Thursday, September 30, 2010

Billy Crap: Billy Jack Goes to Washington

It's about time we wrap this up, don't you think?  After compromising to make The Born Losers, finally getting his opus Billy Jack made and producing a big hit in The Trial of Billy Jack, power clearly went to Tom Laughlin's head.  Yes, this is in contrast to making a three-hour film in which he basically stands on a soapbox and shouts at Richard Nixon.  Why do I say that this one is full of hubris?  Well, for starters, the film is basically a remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.  You waited 20 years to get your own script made and decided to close out your series with a shoddily-made remake?  Wow.  Secondly, Tom, his wife Dolores Taylor and his daughter (in a minor role) get above-the-title billing!  So what resulted from all of this?  The movie was not released in most theaters.  That's right.  After making a movie that- despite being terrible- played nationwide and grossed $31 million dollars (not adjusted for inflation).  That's just behind films like Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.  This also spells the end of Laughlin's major film career, unless he ever gets that new Billy Jack film made.  Let's just get to it, huh?  Get out your domino-style collection of mirrors for my review of...
Before the titles roll, we get a long narration explaining that this film is all about the building of a nuclear power plant.  The appropriations bill was hidden in another bill and the meetings kept secret.  That's so fictitious pretty much happened in the early days of George W. Bush's presidency with his Energy Task Force.  After a cameo by reporter Joe Klein as, well, a reporter, one of the Senators behind the Bill dies, leading to the appointment of a new guy.  They pick Billy Jack, figuring that his appointment will do their party good in the long run and that he will never win a real election.  After some pointless bits in the desert (just to keep the flavor, I guess), he arrives and plays ball...for a while.  Eventually, he proposes his own bill to build a school (how many Indian Schools do we need?) that happens to be on the same land.  In a silly sub-plot, a super-secret memo about the plant bill was taken by an aid when the first Senator died, he tries to sell it and gets killed.  It amounts to nothing in the long run, since the man's girlfriend returns in time for the finale anyhow.  Using his time-manipulation powers, Jack talks to every Senator and gets their voting records in a week!  Even back then there were over 500 of them!  I'd say that this is silly, but I've already seen Billy Jack be appointed to the Senate.
Oh yeah, right around the hour mark, they throw in a fight scene.  I hope you like it, because it's all you get!  Tom's wife gets to get in on the action.  Well, it's actually an obvious stunt double, but it's the thought that counts.  Next time, get a lady with the right hair color, Tom!
After that nonsense, Jack tries to talk about the bill's issues on the Senate floor before his mentor/buddy turns on him.  The bad guys fake evidence of a crime committed by Jack and try to get him kicked out of the Senate.  Thankfully, the gallery is there to explain the events to us.  Jack makes one last stand, taking the Senate floor and controlling by way of constantly-objecting.  My hero!  The press catch wind of this and the other leads push to help him.  He speaks on the floor for some undisclosed amount of time before the Senators who previously walked out on him return with a bunch of letters from Americans.  When confronted with this 'evidence' about how people don't agree with him, Jack suddenly gets his 600th wind and gives one more speech before passing out.  The Senators finally vote on whether to kick him out, but that stops when his former best friend/mentor has a sudden Face Turn and says 'no.'  So, despite being convicted by the Senate and only one person saying 'no,' Jack has now won?  How does, who the hell cares?!?
This movie sucks- not that I need to tell you that.  This movie is essentially a remake of a classic Frank Capra film.  Yeah, that's the problem.  That movie is great, while this movie is terrible.  Jimmy Stewart was a great actor, while Laughlin was basically bi-polar here.  Never mind that he only seems to possess two outfits in this movie- his denim outfit and a brown suit.  Given how he was there for about three months, wouldn't those clothes stink by now?  Speaking of stinking, this movie did terrible in its limited release.  Not only that, but it was a money pit.  This almost-all-talk film cost $7 million to make.  A good chunk of this came from Laughlin spending $750,000 to make the Senate Floor set, since the real people said 'no.'  Not surprisingly, since this movie paints them in a terrible light.  The question is this: is this one of the worst movies ever made?  For me, no.  Don't get me wrong- it's utter shit.  However, I found The Trial of Billy Jack to be far worse.  Not only that, but it's so cheesy and forgettable that it doesn't rank up there with films like Blood Freak or Wild Zero.  I'll move on, which is just what America did after this film.  If you ever make that new Billy Jack film, Tom, you can count me out!
Next up, we begin October with a pair of obscure horror films with a curious gimmick.  I'll give you a hint- it involves bush.  Stay tuned...

Forgotten Toons: Centurions

What is your definition of 'extreme?'  Is it related to some sport involving seventeen year-olds crashing and wrecking their junk in YouTube videos?  Is it related to an energy drink that's 80% sugar?  To me, the answer is simple: power.  That's right- POWER EX-TREME!
If you've never seen this show, you're probably confused by that introduction.  Basically, there's an evil villain trying to take over the world with an army of robots.  Standing in his way are a trio of aerial, ground and sea experts, alongside a woman in a satellite and a monkey.  Don't worry- it's not Link.  They beam into action via the satellite and get armored suits beamed down to them.  For some reason, they have to say 'Power Ex-treme!' when they do this.  Is it a keyword?  Who knows?  Anyhow, the suits are separate pieces of armor that connect to their jumpsuits like Lego blocks.  That's an interesting design, don't you think?  Each man had two or three suits, designed to fit different needs.  For example, Ace (the aerial guy) had a jet suit and a space suit.  The sea expert had a standard armor and a tougher one- which even carried a depth charge.  By the way, that suit was named- you guessed it- Depth Charge.  Lastly, the ground expert had a suit that was basically just weapons, one that turned him into a motorcycle (Tron fans?) and a helicopter one.  Of course!  When I think about the ground, I think about helicopters!
I would be remiss without mentioning the two additions to the team made in the latter half of it's one season (which ran for 65 episodes).  They introduced Rex Charger, a science expert who had one suit.  His big weapon: an electro-magnet.  No, really.  He also was given the worst color combination they could think of.  Check out his toy for proof.
 The second was John Thunder.  He had a cool knife, a black body suit and everything going his way.  Then they introduced his armor.  It has a giant bow on its back!  Billy Jack is going to be pissed when he hears about this shit!
Honestly, I don't care how cheesy this show could get- I love it.  I grew up watching it as a kid and it has a deep place in my heart.  Every time I hear someone say 'Power Ex-treme,' I think of this show.  Mind you, that doesn't happen too often, but you get my point!  It had great action, good animation and a plot that any could rationalize as making sense.  If you don't take it seriously, you can have a damn good time with it.  Hell, they're even pretty good about minimizing the re-use of animation.  It's a crying shame that this show does not have a DVD release!  I can get a dozen shitty, short-lived shows, but not this one?  Correct this offense now or I'll have Max Ray put on that suit you're looking at and get you!
Next up, let's take a look at another Boomerang favorite.  This one is about a planet of aliens, monsters and...cavemen?  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Billy Crap: The Trial of Billy Jack

Oh boy, this one is a doozy!  This film is the magnum opus of Tom Laughlin's film career, which basically lasted between 1967 and the mid-70s.  He tried to make films since, but nothing ever really panned out.  I'll get to that in the next review though.  The first important thing to note is that this movie is nearly three hours long!  That's right- three hours!  One good thing to note is that this is *technically* the first 'blockbuster film.'  You see, rather than distributing the film city-by-city over a prolonged period of time, the film was released nationwide and press interviews were given on local media outlets to support it.  Sound familiar?  Unfortunately, that historical landmark belongs to this film.  Get out your unnamed Hapkido expert for my review of...
The film begins with shots of the desert and a narrator talking about recent school shootings like the one in Kent University.  In context of the film's release, I have to say this- too soon!  The narrative follows the school's headmaster (also Laughlin's wife) in the hospital talking about the school being shot up.  This leads into the longest 'here's what happened' tale that I'm aware of.  The titular event of the film takes place, which includes flashbacks of it's own.  Remember that Simpsons episode where they jokingly had a flashback in a flashback?  Well, this film actually does this!  Jack explains that his unit was ordered to kill civilians in Vietnam and, afterwards, the man who made the order was turned into a national hero.  Yes, this major event was so famous that he has to explain it in detail to us.  Bonus points for throwing in a couple shots at Nixon though.  Right at the twenty-minute mark, the actual trial ends and Jack goes to jail for five years.  The trial ends 1/9 of the way through the film?  Ugh.  During his stay in jail, we get to hear all about the school.  Sigh.  I really wish that they would make this brief, but it takes a good ten minutes.  Basically, they expand into a new building, talk about politics and just generally stick their noses in everything.
If I was really going to do a thorough review, I'd need about four more paragraphs.  Instead, I'm going to summarize this 173 minute film...
* The local authorities (led by the brother of the Sheriff from the last film) harass the school and it's students.
* Serious crimes- including assault, arson and a bombing- occur and are quickly passed over.
* Billy Jack goes through a pretentious ritual to discover his inner spirit and learn peace.  Oh yeah, he also slaps Jesus too.
* Following this, he gets in a fight, tells people not to fight and gets in another fight.  During the second one, he randomly gets a fellow Hapkido expert to help him.
* After the fight, Jack kills the villain via Dragon Kick to the throat, but surrenders himself to authorities.  However...
* It's actually a trick to kill him, leading to the military shooting up the school- thus setting up the beginning.
This movie sucks...but I'm not surprised at this point.  The film is even longer than the previous two films.  Hell, it's close to the combined length of the previous two films!  So what does Tom do with this massive increase in time?  More of the same, that's what!  Seriously, other than changing certain details, so much of this movie is the same old shit you saw last time.  People hate the school, but it's in a different location now.  Jack fights bullies, but in different locations.  The things they do add are completely ridiculous too.  The whole spiritual ceremony is a complete farce, done in such a silly manner that it just feels phony.  I mean, Billy Jack talks to himself, meets up with Jesus and learns how to control his rage?  Are you serious?  Never mind that this goes against the message that the entire series has built up so far.  Billy Jack has solved every problem with a gun and that doesn't change here.  So why the talk about peace and non-violence?  On the plus side, the action is better here.  Then again, the big action scene takes place at the two-hour mark, a point at which most films have already ended!  I can't recommend this as more than a curiosity piece.  If you've got three hours to kill with a confusing morality play, enjoy.
Next up, we wrap up the Billy Jack series with a film that's basically a remake of a Jimmy Stewart film.  So much for creativity and passion, huh Tom?  Stay tuned...

Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: Jaws in Japan

After so many segments in this page, you think that I would be out of Jaws rip-offs with exaggerated posters. You would be wrong.  This one is a new release from Japan, coming stateside sometime soon.  It's also really goofy...
Not having seen the film, I can't attest to whether or not this scene occurs.  However, I do know that the film is mostly an excuse to show busty AV idols.  Having seen Yo-Yo Sexy Girl Cop, I know what to expect.

Next up, I take a look at a film so goofy that it describes the entire plot on the poster.  However, it has some serious talent behind it....weird.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Billy Crap: Billy Jack

Alright, let's not waste any time here.  After over a decade, Tom Laughlin got a drive-in hit with The Born Losers.  That gave him the pull he needed to get his magnum opus made.  This movie is famous for its preachy nature and silly plot.  There's no question about that.  The real question is whether or not this film holds up after all these years.  Can it live up to the hype?  Get out your scoop full of flour for my review of...
The film begins with a sappy song played over footage of the desert.  Is this a film or a Ford Truck commercial?  After some long credits (in the beginning, oddly enough), we see a group of people chasing wild horses in a truck.  They try to get them to a ranch, but end up being confronted by Billy Jack.  He stands his ground, since the horses are on Indian land and the ranchers are not Indians, and forces them to leave.  Yet again, Jack solves all of his problems with a gun.  The narrative changes to the nearby town's sheriff and his daughter, a slutty girl with an attitude.  When she says that she's pregnant and gives him 'sass,' he beats her up.  She ends up in the hospital and, for no good reason, ends up in Billy Jack's care.  See what I meant in the last review about this plot thread showing up again?  The plot decides to go on a major side road and focuses on the school that is run on the Indian Reservation.  This is some serious hippie shit and takes up a good twenty minutes or so.  All you need to know is that the girl finds a new home there and her father has no idea where she is.  That's pretty much it.
A group of students go into town, leading to the film's most famous segment.  When one of them rejects the advances of an Eric Bana-looking guy (also the Deputy's son), he harasses the group in an ice cream parlor (this was made in the 1970s?) when the owner refuses to serve the Indian.  After a short fight, Billy Jack shows up and beats up the teenagers.  I should note that Laughlin was 40 when he shot this scene.  He goes outside and gets in a fight with a bunch of townspeople.  If you've seen Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter, this will look familiar.  By the way, if you've seen Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter, you're a freak like me.  Despite showing off his Hapkido skills, Jack is beaten up and saved by the one non-corrupt lawman in the town.  Following that, Jack disappears to take part in some sort of Indian ceremony.  They explain it- ad nauseum, I might add- but I'll leave the explanation out of here.  We see the kid from the earlier town scene staring down Billy Jack with a sniper rifle, but he does nothing.  So the point of that was what exactly?  Jack eventually get some retribution by trapping the kid by a lake and forcing him to drive his dad's car into the water.  That's going to solve all your problems for sure!
Unfortunately, I was wrong.  The school has issues with a local judge, leading to a really-extended court scene that goes nowhere.  When the sheriff learns that his daughter is at the school and being romanced by an Indian, he gets a little pissed.  The kid gets revenge on the school by catching the school's caretaker out swimming and raping her.  By the way, she's played by Laughlin's wife.  That's only slightly less creepy than Argento's work in The Stendhaal Syndrome.  All hell breaks loose from hereon out.  The kid eventually ends up killing the Indian boy, who, in turn, gets shot by Billy Jack.  Somewhere during all of this, the daughter falls off of a horse and miscarriages.  This is odd, since the plot requires her to be out trick-riding while pregnant!  You couldn't have had a villain cause this, Tom?  A shoot-out occurs at the school, leading to the death of the Sheriff.  Way to make that a random incident and seem unimportant, guys!  Jack and the girl hole out for a while, refusing to surrender.  Eventually, Jack gives the people a list of demands- which they agree to- and gives himself up.  Considering his body count, that was surprisingly-easy.  One pretentious exit ceremony- complete with a silly helicopter shot- and this movie is over.
This movie sucks, but for all the reasons that it should.  Unlike The Born Losers, there is no pretense of trying to make this fit in to a movie norm.  No, this movie is all about the message.  That message: hippies are smarter than everyone & the law is just out to get you.  Seriously, this is movie is how every Republican sees Democrats.  There's no middle ground here.  You're either a corrupt lawman or you're a hippie that understands your connection to nature.  The school scenes are horrendously-dated and represent a really idealized view of society.  There were maybe ten people that were actually like this (counting Laughlin and his wife) at the time!  On top of that, the film is self-indulgent to the point of excess.  I didn't even mention the three songs sung by a little girl, who just so happens to be Tom's daughter.  I'm sorry, but this movie is a painful experience.  It's what happens when people make 'their vision' with no oversight from a third party.  Someone like that will tell you 'no, this is silly' or 'you could really cut that.'  Like a good number of Tim Burton films, that guy just wasn't there.  In spite of all the negatives, the film is an interesting snapshot of how people thought in this era.  That's something- right?
Up next, one of the most infamous films ever comes up.  Can you stand nearly three hours of Billy Jack posturing and preaching?  Stay tuned...

Lost in Translation: Willow

There were a lot of fantasy films in the 1980s and a certain film starring Warwick Davis is remembered fondly.  How did Poland view the film though?  Well, you see...
Um, you guys seem to be confusing Willow with The Dark Crystal and that with Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings films.  Nice, I guess.

Up next, a famous car chase movie gets a bit mangled up by Poland.  Yes, there's more of them.  Stay tuned...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Billy Crap: The Born Losers

Who is Tom Laughlin?  To most people, the name means nothing.  However, this man is known by another name- Billy Jack.  Yes, Laughlin starred in and had major input into four films with the character- not counting the fifth one that remains uncompleted since 1985.  The character was basically his way to speak about the things that bothered him throughout the 1960s-1970s.  Interestingly enough, he wanted to do it a lot sooner.  Supposedly, Laughlin tried for nearly 20 years to get Billy Jack made.  As a compromise, they made a film featuring Billy Jack facing off against a very popular threat from the day: bikers.  When you see the rest of the films in the series, you'll realize how out of place this film really is.  Is it still preachy and ridiculous?  Yes.  Is it good though?  Get out your bikini and bonnet combo for my review of...
The film begins with a bunch of B-Roll of bikers driving around.  I'm sorry- it's the film's actual footage.  It is just so cheap and cliche that it seems like it.  The gang known as the Born Losers drive around the town and, well, be jerks.  When one man bumps their bike, they pick a fight with him and layeth the smacketh down!  He flees to a diner to call 911, but is sent away.  The diner inside- Billy Jack- lets him back in before the gang returns.  He intercedes by going around back with his rifle, but gets arrested.  That's Billy Jack- solving all of his problems with a gun!  He gets forced to either go to jail or pay a $1,000 fine.  The commentary comes in when Jack learns that the bikers were only given a $350 fine.  That's so insightful...about something.  Jack has a problem raising the money, a plot thread that is completely-forgotten about by the final two-thirds of the film.  In a separate plot, a woman with a pixie cut arrives in town, upset by her father not coming to see her.  We also meet some young women who have 'a thing' for bikers.  Don't worry- that will change.  Eventually, the Losers (not be confused with the awesome film) hook up with the girls and run across the pixie cut girl...
So yeah, they all meet a rough fate.  Want to guess what happens to a bunch of women in a room full of bikers?  This upsets Billy Jack so much that not even aware of it until it gets on the news.  The Losers get all Mission: Impossible on the town with schemes to get at the women to keep them from testifying.  This plan works at first, with them nearly catching the pixie-haired girl.  Unfortunately for them, they run into Billy Jack, who proceeds to use his power to choppily-edit the film and beat them up.  In a plot thread we'd see later, Jack is now the woman's protector.  How about the other girls?  In a weird scene, one of them is berated by their mother before she leaves.  Afterwards, she decides to randomly do a striptease for...his stuffed animals when she is surprised by the Losers (again- not the great film).  Why did she do it?  Um, I don't know.  When the police won't say that they can 'protect her forever,' the mother throws a hissy fit.  Seriously, her performance is so over the top that she has to be related to Laughlin!  With things going their way, the Losers put their focus on the pixie-cut girl.  Get to work, Billy!
With the gang and Jack both hanging around the area, tensions are sure to rise.  Never mind that they outnumber him or the fact that Jack refuses to fight them most of the time.  At one point, he fights one of the gang members in a fight that should be great...but sucks.  The guy runs up at Billy and gets punched in his exposed stomach.  He gets up...and does it again.  Jack and the girl leave, but eventually agree to meet up with them, for fear that the violence will escalate to others.  It still does, making their actions- entirely pointless!  The Losers (okay- the joke is dead) have captured one of the other girls who might testify.  How? They do the trick they tried earlier to get the pixie-haired girl, only with shooting instead of stealing a car.  Jack makes a big to-do about standing up to them...and promptly gets clubbed in the back of the head.  Apparently Indians lack peripheral vision- look it up!  The pixie-haired girl agrees to let herself be raped in return for Jack, the girl and her useless father being let go.  A bit later, Jack wakes up from his cracked skull and tricks the men, allowing himself to get inside.  He holds them at gun point, finally killing off the gang's leader.  The new leader is very compliant and flees, allowing them to be arrested.  One self-serving bit of and ending later and this film is over.
This film sucks- especially when it shouldn't!  I mean, a tough, take-no-prisoners guy takes on a gang of rule-breaking, rapist bikers.  That's a sure-fire classic!  Unfortunately, the film is horribly-paced, alternating awkwardly from wordy dialog to sudden death.  Who can manage to ruin a premise so simple?  Oh right, Tom Laughlin.  Clearly his heart was not in this, as his acting level barely goes above 'mild bemusement.'  I get the impression that this movie could have been about Godzilla fighting Jesus and he'd be 'eh, whatever.'  This is what happens you make a film just because it will be a hit.  There's no soul here!  The characters do random things, the plot sort of saunters along and it takes forever to resolve anything.  It's a good thing that people forget about this movie, because it's pretty easy to do.  The few 'Billy Jack' moments of awesomeness come too little too late.  Seriously, my father's favorite moment of the film (Jack shooting the leader) occurs in the last ten minutes.  Hell, he doesn't have a silly-looking Akido fight of note here.  The film is notable for introducing the character, but not much else.
Up next, we get to see the film that Laughlin waited nearly 20 years to make.  Will the titular film be a classic or a piece of shit?  Stay tuned...

VHS For the Win: Evil Laugh

What defines a real killer?  Is it their insanity?  Is it their lust for violence?  Is it their desire to kill anyone having sex?  No, it's their...
Oh shit, the Grim Reaper has upgraded!  Not only that, but he can apparently affect real people, despite being hand-drawn!  We're all doomed!

Next up, we look at whether or not evil is genetic or not.  These three sisters will help us out just fine.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

VHS For My Loss: Truth or Dare?

What makes a film a cult classic?  Is it the fact that it's rare and hard to find?  Is it the age of the film?  Or is it just the fact that nobody saw it?  There's a great excerpt from Bruce Campbell's book that talks about how 'A hit film is seen by 1 million people 1,000 times, while a cult film is seen by 1 thousand people 1,000,000 times.'  Why do I bring this up?  Because today's review is of a film from 1986 that is considered to be a cult classic by many.  The film had a widespread VHS release in its day, but it took a while for it to be released properly on DVD.  In fact, there are two sequels- the first is not on DVD (at least through Netflix) and the other is.  So what is this film Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness about?  Basically, a guy goes crazy when something traumatic to him and he becomes a crazed, serial killer.  That's pretty much it.  Believe me, there's more to talk about, but that's the gist of it.  This film was made by a young Tim Ritter, who has gone on to be involved in numerous other Direct-to-VHS/Direct-to-DVD releases over the years.  Basically, he's a one-man Polonia Brothers- not to be confused with how they are post-2005.  I'd say that the joke was in bad taste, but, considering those guys made Feeders 2, I'd say that neither one of them can judge me when it comes to that!  So yeah, does this movie live up to its reputation?  We'll see.  Get out your random mace for my review of...
The beginning of this film is a serious drag, as it takes its sweet time getting going.  Remember the beginning of Road Games?  That's nothing.  Hell, the beginning of Munich is more speedy!  Basically, a guy takes about five minutes- post credits- to drive home and find his wife having an affair.  He leaves, driving off to the woods and hearing the words spoken earlier over and over again.  Yes, repeat the bad dialog six or seven more times, movie!  The guy gets even weirder, apparently talking to a woman that sort of appears in the woods.  He plays 'truth or dare' with her, but it just consists of him maiming himself.  Thankfully for him, a cop arrives and sends for medical assistance.  What's the treatment for wasting my damn time?!?
Basically, the film devolves into a loosely-connected murders.  We get some filler too, but the 'highlights' include...
* The guy feeds a fellow mental patient a grenade.  Where did he get it?  I dunno.
* He kills the wife's lover, despite him not being near him.
* He kills one of the asylum patients with a pencil.  It's that easy!
* He kills a random kid by driving by him with a chainsaw...which mildly-wounds him.  That's sad.
* He kills a woman who yells at him for hitting her garbage cans, despite him loading up an arsenal in front of her!  She dies via mace (why not?) to the face.
* In the end, he gets tricked by a guard from the asylum and shot, only to have killed the woman in the closet...and then him.  He dies.  The End.
This movie sucks!  I get it- it was made for very little money.  There are many good films that were shot for a tiny budget...and this isn't one of them.  Had it been straight-forward, I could deal with it.  Instead, it's full of more padding than a training bra!  What's the point of most of this?  The only reason he maims himself is to have him wear that strange mask for the rest of the movie.  He kills people- big whoop.  Only the most shitty of shitty horror films- i.e. The Gardener- fail to not have that.  This film has nothing that you haven't seen before, but it was done better in those films.  What a waste of freaking time this movie was!  I don't care how 'obscure' it is, it still sucks.  Speaking of padding...
Next up, I take a long look at four of the most pretentious films ever made.  First up, a film about a man named Billy Jack who doesn't care for bikers.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blockbuster Trash: Ancient Evil 2- Guardian of the Underworld

I was not looking forward to this movie.  The original film was really bad.  I mean, really, really bad.  Well, let's try to be positive for a bit here.  For one thing, David DeCoteau is not directing here.  I'll get enough of him next month with the Puppet Master films!  Instead, it's some guy I've never heard about.  Given how the film turns out, I doubt that aspect about him is going to change.  The film involves a bunch of people in New England who manage to summon the ancient God Anubis in humanoid form.  Why?  Why the hell not?!?  I summoned Set last weekend and nothing bad happened.  Well, not to me anyways.  Will their experiment go worse than mine?  Get out your ancient Egyptian Hummel figurine for my review of...
The film begins in ancient Egypt- at least, that's what they say.  It's clearly filmed on the same kind of beach you see in New England.  Considering that I've both been there and seen The Flesh Eaters, I can assure you of this fact.  Anyhow, a fat mummy- NOOOO!!!!- wanders around in pursuit of a Prince of Persia-reject and they fight.  The man with the sword dies, but a light from the sky vanquishes the monster too.  After the credits, we arrive in present day to see a slutty woman go to an antique store.  You see, the film is set in one of those small, New England towns that don't make for good movies.  There's practically nobody there, nothing to do and nothing of interest around.  On the plus side, it's cheaper than hiring extras.  The woman buys a figurine from the owner, but finds out that it has a convoluted origin.  You see, someone took this object from Egypt and brought it all the way to Canada, whereupon the dying man sold it to this black guy who returned it to New England.  No, really.  The guy gives the girl a whole speech about how the object is dangerous, apparently fulfilling a contract he had with the guy.  Bear in mind that he still gives it to her after she makes it clear that she wants to resurrect Anubis on Earth.  Oh yeah, this guy never appears again after this part- hurray!  On a beach, two idiots are discussing their plans, one of whom wanting to rent porn.  The other one jokes about that 'being gay.'  Is that a dig at your old director or just shitty writing?
After some filler, the woman is greeted in her home by her dead mother, who apparently tried something like this.  The girl scoffs at her concerns & makes plans to do the ritual right.  To do so, she needs more souls around.  Thankfully, she's dating the jerk who thought something 'was gay.'  As a side-note to that, we later learn that the girl is a virgin, but lets the guy do 'the other thing' to make him happy.  You're the one talking about things being 'gay' again?  The trio- counting the stoner idiot- convince the store owner and his prude of a girlfriend to go out with them to the woods to summon the creature.  Well, they were just having a conversation that included the phrase 'Let's agree not to negotiate for your hymen,' so they had nothing better to do.  One music video/montage later, they arrive in the woods...and walk some more.  Finally, they get to the place and do the ceremony, but only after introducing a sub-plot around baby murdering.  Thanks, movie. The ceremony only works when the girl bleeds on the tablet.  Unfortunately, she bleeds some more when she walks out of her own protective circle and is killed by Anubis.  By the way, Anubis is just the fat mummy, but with a dog mask on.  Our heroes run off, but get separated from the stoner guy.  He runs off to a shed mentioned earlier, finding a spotlight left on in the abandoned building.  Why?  So we can see him die, of course.
After the jerk guy splits up, he gets killed alongside a truck driver who stops for him.  Why is he here?  To drive up the body count.  That's also why we get to meet two hunters (killed), a Torgo-looking bum (killed) and a hitchhiker (you guessed it- killed).  Our two Final Girls/Boys backtrack for the manuscript and read the conveniently-translated part about how they can send Anubis back.  The catch: they must be near Anubis.  Seconds later, he shows up...and they run away.  What was the point of that?!?  They had him unarmed and pinned to the wall, so they ran away?  This happens again, as they hide on an out-of-place semi-truck trailer.  Our hero actually fends off Anubis with a stick he just picked up off of the ground.  Eventually, they get to a barn and the girl is placed out of reach.  She spends five minutes whining and worrying instead of, you know, reading the scroll.  When that doesn't work, she finally remembers how the girl bled before to make the stone work, cuts herself and a light from the Heavens sends Anubis away.  Shouldn't it be from Hell?  After all that death, the movie just abruptly ends.  Okay than.
This movie sucks in a big way!  The premise has real potential, even if the setting, cast and production values are not up to par.  Had Anubis actually been interesting here, I might have been more forgiving.  Instead, he's just the same fat mummy from before, but he wears a gray wolf mask.  The only plus: he actually runs.  It looks silly as hell, but it's a change!  The writing here is terrible, as the characters are given very little motivation for doing anything.  The girl wants to summon Anubis, people will die.  The boyfriend and the stoner guy go along, her performing the ritual will be funny.  You make a several hour drive and mile-long hike for that?  In addition, the random extras/body count add nothing to the story.  The hunters shoot Anubis, but get killed after talking for five minutes.  The bum is there for, I guess, comedy relief.  Of course, he's not funny, his character makes no sense and he dies while making a joke.  What a freaking waste of time!  The hitchhiker literally gets mere seconds of screen time and, when she next appears, she dies at the doorstep.  Did she walk all the way there while wounded or something?  There are some good kills here, but you have to be really patient.  For wasting such a good premise, this movie gets what it deserves: a beating.
Next up, the final week of September brings us a VHS cult classic.  Will it tell the truth or dare to be utter shit?  Stay tuned...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Braiinnnn Dead: Dead & Deader

To laugh or not to laugh, that is the question.  Today's film asks this question in sort of an odd way.  Basically, this 2006 film has many elements of comedy, as well as violent deaths and shooting.  So, is it a comedy?  Most of the bits come completely out of nowhere, add nothing to the plot and then just sort of happen.  That's right- nearly every joke here is a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment!  Never mind that the premise is ludicrous as hell and doesn't really make a lick of sense.  Oh yeah, the film also stars Dean Cain, a man whose career peaked and crumbled in about a four-year period of time.  He played Superman on Lois & Clark and, once that was cancelled, went right into hosting Ripley's Believe it or Not!  Sure, he's worked a lot since, but nothing can really allow you to recover from something like that.  There's also something else you should know.  There's a rumor that this film actually started out as another film- House of the Dead 3.  Seriously, this might actually be a real thing.  In 2006, a press release was made about their being a third film in production and then, lo and behold, this film was released by Starz.  Smells fishy to me- what about you?  Regardless of what it was supposed to be, it's weird as hell.  Get out your giant stun gun for my review of...
The film begins in pure bad-movie territory by showing commandos approaching a shed.  Obvious sound-stage, much?  They invade the place and find...a bunch of dead guys and a cage full of scorpions.  I didn't know that corpses kept collections.  A mutated man comes out of a closet- you're supposed to do that to your parents!- and throws out a grenade, setting up the credits.  In the present, Dean Cain wakes up on a military slab about to be cut open.  Needless to say, he's not happy about that.  Let's throw in some dead guy comedy!  After that nonsense, Cain freaks out and cuts his arm, causing a scorpion to pop out.  Fatality?  He goes to leave the facility, but is taken to see a doctor.  She runs through a list of reasons why his existence makes no sense, while also questioning how he is alive.  Could you explain anything?  The nurse and him go to the kitchen when a report about one of his fellow soldiers came to life.  They run into the black chef, who is a bit confused as to why the guy is bleeding green and trying to bite him.  In the melee, the lady is bitten and ends up killing the other doctor in the room.  Cain kills the soldier, while the chef kills the lady by putting her head in the ceiling fan.  I think the screenwriter needs to watch Mythbusters!
When a room full of dead bodies is found with the two men inside, they obviously are arrested.  Cain convinces the other man that they must escape, since the other soldiers are out there.  Yes, let's keep those...scorpion-infected soldiers...who have come back to life.  My brain hurts already and we're like twenty minutes in!  Speaking of the soldiers, one of them is on a convoy and kills the soldiers, but only after they pointlessly-make jokes about something.  You have more big lips than a factory that makes wax lips!  The pair of now-ex-soldiers find the truck abandoned with nobody around.  Those zombies are neat and clean!  They head to a bar for a drink and flirting with a woman at the bar.  By the way, this bar also has one stripper in it.  Why?  Were the others just on break?  Unfortunately for them, the people in the bar decide to hold them hostage for the reward money.  Yeah, they put that on the news...within a span of a day.  Unfortunately, the zombies from the truck earlier arrive...later and lay siege to the bar.  Since the men were locked away, they survive and are set free by the woman.  They kill the zombies in a bloody battle, which also has some random comedy thrown in.  Oh yeah, the cops show up to arrest them, but they escape.  Hurray?
There's a lot of shit to cram into this last paragraph, so let's be brisk, people!  They go to find one of the soldiers, meet his fat wife, get a ride to where his body is- only it's not there, but one of the Lone Gunmen is.  After that cameo, they get caught by some weirdos who were apparently doing research with the things.  They do experiments with Cain after coercing him with threats of killing the fat wife if he doesn't.  Yeah, they kill her anyways.  The zombies get loose in the facility and things turn to shit.  I could ask why the people set them loose or how this all occurred, but I really don't care at this point.  We see the black guy get killed, only he actually survived by climbing in a grate...while attacked by zombies.  Sure- why not?!?  Watch for the needless bit between Cain and the woman in which they compare the two versions of Dawn of the Dead- whatever.  Most of the bad guys die by vicious zombie attack, but one Chelsea Handler-looking lady is accidentally shot by a comrade.  With the villains dead, our heroes lure the zombies somewhere and blow them up.  The day is saved...although Cain is still a zombie and will turn if he doesn't eat meat.  I'm just saying...
This movie is not nearly as good as it thinks it is.  The film attempts to be three things: funny, scary and exciting.  The zombies are generic, the jokes are randomly-placed and the action is generic.  So, what does the film actually do right?  The zombies- while generic- are well-made and the make-up work is effective.  Some of the jokes are pretty funny- I just don't get why they're here.  I mean, this movie does not commit to being a comedy, only throwing it in randomly.  Make a comedy or don't make a comedy!  PICK ONE!!!  If the rumor about this being a sequel to House of the Dead & being turned part-way into this are true, it would explain some things.  Why do zombies come from infected scorpions?  Why did Cain taking the thing out make him not a killer, but still immortal?  Why do the other people turn into zombies?  Does the biting kill the people and make scorpions appear in their arms?  You know what, I don't care.  I'm sure I'll get some flack for this, but I didn't like this movie.  I see what they were going for- at times- but they failed.  This mess is even more confusing than the random cameo by the guy from The Lone Gunmen.  Why cast him for a three-line part?  Ugh.
Up next, the final Blockbuster Trash of September brings us a sequel to a David DeCoteau film.  Without him at the helm, the men keep their shirts on...but it still sucks.  Stay tuned...

Mondo Dictionary: Russian Murder Judo

Well, I joked with one of my friends (and a fellow member) about doing this induction, so here it finally is.

Moscow Heat is a Direct-to-DVD action film that squanders the opportunity to feature Adrian Paul in a major role.  Instead, it features an unknown guy named Alexander Nevsky (no relation- I think) and Michael York.  No, really.  While Nevsky looks like a dull version of WWE's Chris Masters and can't run, he does have one thing on his side- Russian Murder Judo!

The guy knows Sambo, which is the Russian equivalent to Judo or CQC, and uses it in the film- once.  Right near the end, he ends a fight by just dead-lifting a guy, placing him over his back and snapping his neck!  This inspired him to create the new name for this technique- Russian Murder Judo!

* Now that he's got a mention on the page & credit for one of these, let's see if he'll comment*

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Double Prequel: Ichi -1

I don't think that there is anyone around who will tell you that Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer is a visceral and intense thriller.  I won't do any different.  In fact, there's really no point in reviewing that.  So what's left to talk about?  How about the prequel- Ichi: Episode 0?  Well, that's out of print right now- plus it's anime.  Oh, I know!  The 2003 prequel to the prequel- Ichi -1.  Yeah, that's a thing.  In 2003, they made this movie that was designed to explain how the character became how he was.  Oh good, I was totally wondering about that!  Well, here it is- enjoy.  Get out your very-easily bent bats for my review of...
The film begins with a flashy opening credits sequence that amounts to nothing.  Following that, we get to meet some 'teens' fighting in an alley.  Despite them all being friends, they beat the shit out of each other.  Why?  Why not?  Are you saying that you and your friends didn't spin-kick cinder blocks into each other's faces as kids?!?  After this, they show no ill effects from their injuries at school.  Oh, it must be the Graduating Class of Wolverines, I guess.  During this, we meet Ichi, who is played by the same actor from the 2001 film, who acts completely unlike you would think.  He's shy, meek and just sort of stands around.  If you're going to make the character do a complete 180, what's the point in casting the same guy?  Never mind the whole idea that he's supposed to be younger here than he was in a film made 2 years earlier!  Anyways, the people sit around, play boxing games and just generally do nothing for a while.  Add in the 'YouTube video' production values and you have one *riveting* film, let me tell you!  The only real point here is to show that the lead bully- Dai- has fears about someone being stronger than him.  Foreshadowing, much?
After even more padding and filler that amounts to nothing, we get a scene where most of the group from the first scene follow some girls on their way home and corner them.  Oh, joy.  Around the same time, Ichi is walking by, having just been in the video store.  He sees the event in-the-making and his mere presence upsets the men.  They threaten him, but he locks up.  When they try to get him to fight, nothing happens.  Finally, Dai shows up and, as a lesson to Ichi, beats up the guys.  Is that a good reason?  Well, if you're looking for reason, look elsewhere!  I do laugh a bit at the girls stopping to mock him too.  It's like 'thanks for keeping me from being raped,... you moron.'  This upsets the whole group- although they don't complain about Dai kicking their ass- to the point where they kidnap Ichi and beat him up on the baseball field.  The beating/pitching practice goes on for a while as Dai sits around talking about how he'll come by when he's ready.  One of the bulllies throws one ball too many, however, and Ichi goes into a blind rage.  When Dai shows up, he sees nothing but injured teens on the field.  Yes, despite being beaten up for at least one hour straight and being tied up, Ichi beat them up.  Logic is a rarity in Japan, I guess.
In a bit right out of a kung-fu movie, a new villain arises in the third act.  Despite being about 95 lbs and scrawny (even by Japanese student standards), the guy uses his akido expertise to break one bully's arm and toss him out a window.  Conveniently enough, it's by where Ichi and Dai are standing, allowing them to catch his limp body.  Some time later, Dai confronts the bully and gets his ass kicked.  I thought the hours in that boxing simulation game would pay off more!  The fight occurs, by the way, after the bully is raping one of the female students.  I guess I should have expected that in a film that's *allegedly* related to Ichi the Killer.  Despite being wounded and weakened, Dai confronts the bully again!  The fact that the bully was soliciting sex from his girlfriend- and she wasn't exactly resisting- probably didn't help his judgement.  Before he can get another broken limb, Ichi walks by, provoking the guy.  Seriously, Ichi must have some sort of field that makes his mere presence upset these people!  In a five-minute long scene, Ichi runs from the bully, who is in turn chased by a wounded Dai.  Padding much?  Finally, Ichi is cornered and...doesn't fight.  Instead, Dai gets a prolonged ass-kicking until Ichi intervenes.  The bully is instantly afraid of the non-threatening guy.  Then again, he does bend a metal baseball bat with a kick, so his fears are warranted.  The fight turns in Ichi's favor and he axe-kicks the kid to death, somehow causing a massive CG blood-spray.  Sure- why not?!?  The End.
This movie sucks, even though it has no right to!  Telling the story of how the infamous Ichi the Killer becomes a killer should be an easy thing to do.  Unfortunately, the film is bogged down with bad pacing, bad production values and overall bad quality of writing/acting.  It makes the editing work in High Kick Girl look like Ran!  Why did they do that?  Did someone really watch the 'dailies' and say 'This awkward camera work is exactly what we're going for!'  The biggest problem here is this: it feels pointless.  The whole thing is meant to explain how Ichi went crazy and learned the ability to kill.  Well, this film doesn't really tell that story.  Instead, it tells how Ichi does nothing but walk near situations and do crazy violence twice.  That does not a callous, serial murderer make!  A bit of this confusion comes from a mix of source materials.  In case you don't know, Ichi the Killer is based on an anime/manga.  As such, certain ideas are in the original source material, but not in the film.  Case in point: Ricky fights an evil clone of himself at one point in the 'Riki-Oh' manga, but that doesn't occur in the film.  Imagine if they had made a proper sequel and shown you a flashback to that.  In the context of the film world, that would make no damn sense!  Ultimately, the simple fact is this: the movie sucks and has no purpose. You get a lot of mindless violence, but little sense.  Maybe that's what Ichi the Killer is all about to some, but not me.
Up next, I check out a film that involves zombies that come from scorpions.  Save me, Superman!  Stay tuned...

Lost and Found: A Page of Madness

The Story
Japanese expressionist cinema was very popular in this time.  The film in question tells the tale of a janitor at an asylum (ironic considering past updates of this segment) who meets up with his family.  The tale is told out of natural order and with some bizarre imagery to boot.  Unfortunately, this silent film was lost.  Would it ever return to tell its tale to us again?
Was It Found?
Yes.  The film had disappeared about twenty years after it was made, around the time that a certain war involving Japan was going on.  After another couple decades, it was discovered by the director himself.  You see, he was out working on his garden when he discovered a film can in the ground.  Of course, he remembered, he had buried it there to escape damage and/or occupation!  Yeah, he had just forgotten about that part.
While the film is still not really complete- as it would have been accompanied by narration and music at showings- it's a notable piece of Japanese cinematic history.  It's avant garde and, well, strange.  I could also point out that it was written by Yasunari Kawabata, a poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968.  By th way, he was the first Japanese man to ever do so.
Up next, a pair of silent comedies go missing.  So, how did they end up Sweden?  Stay tuned...
A Page of Madness: Cinema and Modernity in 1920s Japan (Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies)