Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tall Tales: Phantasm IV

In the wake of the 1994 debacle that was Phantasm III, this film had a lot to make up for.  Will it return to the art-deco mind-set of the original 1979 film?  Will it return to the over-the-top gore of the 1988 film instead?  More than likely, it will be another disappointment like the last one though, let's be honest.  What's new here?  All of the usual suspects are back and there's really not much else.  This film was a clear attempt to recall what worked so well for the first two films and ignore what didn't from Part III.  We get a couple of new characters, but most of the stuff you see is either the old cast in new footage or the old cast in unused footage from the first film.  You want to make it into Stock Footage Hell, don't you, Don?!?  This is also the final film in the series, so let's see just how much they actually wrap up.  Get out your undersized suit for my review of...
This film picks up right after Phantasm III, not that it's really necessary to say that by this point in the series.  The new Tall Man has Reggie caught by a bunch of the orbs- none of which use their blades, BTW- but decides to let him go.  Um, why?  Mike, meanwhile, is off in The Tall Man's stolen hearse and trying to get away.  He's partly-transformed due to having one of those orb things stuck in his head.  What do they do again?  You don't want to tell us, Don?  No?  Alright then.  Unfortunately, taking the guy's car turns out to be a bad idea as he takes over it and drives our hero out to the desert.  He also has the ability to appear and disappear through a casket in the back of the hearse.  There are creative effects and then there are logical effects, guys!  Since the kid is dead and the black girl just sort of left, Reggie is all alone.  He's visited by the vision/projection of Jody, who tells him that he has to help Mike.  Um, you told him to not follow Mike about ten minutes ago in movie time!  Reggie tells him to go screw himself and drives off, leaving the brain in an orb to do the work instead.  A short while later, Reggie is pulled over by a cop, but gets confused when the guy doesn't come right over.  Our hero wanders over, only to find the cop dead in his trunk and replaced with a mutant.  Huh?
After a long fight, some bullets being fired and a bit of orange goo getting poured into his mouth, Reggie defeats the creature with, you guessed it, an explosion.  This apparently convinces him to go back and help Mike defeat The Tall Man because...it just does.  How does this thing relate to The Tall Man exactly?  Yeah, they don't really say.  After that nonsense, Mike ends up in the desert by himself.  Don't ask me- I didn't write this shit.  He starts writing to Reggie in a journal, apparently working under the pretense that he will one day be rescued and/or get a book deal.  During his journey, by the way, we are treated to some un-restored footage from the first film.  Why?  Well, Mike reminisces about 'the good old days,' thus setting up this pointless filler.  Back in the present...of 1998, Mike decides to commit suicide rather than be a pawn of the evil villain.  We are treated to another un-used scene from Phantasm in which Jody hangs The Tall Man up in a tree, but he doesn't die.  That night, young Mike comes by and agrees to cut him down, based on the idea that The Tall Man would leave them alone after that.  How did that work out for you?  Cut back to the present day and The Tall Man shows up and saves Mike.  No suicide for you, mister!
Rather than really explain anything, Phantasm IV decides to just throw more weirdness out there instead!  Mike wanders around the desert for a bit, while Reggie decides to try and bring back what fans liked about the original films.  Rather than a return of tone or writing style, he simply puts on his ice cream man uniform again and grabs his four-barreled shotgun.  Wow, that totally makes up for that shitty movie you made before this!  I should also mention a weird vision that Mike has of himself back in a Civil War army camp being treated by The Tall Man.  Fun fact: Oscar-winning writer Roger Avary has a cameo here.  After wandering around for a while, Mike runs into an old man that looks like The Tall Man & that person appears to be living in a house from 100 years ago.  Yeah, it's too late to make me care about this new revelation, movie.  To make a long story short, Reggie and Mike reunite, leading to a battle between the pair and The Tall Man.  Reggie gets beat up and disarmed, so Mike uses his...um, Tall Man powers to blow up the Man's hearse.  After a brief reunion, another Tall Man comes through the portal and kidnaps Mike.  The final scene has Reggie reminisce via stock footage one more time and go into the void to save his friend!
This movie...did nothing to make me change my mind.  The same principles that worked in the first two films are here, but there are just so many problems too.  The Tall Man is still menacing and all- he just doesn't have anything new to do.  His whole gimmick of a mysterious man only has so much longevity before you have to make sense of it- they don't.  Never mind that his whole immortality thing is both inconsistent (Scrimm is visibly older between films) and lazy (he just regenerates every time).  At a certain point, these guys should have learned that they just can't win.  What drives them to constantly get their hopes up, only to have them destroyed every time?!?  There are some good things here though.  For one, it's nice to see Reggie, his old outfit and the shotgun, but it's not enough.  It just reeks of Don trying to pull fans back in- that's low, man.  Ultimately, this movie exists due to Don failing to get his dream project- Phantasm 1999 A.D.- off of the ground.  When in doubt, make a confusing film and pad it with deleted scenes from a 20-year old film!  If you like the first two films, think of it is a two-film series and ignore these films.
Next up, we begin a new month with a look at a pair of forgotten '80s slasher sequels.  Do you like gore with your satire?  Stay tuned...

Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: Rape-man of Edo

There are a great many films from Japan that will never be released in America.  It may be due to social relevance, international awkwardness or content.  This is most definitely the latter...
Wow, that's...the creepiest version of Batman ever- Frank Miller be damned!  Oh yeah, this thing is also a bit of dark comedy.  Yeah, I don't get it either.

Next up, a movie about killer birds shows you how to sell a movie properly.  Kaw indeed.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tall Tales: Phantasm III

We're halfway through the 21-year journey that is the Phantasm series.  What have we learned so far?  We've learned that The Tall Man is a freaky dude, that Mike has a case of face-changing disorder and that Reggie is, well Reggie.  After two films, the villainous Mr. Scrimm has killed a bunch of people and is after Mike for some unknown reason.  Maybe it's his weird DNA, I don't know!  Oh and despite constantly regenerating and/or being immortal, The Tall Man is visibly getting older.  Have you heard of Just For Men, Don?  The journey only gets darker, gooier and more violent from hereon out.  If you want answers, you're really not picking up how this series works, are you?  For me, this is the film that lost me on the whole series, but your experience might be different.  Get out your brain-sucking orbs for my review of...
Right after the twist ending of Phantasm II, the clone/hybrid of Alchemy is dead and a new Tall Man emerges from that weird phantom dimension.  A couple things come up right away that piss me off.  For starters, we have a new adult Mike in the form of A. Michael Baldwin, who was the old kid Mike.  Secondly, the four-barreled shotgun shows up again- as does the ammo belt-, despite Reggie leaving both things in the mortuary...before blowing it up!  Third, the blond love interest character is dead, since that actress didn't sign up for this film.  Anyhow, Reggie grabs a grenade...which he has for some reason and threatens to blow himself and Mike up, forcing The Tall Man to leave.  At the hospital, Mike has a dream and nearly dies, but is stopped from entering 'the light' by the series' villain.  He is also visited by the ghost/vision of his brother, who has apparently aged.  I didn't realize that people aged in Heaven, movie!  Back in the hospital, Reggie goes to visit, but learns that the nurse in Mike's room is a demon.  He kills her, causing her to spew green fluid and have one of the orbs fly out of her head.  Explain, movie.
After returning to Reggie's new house, Mike is kidnapped by The Tall Man.  The vision/spirit of Mike's brother Jody shows up again and tries to stop the abduction, only to get turned into a charred orb.  Um, okay.  In the wake of this, Reggie goes off in search of both Mike and The Tall Man, traveling in his wake and finding deserted city after deserted city.  He finds a hot skank in one of them, only to find out that she's part of a gang of robbers.  They toss him in the trunk and try to rob a big house, only to find a Home Alone-wannabe in there.  His traps, however, are deadly and take out all three of them.  If you ever wanted to see a man killed by a bladed frisbee, this is your movie!  The street-wise kid joins forces with Reggie, even after the man tries to leave the kid with a foster home mere hours after they meet.  Reggie ends up in the next town and gets captured by another woman, only this time she's black and has a friend with her.  Unfortunately, they run into the film's trademark orbs and the lead woman is killed by it, leading to a nice bit of projectile blood spray.  The partner tries to fend off the thing with a single nunchaku, but that fails.  Fortunately, the kid is there to shoot it, setting up an awkward three-way partnership.
You may notice that I barely mentioned Mike in the last several sentences.  Well, that's because he's not been in any of the last dozen scenes.  We finally get some bits with him being captured by The Tall Man and placed in his most-current mortuary home.  Reggie, the black woman and the kid make it to the lair of the villain, only to find that there is some fierce resistance.  The trio of robbers are back as zombies...since apparently the orbs can be put into people's heads, allowing The Tall Man to control them.  I yearn for the days when those things just shot lasers!  Anyways, we get a bunch of different fight scenes awkwardly-edited together as the zombies battle our heroes.  All of the zombies finally go down as our heroes try to stop The Tall Man from doing some sort of experiment on Mike.  They stop him for a little while, but it's too late to save Mike from getting one of those orbs stuck in his head.  In a bit of a ret-con, they set up a weakness to ice for The Tall Man, despite him surrounding himself with frozen material.  They kill him, only to find Mike and Jody leave together, the black woman leaves (how anti-climactic) and Reggie is caught by the re-rejuvenated Tall Man.  How uplifting.
This film....really lost me.  There are some good ideas, but so much of it is just weird and unexplained.  Why do the orbs work differently?  These things are confusing enough without you changing the rules every film, you know!  Why did they return to using the old Mike actor when the other one was actually much better?  Were you just really 'in-love' with Baldwin and wanted him back, even if he's kind of a creepy-looking adult- no offense.  Why is the character of Mike such a small part of the story?  When I saw the movie, I didn't know about the whole James LeGros/Michael Baldwin thing, so I just figured that they cast a new guy, since LeGros was smart enough to avoid this nothing role.  Evidently, that's not the case, so I don't get it.  The new characters are alright, but it's hard to get connected with them when you know that they're going to die/leave at the end and play no further part.  The return of Jody is interesting, but is not really explained enough.  I get that you used the same actor, but why did Jody age in the story, since he is just a brain in an orb.  When I have time to ask all these questions, your movie is not doing a good job.  I'm sorry, Don, but this is just not that good.
Up next, we wrap up the month and the Phantasm series with the 1998 film.  Can it save the series or will it seal the coffin for good?  Stay tuned...

Forgotten Toons: Taz-Mania

It's only fitting that Warner Bros cartoon characters get their own series to focus on.  Bugs Bunny has taken the spotlight on a couple, not to mention Bugs Bunny's show based on his 'Duck Dodgers' character.  More on that show later, though.  Instead, we're here to talk about a show that seemed to slip under the radar, despite doing well when it was on...
The show is focused on the Tazmanian Devil, a very popular character from the WB catalog.  How can you make a show about a character who only talks in garbled noises?  It's simple- give him a cast of people that do!  We were introduced to a whole Tazmanian Devil family, including his parents and his sister.  We also learn that the famous character can use a normal voice- he just doesn't want to.

The shows features a whole slew of great voice actors, including Maurice LaMarche, Jim Cummings, Dan Castalanetta and Rob Paulsen.  You may not know the names per say, but you definitely know the voices.  As a bonus, it also features John Astin!

Taz-Mania is your typical show from this era, featuring some silly moments, catchy tunes and wacky humor.  If you like shows of this type, you'll have a lot to love here.  This is a fairly-brief summary, I know, but I think you get the idea.  It didn't break any molds, but is very entertaining.  If only a certain company would get around to releasing it on DVD.

Next up, a video game turns into a wacky show that broke the fourth wall.  How come nobody remembers much about it then?  Stay tuned...

Lost in Translation: Cannibal Holocaust

Cannibal Holocaust is one of the most controversial films of its era.  So, naturally, when it comes to marketing it world-wide, one country decided that it needed *sigh* a photo collage and pop-art style poster.  I mean, just look at this...

That's...an interesting way to do the poster.  They put the most infamous image from the film right on the center of the poster.  I will say this: they couldn't complain about not being warned about the content!

Up next, let's go a bit more old-school and check out Spain's poster for a 77-year old classic.  It's going to be just a little racist.  Stay tuned...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tall Tales: Phantasm II

A mere nine years after the original film was released- 11 years after it was filmed though-, a sequel was finally made.  Why do some movies take so long to get a sequel out?!?  It's a shame that there isn't a giant nerd who makes lists about stuff like that!  The first problem that comes from this is that the film begins with a scene that takes place right after the first film ends.  Don Coscarelli- master of the macabre and lacker of foresight.  Another thing that came up was that A. Michael Baldwin went through a 'change' between the making of the two films and retired from acting to pursue religion.  Don't worry- he comes back for Phantasm III.  In his place is James LeGros, an actor who's much more interesting and- no pun intended- engrossing.  So what's new here?  Well, The Tall Man is not dead and is after our not-so-young-anymore hero.  Why?  Well, we'll get to that over the next couple of films, but don't look for a super-clear answer.  What this movie does have, however, is new characters, new locations and a more cohesive plot.  Will it be The Godfather II of the series or The Howling II instead?  Find out in my four-barreled review of...
The film begins with a flashback to the first one, which is mostly there to summarize it for people who weren't legally-allowed to see the original when it came out.  At the real beginning, The Tall Man's midget henchmen are attacking Reggie and trying to run off with Mike, the young boy.  Remember the 'time gap' I spoke of earlier?  Well, that becomes apparent when the midgets attempt to steal the child I like to refer to as Stunt Mike.  Desperate and concerned, Reggie sets his house (which was apparently not his when the first film ended- oops) to blow up by turning on the gas and his oven.  He beats up a midget and runs out with Stunt Mike, escaping through a second floor window unharmed as his house blows up.  Yeah, that's not how bones work, buddy.  Cut to ten years later and Mike is now being released from an Asylum, but only because he 'admits' that the whole story was made up.  That was a clever plot point when it showed up in Fright Night, Part 2!  Anyhow, Mike and Reggie reunite and head towards a family reunion, only to have the house blow up Lethal Weapon-style before they get there.  Apparently, Don Coscarelli is a pseudonym for Michael Bay!
In the wake of this tragedy, our heroes choose one stage of grief to focus on: anger.  They purloin a bunch of gear from a hardware store, including a chainsaw, a welding torch and some assorted tools.  The big thing to come out of this, however, is Reggie's soon-to-be-trademark four-barrel shotgun (two of them welded together).  Of course, he never fires the damn thing until the last ten minutes of the movie, but it's still cool.  They go out driving for a bit, giving Don a pretense to write in some narration to fill the time.  See, it's not filler if you talk over it!  We get a scene of the pair breaking into a morgue and trying to find The Tall Man.  Unfortunately, all they find is a man who grows a face out of his back before Mike puts him out of his misery with the torch.  Later on, Mike has a dream about a female hitchhiker, only to see her (Alchemy- really!) in the car with them when he wakes up.  While the pair are taking a piss, they discuss Mike's vision of her, which matches up to a vision he had of her in a morgue earlier.  Taken in context to him picturing the house blowing up earlier and you have one worried lead.  Reggie, however, just wants a woman around to possibly sleep with.  They get to Alchemy's town, only to find it deserted.  After using a chainsaw to break into her uncle's deserted B&B, they settle in.
They cram so much plot into this thing that I have completely ignored the other half of this movie!  A blond sees visions of Mike, while he dreams about her.  When her grandpa dies, he ends up buried by The Tall Man, who has a priest under his sway...somehow.  Tall Man turns her grandma into a midget and tries to capture her- just because.  Thankfully, Mike and Reggie show up to save the day, since Alchemy lives in the same town as the woman.  We get a showdown between the duo of Mike and Reggie and The Tall Man, his army of midgets, the flying orbs and his pair of evil morticians.  Hmm, I'd say that they are boned.  To make matters worse, the orbs have a shit-ton of new add-ons, including side-blades, a targeting laser, a heat ray and a blood pump.  Ease up on the Apps, Tall Man!  Reggie has a chainsaw duel with one of them before giving him a saw-blade to the nuts.  Ease up on ripping off other horror sequels, Don!  The other one gets killed by one of the orbs, even getting it stuck in his chest.  The defeat of Tall Man is very intense, including having one of the orbs plop his 'brain' out, having acid injected into his blood stream and getting melted.  In spite of this, he still finds time to take over Alchemy and give us a second bleak, twist ending.
This movie is good, but there are some noticeable issues lingering about.  First off, the focus on more horror, including bloody deaths and brain drills, is welcome.  Considering the weird, dream-like atmosphere of the first film, it's unique.  On the flip-side, this is a 180-degree shift from the first movie, which probably scared off all of the 'art house' fans of the first one.  The movie introduces a ton of new characters, but most of them don't last long enough to really do anything.  The evil morticians are neat, but get no back-story or explanation for their actions.  Are they possessed or just evil freaks?  In addition, the orbs become a more important part of the story and get a ton of upgrades, as mentioned above.  With that, however, we get the questions of how this happened, who did all of this outside work and why he needs them?  No answers here.  James Le Gros does a good job as 'Mike' and Reggie Bannister is, well, Reggie.  The sudden addition of James is a change for the better, but is a bit distracting.  Ironically, restoring status quo will have the same result!  As a whole, this movie is the big, angry brother to the thoughtful, dreamy Phantasm.  If you hate the original, that's good for you.  If you love the original, you may just want to enjoy your favorite parts of that 1979 film- they're not coming back.
Up next, the Phantasm series becomes a trilogy and officially jumps the shark.  Ironically, they do this while also bringing the cast back together!  Stay tuned...

VHS For The Win: A Blade in the Dark

It's nice to talk about a good movie in this segment for once.  The only thing I like better than the actual movie is the sweet box art they made for it...
That's...crazy as hell.  Mind you, the hero is a piano player...but this is still crazy.  That said, I'd buy this thing in a heartbeat!

Next up, our alien overlords have come for us in a series of updates.  Guard your rectums!  Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tall Tales: Phantasm

Don Coscarelli has always been considered one of the most underrated horror directors of the last thirty years.  His works have been unique and varied, ranging from Survival Quest to Bubba Ho-Tep or The Beastmaster.  Of course, what got his name on the map- and kept it there for a while- was the Phantasm series.  Filmed in 1977, the movie didn't see a release until 1979, something that would be par for the course in his career.  Today's film is the first part in that series, which is also notable for making Angus Scrimm a big star.  Never mind that he was about 50 at the time.  It tells the tale of a trio of men in a town that is besieged by a mysterious Tall Man.  What are his evil goals?  They will seek to find out just that, even if it kills them.  Out of the series, this one is the most respected, so I may have to restrain myself, lest I be bogged down with attacks.  Then again, when has that bothered?  Get out your ben wa balls for my review of...
Our story begins with a man having sex with a mysterious woman in a graveyard.  Man, after surviving Night of the Living Dead, that lady got a strange fetish!  Seriously though, the guy gets stabbed to death by the woman, whose face subsequently turns into a freaky old man's!  If I had a quarter for every time that happened....never mind.  After a wipe, we see a man arrive in town in his muscle car, so he's definitely not compensating for anything.  He's in town for the funeral of the man from the beginning, who was the third part in his trio of friends.  The remaining person is Reggie, a balding ice-cream man.  Fun fact: the actor playing 'Reggie' is also named Reggie.  Don Coscarelli- master of the macabre and lazy at making character names!  The man also sees his younger brother, who would go on to be the main focus of the series.  While the older pair are at the funeral, the brother follows them to the cemetery.  For no clear reason, he crashes his bike on nothing and stops to look around the place.  He must have run over the invisible monster from Doctor Who!  He sees Reggie and his brother drop the friend's body off in front of the grave and leave.  A moment later, the weird old man from the beginning shows up and one-hand palms the coffin, taking it for himself.  Note to self: make sure my body is buried on time!
After this, the young man tries to tell his brother, but he doesn't buy it.  There's a bit of family strife, you see, because the older brother wants to drive around and not be tied down...but he's the kid's guardian.  There's a limit to how cool that mindset makes you, buddy.  As we see, the kid follows him around all the time because he's afraid that the brother will leave him again.  During this part, we get some stuff that seems like filler, including Reggie and the brother playing the guitar together and using a tuning fork.  To the film's credit, this does actually come up.  There's also an odd sub-plot where the younger brother sees a psychic, puts his hand in a box and is told to confront his fears.  I'd feel ashamed if I made a Seven joke here, so I won't.  The old man- who will go on to be known as The Tall Man- begins showing up in our hero's dreams.  Afterward, the kid follows his brother to a bar and, subsequently, his attempt to hook up with  blond in the cemetery.  Luckily for the guy, his brother is chased by a mysterious dwarf and interrupts their make-out session.  Man, how often do I get to write a sentence like that?  The brother chases off the kid, but finds his date gone.  When he checks up on her the next day at the bar, nobody remembers her.  Hm.
Eventually, all three of our characters get on the same page after the psychic and the girl with her earlier are kidnapped by The Tall Man.  Our heroes have a run-in with The Tall Man in his hearse, promptly shooting at it to no real effect.  The thing seems to have no driver, but they'll learn a bit later that it's actually a dwarf that drives it!  Again- how often do I get to write sentences like that?  They go to the mausoleum- don't do it, there's an evil spirit there- and find out a bit about The Tall Man's plans.  He kidnaps the recently-dead and takes them to some weird pocket-dimension, which you access via to metal rods in the ground.  This is realized when Reggie has a flashback to the tuning fork scene and figures it out.  Mind you, I could have figured that out without the flashback, but whatever.  To make the creatures fit, he shrinks them down into midgets and puts them in a bunch of boxes.  Mind you, the sequels attempt to explains this stuff more, but it really works better here.  The trio work together in light of this now-explained threat and kill him...only for the kid to wake up.  Apparently, most of what happened was a dream and the brother (Jodie) had been dead the whole time.  Before I cry 'bullshit,' The Tall Man bursts through a window and grabs the kid.
Well, after all of the hype, the movie is pretty good.  There are a lot of interesting ideas put to use here, including the whole thing with the evil mortician and the dwarfs.  A lot of this stuff is never really explained, even after three subsequent films.  Now, with that said, The Tall Man does make a great, menacing character and his stuff feels very iconic.  Even with the older film-stock (I watched it streaming on Netflix, so there may be a better version), a lot of it managed to feel pretty fresh.  I wish the ending could have been a little bit more logical, but I get what he was going for.  The whole thing feels a bit like one of Fulci's films which tries to make you think that you're in some sort of waking dream.  In that regard, the ending is very satisfying.  I certainly understand why many people find it to be pointlessly-confusing though.  The acting, for the most part, is not that great, but it gets the job done.  The actor who plays the kid- A. Michael Baldwin- doesn't really sell me here.  I have certainly seen far worse actors his age or older.  As a whole Phantasm lived up to my expectations, but didn't quite exceed them.  Considering all the hype this film has, that's still a pretty damn good compliment.
Up next, Don follows up this film with a more action-packed and straight-forward sequel.  Of course, it only took him about ten years to do so. Stay tuned...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Blockbuster Troma: Class of Nuke 'Em High 3

Okay, what is there left to say?  The first movie is terrible and the second one is even worse.  The series is actually degrading to the point of bad self-parody.  This becomes incredibly-apparent with the third and final chapter.  Apparently, there was a fourth film announced in 2000, but that never came to be.  Much like Head of the Family 2, it is a dream that may never be fully-realized.  Today's film is notable for being the first film that Troma released independently...since nobody in their right mind would release this piece of shit.  It was a big step for them, even if their future work would include Poultreygeist and Gutterballs (no, I haven't seen them...yet).  That accomplishment earns them a dubious honor as the first- but probably not last- induction in the Blockbuster Troma series.  Well, I put off the film's subject long enough, I guess.  Brick Bronsky is back and playing three different roles here.  Wow, it's just like when someone steps in something gross and tracks it all over the floor!  This goes without saying, but the humor is awful, the acting is bad and the plot makes even less sense.  For those of you without access to a 'panic room,' check out my review of...
The film begins with a clumsy recap of the first film, which is narrated in its entirety by Brick Bronsky...as a different character.  Oy vey!  For the first 25 minutes of the film, he narrates, even while the events on screen are able to be seen.  We can see the bad guys break in and steal one of the twins, but he still has to explain to us that it is happening.  In a nutshell, the once-good-scientist turns evil again when Dr. Slag Ph.D. shows up and explains that Subhumanoid children can be used as a power source.  She teams up with Dr. Slag Ph.D (they say it in full every time, so I will too) and the younger brother of the fat Squirrel leader to steal the baby, not bothering to check for a second one.  Sure enough, there is another Bronsky baby born from Victoria before she dies in labor...since the actress is not in the film.  The kid grows up in two years to be...Brick Bronsky- the poor bastard.  After 600 references to this being a film, we learn that one brother (Dick) is being trained by Dr. Slag Ph.D to be a killer, while the other one (Adlai) was raised by Roger to be a good boy.  The now-adult Subhumanoid gets into a romance with his one-time wet nurse (ew), while Dick beats up random guys sent at him by Dr. Slag Ph.D.  Speaking of pointless, the evil lady scientist loses all of her hair due to a fire, but gains it in the next scene.  Why?!?
I don't really know much more time I can waste on this movie, but we'll see.  Adlai is trying to protect the mighty boll weevil, while Dick is battling more guys.  The scientist creates some new mutants, but they're just guys in big, ugly masks.  They go around wreaking havoc and hurting innocent people.  Why?  Because Adlai becomes a hero when he discovers that he can irradiate his hand.  After using it for sexual purposes (don't ask), he uses it to save the nuclear power plant from a meltdown- even after a Ron Jeremy cameo fails to help.  While he's stuck keeping the city running, Dick is ruining his reputation, in spite of that brother having black hair and a different outfit.  Man, the people in Tromaville are idiots.  After another pointless cameo by Toxie (seriously?!?), Dick kidnaps the new lady, but can't do anything dirty to her after Adlai pushes his thoughts into his mind...or something.  During the whole fiasco, Roger Smith is the Mayor...somehow and has to distance himself from his son.  If you wanted to see a bad actor pretend to act with himself, this is your movie- freak.  The girl escapes and tries a rallying speech a la Roger from Part II, but it doesn't work.  Fortunately, Roger is there to save...um, himself from...um, himself.  God, I hate this movie.  Fast forwarding a bit, the mutants get killed by extras hitting them with newspaper, Dr. Slag Ph.D gets killed and the twins combine forces to...turn into an egg.  Feh, I'm past caring.
In contrast to the previous two films, this movie really, really sucks!  Seriously, who could you screw up a story man than they already did?  I don't know, but they succeeded!  Brick plays three characters here and manages to suck even more in bulk.  He's like the Costco of shitty acting!  The whole story just makes no sense from beginning to end.  Why did they re-shoot the squirrel bit and change it?  What's the point in saving the Subhumanoid woman only to kill her in the beginning?  This whole thing was designed to make a star out of Brick Bronsky, which is supposed to explain why he has three parts here.  The problem is that he sucks in all three roles, even the one he's already played once before!  By the way, you can tell that his Roger Smith character is The Mayor, since he wears a button saying 'I Am The Mayor.'  I haven't seen subtlety this strong since Rick 'The Model' Martel wore a pin saying 'Yes, I Am A Model.'  I really got tired of the constant references to this being a movie as well, even going so far as to have characters say stuff like 'But all the Subhumanoids melted down at the end of Part II and at the beginning of this film.'  You've stopped being clever and just put up a middle finger, movie!  As far as shitty third films in a series go, I would watch Killer Tomatoes Strike Back three times while having my teeth pulled than watch this movie again.  Is that an endorsement to you?
Up next, I take a step away from Troma and bring you a 30-year old cult classic.  Does it age well though? Stay tuned...

Tromatic: Class of Nuke 'Em High 2

After the longest 90 minutes of my life that was Class of Nuke 'Em High, you had to know that I was not looking forward to this one.  Sure enough, this one did not exactly exceed my expectations either.  I will give them credit for trying something new, as opposed to just putting a new group of actors on the same set.  Bear in mind that they 'destroyed' that set though, so I might just be giving them too much credit.  This film was the break-out role for Brick Bronsky- yes, that Brick Bronsky.  His first actual role was in Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, a film I actually kind of enjoy.  The sequel to Nuke 'Em High introduces a brand new lead in Brick and tweaks the story a bit.  Instead of just being about radioactive waste, it is about mutants.  Sadly, these are the kind that have another set of mouths on their bellies and not the ones that shoot lasers.  I guess the series' laser quota was filled last movie!  Just to be different, this film begins with bad shit going down and tells 95% of the story in flashback.  Now that this film is trying to be arty in one regard, it's guaranteed to be shit for the rest.  Am I wrong?  Find out in my review of...
As I said, the film begins with bad shit going down.  A giant, radioactive squirrel is stomping around the campus and smashing things.  I know someone who might actually want to see this movie based on that last sentence, but the rest of this will sway him to my side.  Our hero (Brick) is carrying out a young woman he loves, although the fact that green shit is coming out of her mouth is a bad sign.  He explains that he's Roger Smith, a reporter for the school newspaper (despite looking about 35).  By the way, the school is now called the Troma Institute of Technology- anybody laughing?  After a few minutes of that, we're thrown into what happened to set all of this up.  The story involves a female scientist with a Marge Simpson haircut trying to create a new race of creatures called Subhumanoids.  These look just like humans, save for an extra mouth in place of their belly button.  This only serves any purpose in Part 3, although that's being generous.  It's pretty much just here for the sight gags that ensue.  She has succeeded, although the creatures are not stable and are being used for menial labor.  On top of that, a group of thugs named the Squirrels (a sad substitute for the Cretins) are making life miserable for people that aren't like them (read: fat and ugly).  Brick, meanwhile, is a failure with the ladies- despite the fact that he clearly inhales steroids- and signs up for a 'study' being done by the doctor.  Will he find true love there?
Well, it's not so much a study as it is the doctor having random guys go into a room and have sex with a subhumanoid.  Roger falls for the female, since apparently women hate him.  He pines over her for a while before finding her in the cafeteria.  Since he's a reporter, he's constantly stopping to record things that he sees on his tape recorder.  Thank you, flimsy pretense for having a narrator!  They fall for each other instantly in a montage that was funnier in Naked Gun and 'make whoopie.'  The whole time, he never manages to see or touch the extra mouth on her stomach.  No wonder women don't like you- you skip foreplay!  Anyhow, the Subhumanoids on campus are having a slight problem: they're melting down.  This angers the scientist's boss, who is a big, bearded guy with a voice like Tiny Tim- why not?!?  She works desperately on the cure, which gives the movie plenty of excuses to show random 'test subject' woman topless.  I'd complain, but I don't exactly expect subtlety from Troma.  Roger witnesses one of the subtitle events at a basketball game, where the movie reinforces their T.I.T. joke again.  Thank you again for thinking that I'm stupid, movie.  Our hero gives the story to his editor, who appears to be a part-time hooker, but he rejects it for being real and not trashy enough.  Yes, yes, I get it.
Obviously, based on the beginning of the film, you know that things don't get any better.  When Dean Okra finds out about how rampant the meltdowns are becoming and that our lady scientist is growing a conscience, he turns on her and kidnaps her, alongside Roger's lady.  Our hero is aided in an unexpected manner from a melted-down Subhumanoid who had just killed his Editor.  As it turns out, they devolve into little green heads that talk in British accents...for some reason.  Our hero gives a 'rousing' speech and gets the cast of random extras to charge into the base with him.  Inside, one of the scientist's random, claymation mutants kills Dean Okra, finally putting an end to that god-awful voice!  Unfortunately, a squirrel wanders into a lunch pail full of radioactive waste and grows gigantic by way of editing and forced perspective.  Moving the camera further back on a hill is not a special effects shot!  In the building, Roger saves his lady, but she's in the process of melting down.  Outside, he runs into the lady scientist and she gives him the antidote.  The squirrel continues it rampage until a helicopter flies in with a giant acorn to draw it away.  The End.
Everything about this movie is a chore to deal with.  The acting is the usual level of bad that you get in Troma films.  The story is just stupid, especially with the ridiculous idea of making it all a flashback!  The special effects are...well, what do you think?  You get bad puppetry on the Subhumanoid mouths, a cheesy-looking squirrel smashing a city straight out of a bad Toho film and flying heads on strings.  The worst part: I didn't even address half of the random shit in this movie.  There are the numerous jokes about this being a sequel, plus a really bad joke involving Toxie walking onto the set.  That could have been funny if they had actually made a joke there at some point.  It's just 'hey, there's Toxie' and 'bye, Toxie.'  Why do I even have to write about this?!?  Like all of these Troma films, the movie insists that it is funny by way of constantly making the same stupid jokes over and over again.  Repetition is not what makes comedy- it's actual jokes!  Incidentally, I have to address Brick's haircut here.  It's a military buzzcut on one side, combed over like a wave towards the other and he has a ponytail.  Can you please pick a haircut?  I know that this was practically the 1980s, but that's no excuse!
Finally, I finish up the trilogy with the third film.  I won't tell you if it's bad or not, but I will tell you that Brick plays three roles!  Stay tuned...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: A Gun For Jennifer

All I want in a poster is a simple tag-line, some catchy artwork and a title.  Fortunately, I got just that today...
Alright, I'm not sure what to think here.  On one hand- I like extreme violence.  On the other hand- I'm horrified by the thought of zombies contemplating rape. 

By the way, thanks for addressing that long-pondered question of 'do dead men rape or not.'  Much obliged.

Next up, I bring you the poster of a film that will probably only be available in Japan.  Stay tuned...

Lost and Found: The Bat Whispers

The Story
The Bat is one of the most commonly-remade stories of the early 20th Century.  It was made numerous times, even once with Vincent Price in the lead role.  The story is also famous for inspiring some little character called Batman.  This film version comes to you from 1930 and is actually the second version, although both were directed by the same man.  What's notable about the film is that three versions were shot, including one in 1:33:1 aspect ratio.  What we call 'wide-screen' was called 'Maginfilm' in 1930.  Unfortunately, all of the versions became lost over time.
Was It Found?
Thankfully, yes.  The original film negative was restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive.  Praise Jebus!
Importance
As I mentioned, this film was shot in wide-screen, even if it wasn't called that then.  While it's not the first one- that honor goes to either Napoleon (1927) or a random newsreel- it is a famous one.  It does also bear repeating that this film inspired Bob Kane and Bill Finger (yes, both of them!) to creat Batman.  Do I need to explain why that's important?  I didn't think so.
Next up, Nazi Germany brings a film that the Fuhrer demanded to be destroyed.  How did it get to England then?  Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tromatic: Class of Nuke 'Em High

I really regret this decision.  About a month and a half ago, I decided that I was going to watch this series.  Why?  Well, the whole thing is- at this time- available on Instant Viewing via Netflix.  More importantly, I already forced myself to sit through nearly all of the first movie, so why let that go to waste?  In hindsight, that's really stupid logic, but just go with it!  This first film comes to you from the early days of Troma Entertainment, back when they were making low-budget drivel full of gross-out effects and people making goofy faces.  Wait- that's Troma now!  That ironic point about the company's stagnant product aside, this movie is...well, really weird.  If you have been lucky enough to avoid this film series, it is about a school that is built precariously-close to a nuclear power plant.  When things go wrong- it's never an 'if'- bad things happen to the students there.  That's pretty much the whole premise of all three films, so expect a lot of creative wordplay on my end to make this all seem fresh.  For the first film...it's exactly what I just said.  Is my previous-ban on Troma a good thing or a regret?  Find out in my review of...
The film begins- like many Troma films- by talking about Tromaville.  As one of the cities of the future (of the 1980s), it has a nuclear power plant in its city.  Not only that, but it's within less than a mile of the local high school  For all of you kids reading at home, this is why we have zoning laws!  Anyhow, a leak occurs and manages to get into the school's water supply.  Oddly, this only affects one guy- a local nerd- when he goes to the water fountain.  His class is full of gang members, tough gals and the usual cliched fare.  Lumped in amongst them, of course, are our two heroes- a young couple that appear to live in Conneticut, as opposed to New Jersey.  He goes a little crazy, has green ooze fall out of his mouth and he even attacks a bully before jumping through a window to his death Helen Hunt-style.  His classmates wonder aloud at why he had a 'mental break' and 'snapped,' never once making a connection between that and the Ecto Cooler-looking stuff coming out of his mouth.  Getting away from that never-to-be-addressed-again moment, the filmmakers introduce us to the key plot points with their usual subtlety.  There's a gang of weirdos causing trouble, the leak is causing mutations and our heroine won't put out.  Get it?  Got it?  Good.
Like most Troma films, this movie is much less about the plot moving forward and more about random shit happening.  The gang runs around and does stupid stuff, occasionally addressing their plot (they sell drugs that are irradiated).  This group is full of misfits, although they're the kind that try way too hard to seem like it.  Take for example the guy who dresses up in full black-face and swings a bone around like some sort of 1920's Tarzan villain.  There's always the guy who dresses up like a yuppie...save for the fake breasts he wears under his polo shirt.  Over at the nuclear power plant, the men in HAZMAT suits talk about the leak, but the fat boss (a Troma regular) tells them not to talk about it.  Yeah, that's about it for their part.  In the main plot, our hero takes his lady to a party being held off campus.  Said party is accompanied by The Smithereens- at least, that's what the summary from Part 2 tells me.  One of the guy's friends buys an irradiated 'doobie' from the gang and gives it to the couple.  This causes the girl to loosen up and finally let him 'put the spurs to her.'  Of course, that's not the only effect.  It also turns the guy into a mutant for one scene, allowing him to beat up some gang members, and causes the girl to spit out a mutated tadpole.  Just say 'No,' kids!
What follows is lots of mayhem, death and what is supposed to be comedy.  I mean, I'm a fan of absurdist comedy and all (I love Drawn Together), but you have to at least tell a real joke!  So the gang gets too violent on school grounds after the death of one of their brethren and gets kicked out of school.  Attempted  murder leads to a suspension- oh the humanity!  They don't take this lying down and decide to just take over the school by force.  Considering that you've been an angry, well-armed gang the whole time, why did you wait so long?  In the main plots, the leak is getting worse, resulting in the tadpole thing that came out of our heroine to mutate into a giant monster.  Mind you, it's one of those 'stationary but scary' monster suits that perpetuated the 1980s (see The Fly 2 or Xtro 2), but it's still scary.  It all culminates in a battle between the monster and the gang, which is extremely one-sided.  Think the battle between the Cybermen and the Daleks- only really stupid.  Our heroes get stuck in the middle of it, but manage to escape by turning one of the school's lasers (thank you, out-of-control military spending!) and escape as the school melts down.  So much for the sequel!
Do I even need to say it?  This movie sucks.  Mind you, it sucks in that 'we're really trying to make you like us' way, as opposed to just being terrible.  Troma has this mind-set that all of their fans are either extremely-stupid or have ADHD, so they constantly make the jokes obvious and repetitive.  One joke is just driven into the ground after another!  Did I mention that the jokes are repetitive yet?  On top of that, the acting is more over-the-top than a 1990s Adam Sandler film- if he was injected with cocaine and sugar before each take.  Unlike a lot of Troma films, this doesn't actually make fun of its budget limitations or lack of sets.  No, this one plays it about as straight as a Troma film can be played, at least in that department.  The movie tries to be funny, but just comes off as annoying.  It's like having a 10 year-old tell you a stupid joke and tug at your shirt until you laugh, all the while yelling 'Do you get it?  Do you get it?'  Yes Troma, I do get it.  It's not funny, but I get it.  On top of everything else, the plot is not focused and can't seem to remember itself.  Why does our hero transform into a mutant only once?  Is it just a temporary case of extreme radiation poisoning?!?  If you like Troma, you'll have ignored everything I just said and be out buying the Blu-Ray (what's the point?!?) release of this movie.  Have fun- just don't invite me.
Up next, the film's first sequel comes dripping down the pipe.  Will it correct the trend or actually be more persistently-annoying?  Stay tuned...

Impossibly-Lazy Cover Art: The Killer Eye

The good folks over at Full Moon Entertainment have had many a good ribbing at my expense.  I'd like to make it up to them a little bit with this tribute to their business savvy in film marketing.  Check out the VHS box to their 1999 classic Headless Eyes....
Aside from being out of context (the lady on the box is in the film, but not as the monster) and using incorrect grammar (there's only one eye), this is a good box.  It make me curious to see the film.  However, I can't help but get a feeling of deja vu when I see it...
That's right- the DVD box has the movie retitled and recolored.  You didn't even hardly try there, did you guys?  By the way, it's still the wrong lady.

Incidentally, in case you didn't see my review during Full Moon Week, this film sucks.  It's slow, stupid and mostly an excuse to show long, tedious nude scenes.  I know that those three words rarely go together, but it is true here.

Next up, this is another special, so no follow-up.  Or is there?  No, probably not.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Poor Bastards of Cinema: Basket Case 2

Stepping away from animals and more recent fare, let's take a look at a Poor Bastard from the late '80s/early '90s.

At the beginning of Basket Case 2, the previously-conjoined twins are in the hospital after their fall eight years earlier...er, I mean, hours ago.  A cop is assigned to watch the door, since the pair are implicated in a few murders.  The young man wakes up from his coma and frees Baliel in order to aid in their escape.  After the guard chats up a nurse, he vigilantly returns to his post...and is choked to death.

Unlike a lot of figures in situations of this nature, the man did not 'set up' his death by saying mean things about freaks or anything like that.  He was just doing his job- so he had to die!

Next up, a man learns a simple lesson: never do your job while Clint Howard is nearby.  Stay tuned...

Millenial Trash: Intercessor- Another Rock & Roll Nightmare

After the piece of crap that was Rock & Roll Nightmare, I did not set my hopes high for the sequel.  For starters, it was produced by and still starring Jon Mikl-Thor.  To make matters worse, the film was made in 2005- 18 years after the original!  Was the story so dramatic that it took them nearly two decades to get this thing done?  Was it a massive undertaking that just took so long to get right?  Was it a director's vision that took many years for the technology to catch up to a la Avatar?  Uh, no.  There's really no good reason for this movie taking so long to come out.  Given that the film turned out so shitty, I'm not complaining!  The film features the return of Thor as The Intercessor...if any of you care.  Break out your plastic guitar for my review of....
Okay, truth time- I could not finish this movie.  After about 35 minutes, I could take no more.  To make up for it, here's a photo-collage of what you did not miss.
Seriously, this movie sucks.  It sucks long, hard and regularly.  The whole premise is sort of vague and even as simple as it is, it still makes no sense.  It has something to do with some demons trying to take over the world and The Intercessor showing up to stop them.  It's nice of them to retcon the guy's appearance to accommodate the fact that Thor is not exactly a body-builder anymore.  The acting is...well, how bad do you think it is?  Whatever your assumption is, I can assure you that it is far worse than that.  The special effects are...well, just look at those pictures above!  Hell, look at the picture underneath this paragraph!  I don't know what else to say about this.  Nothing good happens, so why waste any more time here?  It sucks and you shouldn't see it.  The End.
Next up, I break my own rules and try to watch a Troma series.  This one involves mutations, 'teenagers' and lots of pain for me!  Stay tuned...