backlash involves character-actor Ross Martin (famous for playing Artemus Gordon) and his portrayal of Charlie Chan. In 1972, he played him a very popular TV film that was a pilot for a series. People thought that it was a little weird for him to play a Chinese guy, so no TV show for you. You can't have your yellow-face and eat it too.

Up next in the series, a movie about black culture and by Iron Man's grandpa. Stay tuned...

Rare Flix: Scanner Cop

The word 'serendipity' is thrown around a lot these days. Mind you, it is by poet-laureates, but still. As luck...nay, fate would have it, I came from hanging out with my friends on Sunday night and found my brother about to watch a movie. The following words came out of my mouth, delivered with genuine curiosity, "Is that Scanner Cop?' When he assured me that it was, I made a decision: sleep can wait. To note, this movie is not on Region 1 DVD (that I know of) and I have only been able to catch it that one time...at about 1:30 am on Cinemax 6 or something. Either way, I've seen it and now you get to hear about it. This is my review of...
The movie begins with a little exposition about the idea of scanners, alongside some clips from the movie. We also learn that the idea of scanners is more wide-spread than the first movie lead us to believe. As such, our hero is a young man named Sam Staziak who has some latent powers. He is, let's just say, discouraged from using his powers by his father, a policeman. He is given a drug that keeps his powers in check for years. However, the side effects do not stop Sam from becoming, wait for it, a cop. Now we have a title, movie!
*
The plot elapses thusly: a rash of mysterious cop-killings begin to occur. Many of them are even by the policeman's wives and/or girlfriends. It seems to be triggered by someone wearing the uniform and, combined with horrific flashbacks, incites violence. The police are desperate to find out the cause of this. I wonder if the lone cop you have on your force with psychic powers could help out with this problem. He would get right on it, but he needs to set up all of his character arc still. He saves a woman from crazed robbers, sending one of them flipping backwards several feet and into a pole with, as the trailer implies, "with the power of suggestion." Did you suggest that he get in a wire rig and allow several crew members to launch him? That is one powerful psychic! He also gets a love interest, despite living next to an oil well. No, really.
*
We eventually learn about the villain who is an evil psychic who was seemingly-killed by, wait for it, Sam's father. We get a flashback to a bust of a cult that is led by the young cop. As he flees, the villain (Richard Lynch) is shot in the head. His body was stolen however and a metal plate inserted in his head. As the body count rises, Sam is desperate to find the man. This leads to the best moment of the entire film, albeit for all of the wrong reasons. He chases down the villain's lady-pal, but she gets run over by a car before he get any answers. Angry and desperate, he scans her, hoping to steal the answers from her head. She is a scanner too and has set a trap for him. She traps him in her brain (in a literal-figurative jail cell) and plans to switch her mind with his. Sam won't go down like that and scans her dramatically until, wait for it, her head explodes. Not her actual head, mind you, but her figurative/soul one. All I can say is damn! Oh and he does get the answer.
*
After taking out so many thugs with his powers, our hero runs into a roadblock of sorts when trying to stop Lynch. The plate, it seems, makes him unable to scan the man. As he tries to complete his evil plan, Sam decides to go for broke. He does an insane-level scanning attempt (the kind that causes veins to pop up in the prosthetic arms used in tight shots) to take out the man. In the big climax, he manages to, really, send the metal plate flying out of the man's head. Ouch! Oh and he blows that guy's head up too. The villain is dead and everyone lives happily ever after. Of course, all those dead cops are, you know, still dead. Who cares though? The End.
*
This movie is utterly generic, save for the scanning elements. The acting is pretty dry across the board, save for Lynch. As always, the burn-scarred character actor has fun with his under-written, but dramatic role. You have to admire a guy who dies so much on film and keeps coming back for more. The movie is extremely-dated as well, but that has a sort of charm. How can you not dig bad 90s prosthetic effects, especially when compared to a lazy use of CG these days? Just to note BTW, this movie is also called Scanners 4. Yeah, a lot of people think of the classic Scanners film and only that one. They forget about Part 2, 3, Scanner Cop and Scanner Cop 2. If only I could.
*
Incidentally, Comcast has an HBO On-Demand program going online. Right now, it is in Beta. So, if you have that service and want to see this movie, you may be in luck. It sure beats paying for a PAL DVD from Thailand.
*
How do I follow up this movie? I think a bit of Mad Max mixed with Ancient Greek lore will do the trick. Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Guns Guns Guns!: Mean Guns

Much like the last film, this movie is all about shooting. It also has it's share of stabbings, beatings and explosions too though. It comes from the mind of Albert Pyun, a director with a fairly-dubious reputation. He is the man behind such film as Captain America and Alien from L.A. Yeah, it's a movie full of shooting by a pretty incompetent director- you can see why I picked this now. So is there any redemption for this movie? Find out in my review of...
The film begins with Ice-T (not a good sign) talking cryptically about his plan. This is followed by a series of shots of random criminals arriving at an abandoned prison. Ah, it must be their annual Bake Sale. The group is quite mixed, from Chinese killers to ladies in catsuits to...Christopher Lambert with bleach blond hair. You don't see that every day- thank God! After a couple minutes of 'I don't like you' and 'Why are we here,' we get an explanation from Mr. Ice-T himself. Since he wants all betrayers to the Syndicate dead and wants it done in a hurry, he has a plan. The plan is simple: kill each other until there are only three of you left. When that is done, the winners will be given a split of $10 million dollars hidden somewhere in the building. But won't it take forever for them to kill each other with their bare hands?
*
Ice-T answers your query by dumping a tub full of guns into the room. Unfortunately, they are all empty. A mad scramble begins with two more tubs are dumped down- one with baseball bats and one with bullets. Everyone runs around like crazy and the shooting begins. Only two people are not keen on the killing: an accountant for the Syndicate and a hooker who just got taken with. They spend most of the movie running and/or talking about how they 'should not be there.' Could you guys do me a favor and not rip of Clerks? In fact, there is nothing you can do to redeem yourself for...ooh, Lambert singing while beating people to death with a bat and spinning it like a sword (a trick later used by Adrian Paul in Code Hunter). Movie forgiven! There is still no other plot in the movie, save for the random back-stories of the killers. Is that enough to sustain another 70 minutes?
*
The movie is not without its faults, although there still are plenty. Lambert and company are entertaining, so the movie, naturally, continues to cut away from them for random action scenes. One amusing duo is a pair of killers who enjoy the wholesale slaughter just a tad too much. They even hum a jaunty tune while on the elevator between killings. There is loving your job and then there is loving your job. Like nearly everyone else in the movie, they meet a violent death. Oh, the movie also loves to pause for some weird flashbacks that loosely tie up in the finale. Aside from more shooting, there is only one other thing to really not about this movie- vampire Lambert! Okay, not really. In reality, he suddenly just appears hanging upside down from...something unseen and chokes one woman to death. Just like every other cool thing, of course, the movie jump cuts away too quickly.
*
I won't spoil the end of this movie for you, since, well, it barely makes any sense. A couple of last minute plot reveals add nothing but more confusion. If action movies should be one thing, it is not confusing.
*
This movie is fun to watch, but is highly-flawed. Much like the heyday of pro-wrestling in the 1990s, you can have a damn fun time if you ignore everything that is wrong- and there are plenty. The plot is super-minimalist and only serves to string together action scenes. On top of that, the acting is all over-the-place. The action itself ranges from good to bad to 'wannabe John Woo.' While the latter is not uncommon for films from this day (1997), it is still a bit silly. This is especially true when you replace Chow-Yun Fat with Christopher Lambert. In spite of all of this, I cannot stay too mad at this movie. Why? A hooker's head sets on fire and it is put out by having it slammed into a locker. You definitely do not see that every day!
*
Let's change gears and go from criminals to cops. Of course, you know that I will not pick just any sort of cop. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Guns Guns Guns!: Gunmen

What do you get when you mix a black action star, a soon-to-be-famous action writer/director and Christopher Lambert? If you guessed, a really good movie, you would be quite a bit off. Instead, you get an action movie featuring the stars of Highlander 3 and featuring Dennis Leary as a hit man. Close enough! On top of all of that, it also has a good actor in it. They barely use him and get rid of him far too often, but he is in there...dammit. Until Tales of the Ancient Empire or Mortal Kombat 3 come out, enjoy my review of...
The movie is all about one thing: money, money money! A powerful drug dealer lost $40 million and really, really wants it back. What? You want more of a plot than that? Okay, I'll throw in Mario Van Peebles as a DEA Agent. As it turns out, he is pursuing the thief of the dealer as well and it's a 90's-style action race to find him. Before that all takes place, we get a disturbing scene of a lady 'riding' Christopher Lambert and him faking a scared face. I'm scarred for life now- thanks, movie.
*
The plot stumbles into really bad action cliches and pretty much never leaves them. Peebles catches Lambert and tries to get information out of him. The Frenchman tries to get away from him, all the while avoiding pot-shots from his other enemy. Dennis Leary is hot on their trail and nobody can rescue them from his sarcastic wit. Wow, even I'm embarrassed by that joke. He captures Peebles after his target leaves him in a trap. If you ever wanted to see the star of Solo dragged from a helicopter, this is your movie. He manages to escape and we are finally introduced to the villain...
*
Patrick Stewart!
*
Unfortunately, not all is well in the land of Picard, as his henchman are plotting against him. Let's not focus on that and instead work in a scene with a bunch of rappers. Sure- why not?!? Big Daddy Kane and others make appearances, but do they really add anything. Well, in the time since I watched this movie (a couple of years ago), I barely remember them being in it. I can remember a lot of things for a long time (the death scene from Orca after last watching it in my teens). When my brain blocks parts of your movie out, that says a lot.
*
The climax involves lots and lots of shooting. A running joke involves Lambert and Peebles still not trusting each other. Amidst all of the action, they both end up shooting each other in the leg. That is one weird form of male-bonding! In spite of this, neither of them get hit or killed. Don't you just love the movies. In the end, the good guys win and the bad guys lose. What else would you expect from a movie written by Steven "The Mummy" Sommers?
*
This movie is, well, very generic. Lambert and Peebles are not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but they have almost nothing to work with. One of them is wacky and the other is super-strict- oh, the originality! Leary is fun to watch, but definitely under-written as well. He stays above the fray by at least looking like he is riffing. I will not even dignify the pointlessness of Stewart's role with a snarky comment- except for this one. On the plus side, lots of shit blows up! Yeah, that is still not enough.
*
Let's give the combination of guns and Lambert one more shot. Unfortunately, this movie was directed by the guy behind Cyborg 2. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blaxplosion: Judgment Day (1999)

People always think about the two movies that compete during the summer- i.e. Dante's Peak and Volcano. What people often forget is the movies that try to grab onto the strands of interest in an attempt to make their own movie relevant. This is the idea behind today's movie. In the wake of Armageddon and Deep Impact, giant asteroids were huge...err, in movies, that is. To that extent, some producer hired a bunch of untalented black action stars and made this movie. It is...
The movie sets up a very odd narrative, but, hey, let's go with it. A scientist discovers a giant asteroid coming towards the Earth. He has developed an elaborate laser weapon that can put a stop to the threat- simple enough. Unfortunately, he is kidnapped by a mysterious group (headed by Mario Van Peebles) before he can do this. For some reason, we cannot just use his device (I guess the instructions were in Esperanto or something), so we need a Plan B. This comes in the form of a female FBI agent, who is tasked with finding him. Their only way to get him is with the help of a convicted Felon (Ice-T), who used to be a part of the cult. Can you say 48 Hours, kids?
*
Our two heroes do not get along, so this 105 minutes is sure going to be fun. Meanwhile, our scientist friend is held in a giant cage and guarded by, wait for it, "Tiny" Lister. Geez, weren't there any good black actors available? Hell, Tony Todd and Keith David could probably have freed up a weekend or two for you. What's next- Coolio? Oh crap, there he is. He provides a lead to help find the man at his hide-out, conveniently located in a poor (read:empty) section of L.A. In the movies lone good move, the questionably-haired man is killed in a shooting battle between our heroes and the evil gang. Want to know why they are the way they are?
*
In a long monologue, Melvin's son explains that his group is a very strict Christian group (read:cult). They want to keep the man from stopping the asteroid, since they view it as God's instrument of retribution. They tend to view it as the opposite of the biblical flood, since, according to the book, He promised only that he would not use water again to cleanse the Earth. It is one thing to think crazy stuff like that- it is another thing to doom the Earth. Well, what else should we expect from Highlander 3's Kane?
*
As the movie goes on, we get some serious acting...attempts from "Tiny" Lister. The scientist tries to convince him that he should be free and questions his values. He seriously considers this moral dilemma. Excuse me, that is what we are supposed to see. In reality, he appears to just be constipated. Despite Peebles interruptions, he does free the scientist in time for Ice-T and his partner's arrival. He gets a belly full of lead in return for this. Two films with Lister and two deaths- good odds. We get more boring shoot-outs (maybe I am just jaded) in a dark, cheap setting. Eventually, Thomas Payne (Peebles) is killed and the scientist is able to avert disaster. Well, except for the one in Peru and a couple other ones. He is able to avert most of the disaster- close enough.
*
This movie is pretty bad. It is not 'I want to kill myself' bad (Blood Freak), 'I want to at least maim myself' bad (Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy) or 'I want to scoop my eyes out with a spoon' bad (Wild Zero). With a more competent set of actors, the movie could be more than passable. I get that you wanted to be like 48 Hours and Armageddon, but you could have aimed higher with your casting. To be fair, we need to take a long, hard look at the man behind the whole film: John Terlesky. That's right, the man who played the title hero in Deathstalker II directed this movie. The man who made Fire Serpent and Cerberus directed this. I should also mention that he was one of the credited writers on Warbirds, a film about WWII fighter pilots battling dinosaurs. Need I say anymore?
*
Let's keep the Peebles theme going with a classic action film by a future star director. Oh wait, I'm wrong about one of those things. To find out which, stay tuned...

Monday, July 27, 2009

200th Post Special: Mondo Bizarro

Well, I have made it through 199 random and sometimes-good posts on my site. Despite the setup changes, format changes and turn away from re-posting my old stuff that nobody saw in the first place, this place is still running. Will I make it another 199 posts? Only time- and my level of disposable income- will tell. In the meantime, enjoy the review that has been teased since March 13th. It is...
The movie begins with a semi-sarcastic narrator talking about how the world is full of curious perversity. All of this played over a really crappy clay model of the Earth is spun in front of a cheap black back-drop. They follow this with...I kid you not, the credits played alternately against women filmed changing by a hidden camera. Yeah, they go there in the first five minutes. Is this fake? I lean towards 'yes,' since the woman always turn breast-first towards the camera. At the same time, they creepily-cut out the women's eyes in the shots- thanks, movie. Real creepy or simply real fake- you decide. Since the rest of the movie is a series of vignettes (a real theme of mine lately), I will cover them as such.
*
A man does on expo on how he can lay on a bed of nails without injury. How he got a bunch of 'experts' to show up is beyond me. The creepiest part is not the fact that a man in a diaper is getting a cinder block smashed on his stomach. No, it is the super-pencil thin mustache that appears to be a part of his gum. Too thin is too thin!
*
A random vignette shows a man eating a glass bottle at a fancy diner. It is also clearly sugar glass (aka rock candy sheet). So what?
*
A hidden camera reveals an American tourist not enjoying his Japanese massage. Again, I must ask- why are you filming this?
*
A 'voodoo ritual' is filmed from reportedly a mile and a half a way with some super-camera. The result: a dark, out of focus mess. All we can take away from it is a snake maybe being killed and people dancing. So what?
*
They do an 'expose' on Frederick's of Hollywood and how they handle all of the mail orders. Really? Why do we care about...oh, you wanted an excuse to show three plus minutes of women in lingerie, complete with constant zoom-in on their breasts. You, sir, are too subtle.
*
The movie climaxes with what is allegedly hidden-camera footage of 'a Sudanese slave trade.' First, they spend nearly five minutes showing how they got their location, how they hauled their shit up to their hiding spot and what their camera could do. How many documentaries have you seen that explain how they shot a scene in such detail? Anyhow, the scene builds up slowly, with a dozen cars driving into a hidden valley. Naked women are hauled out of boxes that were stacked on a truck. Does the movie blur these 'poor women's' faces? No, but they censor their nether regions out. At this point, the movie just sort of 'peters out' and cuts back to that crappy globe model again.
*
Yeah, this movie is really, really dumb. It is a Mondo film in all of the worst senses of the word. The climax is a completely falsified scene, as evidenced by the models used for 'slaves.' Plus, nobody is really fooled by that canyon, no matter how it is shot. The movie is almost entirely a pretense to show you breasts, only with less plot or wit than Invasion of the Bee Girls. The disc also came bundled with Mondo Freudo, the previous work by the same team. If you ever wanted to see people make-out on the beach under a red light or to see the team interview a pair of lesbian prostitutes in England and cut away without showing anything, check that film out. Otherwise, stick with one of the good Mondo films. If you can find one, let me know.
*
Quick note: while writing this review, I was watching the pilot to The Lone Gunmen. In it, Langly wears a 'Mondo Bizarro' shirt for The Ramones album. I'm not sure how that synced up so well.
*
Let's change gears and discuss a film that features Ice-T, a meteor headed towards the Earth and lots of dark shoot-outs. Stay tuned...

How to End a Series: M.A.N.T.I.S.

How to end a show is nearly as important as how to begin one. Take, for example, Bob Newhart's second show- very old spoilers ahead. In the end, he goes to bed and wakes up with his wife from his classic 1970's show. The entire show was a very long dream he had as the Bob from that show- genius. On the flip-side, you have Batman Beyond, which ends on a random episode of a kid learning Terry's identity and a flashback story. Unplanned finales are always the worst. Now, for today's study...
M.A.N.T.I.S.
To the uninitiated, this show is about a paralyzed black scientist who develops an EXO suit that allows him to walk and fight crime. The pilot was a landmark production with an all-black cast of leads and was made, in part, by Sam Raimi. When the show got picked up, everyone but the lead was re-cast and show got generic. When the ratings went down, the show went all 'villain of the week' and got very strange. Recurring villains included a group of inter-dimensional villains who viewed this one guy as the lone obstacle to their goal.

*
On the positive side, the producers saw the cancellation coming as Season One (of one) ended. As such, they made this episode to end the whole series:

Ghost of the Ice
During a random test-flight, our hero's flying vehicle malfunctions and crashes. Why? Good question. So they wander around the woods for a while, one of them injured and the other running on tenuous battery power. The M.A.N.T.I.S. suit is much like the Sega Game Gear and barely has any battery life at all. Of course, he doesn't bring a spare set with him when he goes flying and could possibly get lost. They get stalked by a mysterious creature that is barely visible- that saves on the budget.
*
The whole thing is prefaced Sunset Boulevard-style by MANTIS' friend talking about how this was his last adventure. I wish that this was the beginning of a non-existent Season 2. Imagine if you knew that MANTIS would die, but you could not guess when. Unfortunately, he does in this episode- chance lost.
*
Our heroes run into a weird mountain man (played by the security chief from Club Dread) who has lived for almost 20 years with the monster. That's right- nearly 20 years. That sure takes a bite out of the 'deadliest predator ever' name, huh? Anyhow, the monster hears my commentary and attacks MANTIS. It shakes him about, but is scared off by some shotgun blasts. Okay, you're just digging your own grave now, beasty.
*
To cut a long story (or a 44 minute show) short, MANTIS and friend meet up with his young (read:3o) assistant and his cop girlfriend. They are seemingly in the clear when the monster attacks again. It traps the guy and girl in their jeep & tries to tear its way in. They plan to use their ship's battery (note- they don't use it to power the suit) to stun the beast to death. Little do they (or the monster) know that their is a gas leak from the attack. The battery blasts and the car blows up. We finally get a real look at the monster...as a shadow...from dozens of feet away. If blacked-out dinosaur shots get you hot, this is a good episode for you.
*
Another failed comic book show dies on television- what a shame. Fortunately, the lead ended getting a much better superhero gig: the voice of Martian Manhunter on Justice League. One of the directors on this show was also the man behind the terrible two-some of sequels: Trancers 4 and 5. Also, to be fair, Sam Raimi's only superhero work at this point was *snicker* Darkman. I kid, I kid. His ability to turn from Liam Neeson into Arnold Vosloo was damn impressive! Even so, this show was certainly missed. A black superhero finally gets his due, even if he has to be shot in the spine to do so. Ah well, there's always Blade...oh crap, they cancelled that in one season too. Oops.
*
Will there be more of these? Wait and see. Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bi-Polar Theater: Hundra

I was legitimately-surprised by this one. I thought that I knew what to expect. 80s barbarian movies (lady or male) are anything if not predictable. As a man who has seen the entire Deathstalker series, the crappy remake/sequel and one half of the Barbarian Queen series, I thought that this movie would be same old, same old. If only! Instead, I got...well, you can see for yourself. Sit down, sheathe your sword and enjoy my review of...
Hundra
The story begins by introducing the basic narrative- simple enough. There is a tribe of lady barbarians that lives off by themselves. When they need to repopulate, they kidnap random men and use them. Much like tissues, they are disposed of when their use has vanished. Their strongest is a woman named Hundra who 'refuses to let a man pierce her- either with his sword or with his member.' A big virgin as an action hero- daring choice, movie. Now it is important that you understand all of this because, once Hundra leaves to go hunting...
*
...men show up and kill all of the women. That's right- after establishing every random lady and kid, they all die. Admittedly, the battle scene itself is better than most (especially when compared to Ator's 'village death scenes'). It goes on for roughly five minutes, a mix of slow-motion and regular speed. The title finally appears on screen by the way. This flows right into Hundra's return and...another long battle scene. Her scene is also a combination of a chase scene. Hundra rides until she gets to a big rock formation and kills the men. What now?
*
Our heroine goes to a distant cave and sees the lone elder of her tribe, who had gone off to meditate for years. Hundra is told that she must repopulate the ranks and break her vow of chastity. What is she- 'Octo-mom?!?' She reluctantly obeys and rides off towards mankind. Her first stop is at a small hut where she meets a warrior man. Their attempt at romance becomes...
*
...a slapstick comedy scene of pratfalls and goofy looks. What?!? She flips him and beats him up for a while before deciding that he is not worthy. So now beggars can be choosers? I guess when they have a sword, they can. Hundra goes to a large fiefdom town, but runs across an aggressive suitor and his arranged bride-to-be. After she stands up to him for his actions, the guards show up and...
*
...*sigh* another slapstick action scene breaks out. It's like Buster Keaton, only random and stupid. After at least three or four moments of people being pushed off of ladders or having tents collapse on them, Hundra escapes to a shelter. The parents of the young woman take her in for her actions, but do not put up a fight when the guy comes back. This society, it seems, it is centered on a religion that has woman trained by monks to be 'perfect wives.' Basically, it's The Wicker Man meets The Stepford Wives. After hearing about all of this...
*
Hundra decides to join them and tries to follow suit. What? What? Huh?!? The rest of the film is about how she was raised to be an individual...that followed the set rules of her tribe and how she cannot be their kind of woman, at least not without some work. At this point, my mind shut down and decided that I had better things to do. Watching paint dry was fun.
*
I would apologize for not finishing the movie, but can you blame me? That movie had no idea what the hell it wanted to be. Comedy? Action? Good? I just could not make heads or tails of this movie. Was it a parody of barbarian movies? If so, the joke should be much easier to get. It's not like Saturday the 14th or even April Fool's Day (how could that have fooled anyone- read the title!). I really wish that I could figure this movie out, but I suspect that we will have gay robots getting married in Georgia before anyone does. Until then, enjoy the beginning, I guess. Everything else...well, it's not me, it's you. There- I said it.
*
How do I celebrate my 200th post? With a movie that I unintentionally stole my name from. Maybe on my 300th, I will do the Ramones album. Stay tuned...
Editors Note: I did not do the album...yet.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blockbuster Trash: Bryan Loves You

I should have known better. I really, really should have known better. I saw this movie when it was one of the six or seven new releases that week. As my bad luck would have it, I got the three movies that I cared the least to see (the others were Re-Cycle, which was not bad, and Vengeance, a future review). This movie was bound to be dumb, but I thought 'why the hell not?!?' That movie was 'hell' alright. Find out more in my review of...
Our story begins with Tony Todd appearing and telling us that everything that we are about to see is real. The footage was recovered later by the FBI and must be seen. To review: famous movie star Tony Todd is telling us that the movie he is presenting is real. Right. The movie proper begins with a nerdy couple filming a bit of home movies explaining the basic set-up. A lady friend of theirs is having some weird moments at work. She is a school teacher and everyone is talking about someone named Bryan. In fairness, everything after Todd looks pretty real. By that, of course, I mean that it is badly-lit and barely-audible.
The movie jumps to the teacher's classroom, which apparently has a security camera in it. This just happens to get the entire shot they need in it to boot! The Principal makes an announcement over the P.A. that they are going to pay tribute to Bryan. The kids put on stupid masks and recite a chant. When the teacher shows no interest, one of the students attacks her, before being pulled away. We cut to a couple days later and our heroes have not seen the lady. They go to her house and, naturally, bring a camera to film everything. Since they are both psychologists and love to study cults, this all works out well for them. After a few minutes of them meandering in the dark, the crazed teacher bursts out of the bathroom with a knife. They kill her in self-defense, shocked by this turn of events. The real shock- I am still watching.
The next scene is possibly the dumbest in the history of contrived coincidences. Our hero finds a house on the edge of town that is full of Bryan's followers. They leave their building, but not before one of them does the 'suddenly turn around towards the camera' fake-out scare. With the cult mere feet away, the man goes into their house and closes the door. What?!? He touches all their stuff and reads a random book they left out that talks about Bryan. Without getting caught, he goes to a friend who explains some bullshit about Bryan being some unrecognized Saint or something. If the film won't properly explain things, then neither will I! Our heroes secretly film a cult ceremony in a Church rec room, but the girl is kidnapped. The effect of her feed cutting out from capture is sort of interesting, but overshadowed by everything else.
Unfortunately, the movie is full of pointless, silly performances that kill any drama that the film might muster. First, you have George Wendt as...well, a crazy guy. He goes to see our hero for his treatment, but just says weird things. It is a performance right out of a school play- I blame the director. The other is Lloyd Kauffman as...well, a different crazy guy. He does nothing good and just yells about how he knows kung-fu. The less said about him, the better.
The movie only goes downhill from here. Our hero's girlfriend is locked up in the cult's basement, which has three different security cameras. They cut away before we see any torture done to her. Did the FBI cut away or did an E.M.P. go off? The guy gets too close to the truth and gets locked up in a sanitarium by the powers that be. If you ever wanted to see a bunch of nobodies play mental patients, you are in luck. The guy eventually manages to get away, thanks to the timely intervention of annoying-old-man-who-produces-New-Jersey-crap. It all leads to...sorry, no spoilers today. I will say this though: the ending really makes the beginning a bit confusing and improbable. This is why you write the ending of a mystery first and work backwards, idiot!
*
This movie is utter crap. The acting ranges from over-the-top (stupid Wendt) to overly-subdued. Is it because of the actors trying to portray real people? No. They just cannot act. If I was to try and act again (my friend's un-finished film Highlander: Heritage being missed already) and could not do it, I would not be praised for my 'subtlety.' The hidden/hand-held camera gimmick can be interesting if done right- it is not. Does being low-budget allow me to give the movie leeway with some issues? No, not really. If you cannot make a movie without a million dollars, do not do it. I won't judge you for waiting. If you make crap like this, I will definitely judge you. Try again, Seth Landau!
*
How about a return to bi-polar theater? I will kill you! I'm sorry- let's not fight. Stay tuned...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Saxon the Beach: Cannibal Apocalypse

I will give John Saxon some credit: he works a lot. The versatile character actor has played so many variations of himself over the years that he is almost like a reverse method actor. The only real characterization that he gets is given to him by the script (i.e. Welcome to Spring Break's implication that his Sheriff character was into BDSM). How does he keep getting work? I honestly ask that question a lot. In fairness, his work in the last few years has consisted of one short film by Dario Argento, a couple forgettable horror films and the cinematic classic War Wolves, which co-stars Adrianne Barbeau and Tim Thomerson. Before he got there, he made today's movie. Sit back, get some red meat and enjoy my review of...
Our film begins with a group of prisoners trapped in a cage in Vietnam. Thankfully, John Saxon and a group of gun-toting commandos are there to save the day. Oh, and this movie is Heaven for lovers of Vietnam stock footage. There is something weird about our two captives though. When a Vietcong falls into their pit, they begin to eat her. Easy there, John McCain. When Saxon extends his arm to them, one of them bites it. Jump cut to years later and Saxon in bed. If you thought 'we need to see John Saxon shirtless in the first ten minutes,' you are one strange, albeit lucky, person. He complains about being haunted by the experience and talks about how he has to take his pills.
*
Our plot thickens when a couple things happen. One of the two prisoners gets released from an asylum and a 'Lolita' tries to tempt him. He seemingly resists the temptation, but the movie is intentionally vague about what happens. I smell a late-film plot twist. His buddy tries to make contact, but Saxon is stand-offish about the whole thing. Cannibalism is better solo, I guess. He goes off to see a movie, but gets lured in by the taste of human flesh. The crazed man is chased off and hides out in a flea market. What about that security guard though? Oh, never mind- he's dead now. A long stand-off ensues (at least 10 minutes or so of an 85 minute film), culminating in Saxon talking down his friend. Oh well, all the drama is over now.
*
Oh right, there is still more movie. Basically, the extended climax involves an outbreak of cannibalism. Evidently, it is a contagious disease spread by the men from Vietnam. Does anyone else besides them have it from the country? No. Do they explain what caused it? No. So Saxon, his two buddies and a doctor are running loose in the city. They kill the biker gang from earlier (they chased our crazy friend into the mall), for no other reason than to have another action scene. They are chased into the sewers and slowly get picked off. A couple neat scenes happen, including one man getting a hole blown through the center of his chest. Yes, you see it from every angle. Everyone dies eventually (some more bloodily than others) and we learn the truth about the Lolita and her brother. Here's a hint: they are no vegetarians.
*
Honestly, this movie is not without merit. It is unabashedly bloody and full of action scenes. The movie almost never explains anything about how or why the infection works. You just get bit and *WHAM* you eat human flesh. In fairness, movies like Night of the Living Dead are about a zombie outbreak that simply happens...somehow. Saxon honestly does pretty well here, but the real standouts are the guys playing crazy. Even when he turns evil, John tries to act like the nice guy of the group, protecting the woman, etc. Aren't you still an eater of human beings, buddy? Just checking. You can do worse with the cannibal genre, although this film is certainly not a classic either.
*
If you like really bad, low-budget horror, I have a doozy for you. You will not love it. Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Forgotten Sequels: Return to Frogtown

You pretty much have no expectations of quality, do you? Well, you are in the right frame of mind. A lot of people don't realize/care that Hell Comes to Frogtown actually spawned three sequels! Seriously, three of them! We would probably five or six had the director not died of natural causes in 2003. It was too late for us to avoid this movie though. Unlike the original, it does not star "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. That could be a positive or a negative really. Unfortunately, the latter is far more applicable for this movie. Sit down and revel in the crap that is...
The movie begins with a very brief- and misleading- recap of the first movie. Basically, the Frog people were put down, but plan their revenge. It begins with Lou Ferrigno 'flying' over the wasteland of Texas. The Superman flight in the Kirk Alyn serials looked more convincing! A small group of frog commandos shoots him down and he crashes into a lake. Lou is captured and taken to their base. Their leader is called by the same name as the General from the first film, but is hidden is silhouette until the end. Do you smell a plot twist?
*
To rescue him, a female agent is sent in to the enemy territory. Of course, she is joined by Sam Hell, who has become a *snicker* Texas Rocket Ranger in the five years since Hell. Oh wait, she's actually joined by this  Sam Hell. Yeah, we are not fooled movie. Anyhow, fake 'Sam' flies in and settles in for the night. The duo stays with a generically-crusty old soldier with an eye-patch. Other than adding color, he adds absolutely nothing. Meanwhile, Lou is being subjected to some experiments by the amphibians. Their plan: make him one of them! It's never clear how this will exactly turn the tide, but, whatever. When you consider who their head scientist is, it all makes as much sense as is possible.
*
The movie is a series of action scenes, captures and escapes from here on out. The lady gets captured and does a PG-13 striptease (just like in the original). She is locked up with Lou, who is now covered in spots of green grease paint. Sam rescues her, but not everything goes well. All of it builds up to a long, boring shoot-out in a western town right out of the worst westerns ever made (i.e. Corman's Gunslinger, etc.). Lou is given a tiny shotgun to use and beats other Frogs up with his super-strength. He did not have that before, mind you, just now. All of this builds up to Sam vs. the mysterious general who is...the twin brother of the dorky scientist in a big helmet. He proceeds to have a sword fight with our hero and ends up being blown up in a very low-rent explosion. Despite being half-frog, Lou is alright and the day is saved. Is it over now? Thank God.
*
From the first shot to the credits, this movie screams 'low-budget crap.' The whole thing is filmed in burned-out building, studio back lots and open fields. The frog masks don't look completely terrible, but they are still very much masks. The plot is...well, barely a plot. It is a loose story that gets people from Point A to Point B and that is it. The real slap in the face for the movie is the DVD release. Netflix carries it on a double-film DVD with some random kid's film called Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang. As one commenter said, "I don't understand why they bundled them, seems really stupid, but they did." The same kind of logic was used in the film itself, so where is the surprise? Do yourself a favor and watch anything else.
*
What goes better than cannibals than John Saxon? Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Great Moments in Race Relations: Fleischer's Superman

History is full of people that make up different ethnic groups and their interaction with other such groups. Media has been no different. The results of these interactions have not always been pretty. As such, I want to take a look at some of the more painful- and funny- ones. Our first one is...
'The Electric Earthquake'
This is one of the many famous Max Fleischer short cartoons made in the early 1940s. Yes, they were made in a different era than today. Even so, this one is...interesting. Read on.
*
An American Indian man shows up at the Daily Planet building and gives a list of demands. Basically, he says that the island of Manhattan belongs to his people. In these ones, you see, they are not in Metropolis. Why? Good question. Anyhow, he threatens dire consequences for not heeding his demands. They mostly blow him off and he leaves in a huff.
*
Lois, however, is suspicious and follows the man. He drives off in a motorboat and goes down a mysterious elevator. She manages to follow him and arrives him in time to see him behind a giant machine. The man was apparently a scientist and has a device to back up his threats. With the throw of an ominous switch, he sends electric current through gigantic power lines that head towards the city. This causes a massive earthquake to occur...somehow. Don't bother looking for a clear explanation.
*
So yeah, the villain is an Indian who wants his land back that was wrongfully stolen from him. That is a tad bit offensive on a couple of levels. Does it make the whole idea of land restoration wrong? It is not stated directly, but even the implication of it is pretty disturbing. On the positive side, the guy was not a drunk. Thank Heaven for little miracles, I guess.
*
This is just the beginning of another ancillary addition to the site. Up next, a look at Hollywood's biggest case of 'yellow face.' Stay tuned...

Forgotten Sequels: The 9 Lives of Fritz the Cat

Robert Crumb was a very odd man back in the 1970s. He was an artistic icon who managed to get one of his oddest characters his own film. That character- Fritz the Cat. This cat is foul-mouthed, unpleasant and an overall douche-bag. In spite of this, they made a cartoon about him. It was very controversial in its day because people thought of cartoons as solely for kids. Obviously, they never saw Watership Down. In fact, the controversy was so great that people forgot that there was a sequel. Not all of us can be so lucky. Sit down, relax and enjoy my review of...
To begin, this movie has almost no real plot. This is all you need to know: Fritz is in a common-law relationship with another cat, has a kid and has no balls. He sits at home all day and smokes pot. His lady hates him, yelling at him non-stop. The movie never stops to say why she is still with this cat, but I might be a little picky. While she complains (it lasts the whole movie), Fritz drifts off into other dream worlds and realities. Basically, it is all a pretense to show random cartoon ideas that could not last 80 minutes. Let's go into more detail.
*
He imagines meeting his Hispanic friend (who is a dog) and farting on him. No, I'm not kidding. He acts like a complete dick for a couple of minutes before relaying a story about screwing the guy's sister. This jumps to a scene of Fritz date-raping a young woman/cat by means of marijuana. She has a pre-requisite freak-out and has mildly-adult sex with Fritz before her boyfriend (a bulldog) shows up and kills Fritz. Well, the movie is not all bad.
*
Another one has Fritz imagining himself as an astronaut headed to Mars. As he goes towards the vessel, he hits on a bird reporter who is supposed to be Barbara Walters. He proceeds to have sex with her in the craft to the point where the vessel shakes from it. They fly off into space, screwing all the while. For no apparent reason, the ship explodes. Maybe you should not shake the ship before you launch it.
*
A random musical number shows Fritz in fancy clothes as images of the 1930's flash behind him. This is basically just a pointless act break and advertisement for the soundtrack. Pass.
*
One of the more controversial ones has our hero imagining himself as a Nazi in Germany. Well, his name is Fritz. Anyhow, he goes from having an orgy with a pig commander's wife (and another animal lady) to serving as Hitler's assistant. Yeah, they go there. After learning that Hitler has only one ball,- classy, movie- our hero gets raped off-screen by the dictator. I wish I was kidding. After all of that, the Americans roll in and kill Fritz. This guy has really dark dreams.
*
Finally, Fritz is in a dark future where the government is corrupt, people are poor and New Jersey was sold as a new African state. All of the African-Americans are crows because...well, this movie loves Disney, I guess. Our 'hero' is sent as a delivery boy into the 'country' to send a letter to its President. After running past numerous stereotypes and being called a honky about 6,000 times, he gets to his destination. Unfortunately, one of the man's helpers has killed him and pegs it on Fritz. He gets put before a firing squad as the country gets attacked.
*
Yeah, I know there are more of them, but I am done. The movie does not ever try to make any characters interesting or likable. They just talk in oddly overdubbed dialog the whole time. Fritz is a complete asshole and has absolutely no subtlety. He is like every misogynistic character on television (i.e. Laroquette on Night Court, etc) crammed into one, ugly package. How does anyone want to be near this guy or, god forbid, sleep with him. To top it all off, the art ranges from good to shit. It is one of those cartoons where the characters go off-model every time they move, but look good in still shots. If you want to see an animated acid trip, you could do better.
*
Let's keep the sequel train a-rolling and cover a film that failed to attract even "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Capes and Kicks: Mercury Man

Thailand loves Spider-Man. This fact is made apparent in today's review. I managed to find this movie at one of my local video stores, but I actually liked it. So it's not going to be in Blockbuster Trash for that reason. I save that segment for films that combine earthquakes and terrorists or low-budget films about space marines. Today's film is a real oddity and no amount of explanation I can give you will make it logical. So, instead, let's jump right into the weirdness that is...
Mercury Man
Our story begins with a group of terrorists and a masked person going to a Buddhist temple. When they finally get there, the monk protectors take out most of the gunmen. The masked person removes their mask to reveal...a woman. *Gasp* A woman can do martial-arts? Since when?!? Anyhow, she beats up the monks and steals a mysterious amulet. Without any explanation, our narrative cuts to Bangkok and our heroic firefighter lead. He goes out of his way to save a baby, sliding down a long rope and to the ground. We learn, however, that the whole thing was a drill and our hero is berated for 'being a hero.' This won't play a role in the film later, will it?
*
A very important prisoner is deposited in a nearby prison...for some reason. Why you would just dump him in any old prison is not exactly clear. A short while later, a fire breaks out at the prison. Do you really think that it is so simple though? It is all part of a ruse to distract the guards and free the prisoner. Our heroic firefighter runs off by himself to stop the fire in a different location and runs across, you guessed it, the bad guys. During the attack, he gets a mysterious amulet stabbed into his chest and is shot. He awakens later to discover some new changes in his body. He learns that he can shoot webs and...oh wait, he's not Spider-Man. He actually learns that his skin heals quickly, he is nearly invulnerable and has magnetic powers. Same difference.
*
The plot gets interesting now. Our lead decides to become a superhero and designs a costume. Going out as Mercury Man, he stops such crimes as robbery, assault and...runaway elephants. Well, they had to work in elephants somehow. The Spider-Man references come from how he travels. They animate it (it's all obviously CG) as if he is extending his arm out to shoot a web and then get pulled towards something. What he is supposed to be doing is using his magnetic powers to pull himself hundreds of feet towards bridges and poles. Yeah, that makes sense. Unfortunately, the frivolity of this is counterbalanced by the presence of our villains who plan to use the artifact in Mercury Man's body as part of a bomb against the U.S. military. Don't analyze it or you will go insane.
*
The whole thing plays out in a relatively straight-forward manner, albeit with a couple of kinks that come with the film being foreign. The terrorists kidnap our hero's family, which consists of his mother and transvestite brother/sister (depending on how you lean politically), and force him to come to them. He gets himself captured, but breaks free at the right moment. Here is the problem though: he barely does any of the work. His bro-ster helps take out one of the lead guards and another person stops the missiles. He just battles the villain and his main cohort. Of course, without a missile to fire off, they cannot do a whole hell of a lot. After some silly CG and honestly-good Muay Thai action, the heroes win and the villains lose. All is right with the world. I mean, aside from global warming, political coups and Miley Cyrus. The End.
*
The movie is fun and has a sort of quirky charm to it. It is not that clever or well-written and, when it comes to plot structure, it does not break the mold. On top of that, the CG and CG doubles were more on par with Daredevil than with Spider-Man. I say all that, but you must consider one thing: it is about a firefighter who gains super-powers from a space amulet that is stabbed into his chest. What kind of logic can you really attach to a movie like that? You get kick-boxing, silly CG effects and a tranvestite, all in one movie. What else can you really ask for?
*
What's even better than an X-rated cartoon? It's very much forgotten sequel. Stay tuned...

Monday, July 20, 2009

80's Fun: Chopping Mall

I must admit that I have a soft spot for Jim Wynorski. Not in a 'man-crush' kind of way, but in an appreciation way. Much like Roger Corman or Joe Dante, I can find fun and joy in even his sillier works (i.e. Attack of the Crab Monsters or Looney Tunes: Back in Action). By no means is Jim that good of a director, but any man that can make fun of the Deathstalker films and, at the same time, make the most entertaining one, is good in my book. With that out of the way, here is my review of...
The film begins with a salesman explaining the ins and outs of the new experimental robot security guards. Basically, think Johnny 5 but with the attitude of Robocop's ED-209. Oh and random Paul Bartel cameo. The seller assures that the robots will make great security guards for the mall and will present no problems. It would be a boring movie if they didn't though.
*
Next we are introduced to the real cast of the movie. They are a loose semblance of 80s horror cliches- including the couple that likes to have sex all the time, a nerdy pair and a snooty couple. They all work at a store in the mall and decide to stay overnight to 'party.' For the first group, you can figure out what that means. It does not take long for the other couple to do the same, so that just leaves our nerdy 'couple.' They are set-up that night and do the most natural thing to do: sit around and watch Attack of the Crab Monsters. Gee, I like your subtle dig at your own fans, Jim. While all of this is happening, lightning strikes the power charger of the robots and...short circuits them. I'm sorry, but that had to be made. By the way, they also kill Walter Paisley, since this is a film produced by Roger Corman and that is a requirement.
*
Unfortunately, the first victim is John Terlesky, the man who played the title hero in Jim's Deathstalker II. I was hoping for more of a part for him, but ah well. His girlfriend shows up a couple minutes later and finds his body. She flees from one of the robots, who fires several shots at her with its lasers. In one of the big 'trailer moments,' it blows her head up with a laser blast...somehow. It is the same kind of laser from Future Force, I guess- the one that can singe stone one moment and blow up a car the next. Our heroes see this and freak out- finally, a realistic character moment! Things are going to get crazy now!
*
The big scene involves all three robots bursting into the Sears-like store and wreaking havoc! Our heroes escape- but for how long? Not that long at all, it seems. Fortunately, the young people find a store that stocks several firearms and ammo. Where is this mall- Texas?!? This only helps a little, however, since the robots are nearly bullet-proof. A completely-laughable plan involving jumping from a banister manages to take one down, but also ends with the death of one of the men. All the best laid plans of men and idiotic movie characters.
*
The film's climax admittedly is pretty cool. With only two people left (I won't say which two) and one robot, the numbers are still not good. One genuinely-tense scene involves the lone woman hiding in a pet store. She has to ignore the spiders and snakes crawling all over her. Eventually, she sets up a trap in a hardware store involving wet paint, sawdust and fire. She lures it in there, causes it to get stuck in the paint and sawdust mix and lights the place up. A massive explosion ends the final robot and, as luck would have it, her guy friend is actually still alive...until the sequel! I'm just kidding- they never made one. Yet.
*
Yeah, the movie is really dumb. It is low-budget, silly and has almost no plot. The majority of the plot is set-up early on (the scientists are killed and the robots run free) and the rest of it is just reacting. 'Someone is coming- so let's react.' They also kill off the most fun actor (Terlesky) way too early on. In spite of all of this, the movie is fun and- to be honest- ably-directed. The man behind Komodo vs. Cobra can actually direct pretty well. The acting is...well, 80's to the max. My usual qualification of 'forgiving horror fans should like this' feels kind of silly here. Whether you get the movie under the original title (Killbots) or the release title (Chopping Mall), you know what you are getting. I like killer robots- sue me.
*
While I await your litigation, I will cover a superhero movie in honor of Watchmen's DVD release. By the way, it's from Thailand. Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Blockbuster Trash: Ancient Warriors

When I don't plan on watching a movie and have to find one with my friends in stores, certain problems arise. What happens when even I have never heard of it? What if the box is a complete and total lie? Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Okay, that last question is silly- we all know where that lady is hiding. Anyhow, when you pick a movie based on plot synopsis alone, it is a big gamble. Does it pay off? Sometimes. Unfortunately, most of the time you get stuff like...
You know the guy from the seminal film Pumping Iron? No, not Arnold. I mean, the other guy. No, not Lou Ferrigno. If you guessed 'Franco Columbo,' then you would be right. Known for such roles as 'Future (read:other) Terminator' in The Terminator and 911 Security Officer #2 in The Running Man, Franco has only paid for his house thanks to Arnold. However, in 2003, he decided to branch out on his own...finally. Unfortunately, he made a shitty action movie co-starring Daniel Baldwin and Richard 'No seriously, I am still alive' Lynch. When the best you can get is the stars of Bare Witness and Scanner Cop (review coming soon), there is no hope for us all.
*
The movie begins with our elite military unit (led by Columbo and Baldwin) attacking a military convoy as part of a mission. Actually, it involves the barely-in-shape men sprinting lightly down a hill and shooting at a limo. That's basically the same, right? This scene is sad, especially because they do not edit around the fact that Baldwin slides most of the way down the barely-steep hill by accident. Nothing good follows this, but I must go on. Later on, we learn that our hero Franco has stopped being a mercenary to, wait for it, spend more time with his family. This consists of his mentally-handicapped daughter (who still out-acts him by a mile) and his father. They live in a fairly nice villa, which must have cost most of the budget to rent. A crazy, rich guy (Lynch) comes into the picture and wants Franco's squad to do one more mission for him. This sounds safe, right?
*
Basically, the guy wants some generic 'McGuffin' in order to gain immortality or some bullshit. Listen, if you looked like Lynch, would you want to be that way forever? Unfortunately, said item is guarded by the spirits of ancient warriors past. This leads up to the big battle between...nobody. Despite the title, said ancient warriors only sort of rear their head at the very end of the movie. Instead we get a couple of dull shoot-outs, a hostage situation and an old man blowing up a helicopter with an RPG. Okay, so it's not all bad. One infamous part involves the F/X guys putting a muzzle flash on Baldwin's gun before it is even close to in place. If you wanted it to look like he shot a car window and nothing happened, then mission accomplished. We get a pretty funny shot of Franco running down a corridor with two guns as well. Yes, having two guns automatically makes you Inspector Tequila. Plus, you look like a T-Rex when you do that.
*
I apologize for this review being shorter than most, but there is really not much to say about this movie. It is crappy, fairly dull and badly-written. The only laughs come from Franco's inability to act at all and stuff like Baldwin slipping. When Daniel Baldwin cannot commit to acting seriously for your movie, what hope is there? On top of that, I almost feel bad for Lynch being in this movie. Yes, I am sad that the guy who played the villain in Trancers II ended up in this movie. As if it could not be worse, the place I rented this from lost the disc and blamed me for it. Yes, I wanted to watch this movie again so badly that I stole it from you. I should pay you $40 for your one copy of a film that nobody else has ever rented but me. Feh.
*
Let's cover something a little better. Oh wait, I don't do these movie. How about one from Jim Wynorski instead? Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Zombie-a-Go-Go: Zombie 5

It is nice to get another series done today, even if it is as much of a series as Evil Dead 1, 2 and the 'Ash vs. Jason vs. Freddy' comic are one. It is just a bunch of random films by different directors that set up their own separate and disparate plots. So let's finish up the Zombie series with arguably its crown jewel...
Our story begins with a man returning home from Vietnam as credits scroll by him. That is not what bothers him though. Instead, it is the fact that he finds his wife and some random guy in bed together post-coitus. He kills the man first and, oddly enough, allows the woman to run around for a while and scream. He corners her in their aviary and cuts her throat as well. To make matters worse, we get a couple random cutaways to an older couple returning home. I guess they are the neighbors, as they arrive to see the woman die. Our villain kills both of them too and hides the bodies. He does spare their baby, as it allows for a plot point later. Where do the birds come into play?
*
This happens moments later as one of them attacks our villain and crudely pulls his eye out. They break the first-person perspective for this shot as it would be far too cool to see how they made it adjust. Lazy and underwhelming film style- check. We cut to the present day...of the late 1980s and what is supposed to be a college campus. We get introduced to our male heroes, who have gotten a grant to find some random bird that has not been seen for over 20 years. They take a crew out there, but are also joined by the lead school reporter. In a plot point that is never elaborated on, she was evidently intimate with our lead in the past and wants to be so again. They never say this, mind you. Instead, everyone just acts like it is really awkward to have her around. Hurray?
*
They finally get to the old mansion and learn that it looks incredibly worn-down. In a big 'shock reveal,' they meet the owner: Robert Vaughn in really crappy make-up that is supposed to make him look wounded. You see, he was the man in the flashback...even though he looks far too old. This bit of logic is too trivial for our film as well. Anyhow, he leads them on about knowing where the bird is for awhile and they...wander around. This goes on, seriously, for at least five to ten minutes. Actual time is relative when you are watching badly-dubbed, 30-year old 'college students' do errands and stare. You can pretty much ignore everything until we get the pre-requisite weird scene right at the 45-minute mark. Ah, simplistic screenplay writing.
*
Our hero stumbles across the bedroom murder scene which appears to be...exactly the same as it was 20 years ago. Is this an hallucination or bad writing? You decide! At this point, I really lost interest and can only provide a general summary. Our heroes stay the night, but eventually start to get killed. One is lit aflame...by someone and another is cut up in the conveyor belt attached to the generator. Around an hour or so into the movie, we finally get a zombie. Just one though. He pulls one of the women out the back of the truck and slowly pulls her head off. After seeking shelter in the attic, the zombie suddenly gets on the roof in a matter of seconds from being below them before. He kills another one of the 'teens,' leaving our formerly-romantically-involved-maybe couple. Robert Vaughn reappears after being gone for nearly 30 minutes and says that he will face his penance. One badly-inserted shot of birds flocking, a scream and a freeze frame later & we get the credits. Thank God!
*
How do you make zombies utterly boring? By not having them, obviously. The lone undead in the movie looks far more like a mummy and, BTW, they never say who it is supposed to be as far as I could recall. How did they get Robert Vaughn to be in this movie? Was it some kind of hustle? By the way, the girl who gets killed in the truck is also in Witchery, another piece of shit import from Italy that will be reviewed shortly. She is actually much worse in that one. Am I glad that this 'series' is over? Hell yes. Now I can move on to much better series' like The Munchies and, hell, anything else.
*
Who wants a brand new segment? This one is going to cover the crap that I refuse to spoil my Netflix account with. Stay tuned...

Friday, July 17, 2009

"Deep Blue Sea" Moments: REC

Deep Blue Sea is a good movie that has become immortalized by three words: Samuel L. Jackson.

Yes, the middle one is not a word- deal with it. Seriously though, his famous death has added a new cliche to the catalog of cinema. I bring you the first of a possible series of what I call 'Deep Blue Sea Moments.'
[OREC]
This is the original Spanish version of the film that we in America call Quarantine. While a very literal title, it is also far less creative. An American film that is less creative than it's foreign counterpart- get out of here!
*
The plot is basically the same: reporter follows firefighters on patrol and ends up in a building full of (shortly thereafter) zombies. In fairness to the movie, they establish the 'this is all being filmed in person' idea very well. People address the 'cameraman' and act like 'why am I being filmed right now?' Unfortunately, once the real horror begins, the people act like, well, horror-movie characters. This tied with a bizarre ending that I still don't quite get makes for an uneven picture.
*
Our 'D.B.S. Moment' comes near the end. A few of the survivors have hidden upstairs along with one scientist. Unfortunately, that man was bitten and locks himself away. For a couple of minutes, they discuss how scared they are and how they cannot believe what is going on. One of the tenants suddenly remembers that there is another exit through the sewers. Of course, it is past all of the zombies, but it should be okay. He gives a full speech explaining where it is, how to get there and how simple it would be. Literally the second he finishes, the zombie scientist's hands burst through the oddly-thin door and choke the man to death.
*
Didn't see that coming, huh?
*
And this has been a Deep Blue Sea Moment of Cinema. Stay tuned for more, if I think of any...

Quintology: Trancers V

Oh my god, I have made it to the end. But at what cost? Have my standards been lowered by the sheer force of these mostly-average-but-never-great movies? Will I suddenly think that Lucio Fulci is a director with no blemish? Will I look forward to 'Tiny' Lister appearances in films? Only time- and future reviews- will tell. In the meantime, let's get past Full Moon Pictures for a while and finish up with...
Yeah, I don't need to even say anything, do I? I thought not.
*
The film begins with a montage of the last movie. This goes on for roughly ten minutes a.k.a. an eternity. Your first sign of worry has to come when your lead-in is this long for a movie that is just over seventy minutes. Combine this with the re-use of footage from the beginning of Trancers IV (which is also shown in the montage, in case you are completely dumb and forget by the end) and nearly a quarter of the film is old footage. You lazy bastards.
*
The real movie begins with a long scene of Tunnel Rats running around and killing the nobles. Of course, Jack is not there. Thanks for helping, buddy. We cut to Jack and his lady pal hanging out. I neglected to mention a couple plot points in my last review, so let me correct that. The weapon's designer lady has a 'double' in this alternate dimension. You would think that they would be setting up a Peter Pan sort of thing (where the dad is also Captain Hook), but you would be wrong. It's just her. Anyhow, in the interim between the two films (big shock), he has grown tired of the subservient nature she possesses from years as a slave. Her character arc gets a little weird as she basically turns into the seer (replacing the one who died in the fourth film). His story was a bit odd too. He dies after standing up to a noble and doing...well, nothing. He falls over and uncovers a sketch of his death. All things considered, that qualifies as suicide in my book.
*
So, basically, this is what happens: the villain comes back to life and all hell breaks loose. He does this by having a painting of him be unraveled and, voila, he's alive. It's nice how easy that is, isn't it? His evil plan involves getting some mysterious gem that will allow him to access untold power. It is stored, naturally, in the Castle of Imminent Death. This movie is all about subtlety. As luck would have it, this same artifact also would give Jack the power to return to his home world. Jack and the villain's reformed-son Prospero head off and learn to respect each other along the way. Jack's very anti-trancer attitude is tested by the young man in a series of very forced dialogue interactions. Where did your subtle writing go, Peter David?
*
For such a long build-up (about 45 minutes), the final battle aspect goes pretty quickly. The villain beats up Prospero and Jack, but they escape. They manage to get back in time before the villain accomplishes his goal, but after the stunt coordinator/actor gets killed. Alas poor...somebody. Nobody important dies though. In a surprisingly quick fashion, the villain is killed...again and Jack returns home. But he is not alone though. Prospero goes with him, fearing that he will lose control around his love-interest lady. We get the same 'Jack is lost' footage, but with a little more. Jack and Prospero show up, the latter of whom is apparently cured by the trip. Con-ven-ient! Jack makes out with his version of the bitchy lady and we all live happily ever after...well, until the crappy 6th film. I will not review that, as it is made up of entirely stock footage of Tim Thomerson. Trancers without Thomerson- forget it.
*
Well, we all survived. Let's return to form with the end- and oddly enough- the fifth part of a different, crappier series. Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Quintology: Trancers IV

It must be nice to live life by Full Moon standards. If your work does not cost too much, it can be average in most ways and make a little profit. Imagine if Wall Street worked like that. Oh wait, their system is even more screwed up. Well, that's enough political commentary for today. Let's jump right into the pile of low-budget film-making that is...
Yeah, they somehow made a stupider subtitle. Stupidity is its own reward.
*
The film begins with Jack returning from one of his time-travel adventures. When asked, he reveals that Shark (the lizard-robot thing from Trancers III) was killed in battle. Nice knowing you, random character with no back-story. Other than a sight gag where Jack has the thing's head plugged in as a lamp (no, really), he is gone. But wait, there is more. You recall how Jack's dead-wife-in-another-body-from-the-past is in the present (our future) with him and that our hero is now single (after being dumped in Trancers III)? Well, forget that too. Some random council member (he has a name, but I don't care) is now with her and says that Jack 'should have known that this was coming.' Well, of course he did. It was the gap between movies, which automatically kills any love-life he may have.
*
Jack goes out drinking and randomly hits on some lady. When she turns him down, he gets all 'I know women like you' and she leaves. Lo and behold, he runs into her the next day- as his new weapon's designer. That black lady from the Council from Trancers 1-3 is gone with no explanation too, by the way. Should have seen that coming, huh? While in his tube to jump to another incident, a random monster that Jack killed re-spawns...somehow and a struggle breaks out. This sends his 'ship' (which is basically one of those pods that astronauts land in) off-course and he vanishes. Jack arrives in a new world and finds his way home smashed. His train of thought is interrupted by a lady being attacked by a man in a bad Renaissance Faire outfit. By the way, we changed genres just now. His new plasma gun does nothing and our hero nearly dies. Through sheer luck, he kills the guy and moves on.
*
This is basically what you need to know: Jack is in a dimension called Orpheus (subtle, movie) where trancers are rich nobles that suck life energy from commoners. Yes, they are in fact energy vampires. The lack of a naked lady version is a big oversight by the film. Their leader is a pompous noble who does all of his acting in his face and nowhere else. His son is rejecting the ways of the trancer and the lady chosen for him by daddy.
*
Meanwhile, Jack meets The Tunnel Rats aka the most generic group of freedom fighters in movie history. Our hero still gets captured and, in the process, learns that his favorite gadget- the long-second watch- does not work right anymore. Actually, they don't explain what is wrong with it until Trancers V. In this movie, he just moves in slow-motion, giving us no idea why. The resistance rescues Jack, leading up to the big fight. Son betrays father and father dies...at least until the sequel/second-half. The End.
*
This movie is...odd. The future plays a super-tiny part and the majority of it was shot in the woods of Romania. Jack- and by proxy Tim- looks very out-of-place in the setting, which works both for and against the movie. On top of that, the idea that trancers are now vampiric nobles is an odd choice. Our hero catches on to this idea in a rather quick and convenient manner, almost as if he is trying to tell us that everything will be alright. Incidentally, this movie- as well as Trancers V- was written by Peter David, a comic book writer most famous for a 10-year run on 'The Incredible Hulk.' None of his talent ended up here. The movie is an interesting diversion, but far more forgettable than any other Trancers film.
*
Big finish! Big finish! Even if this movie is mostly a re-tread, I say BIG FINISH. Stay tuned...