Monday, June 15, 2009

Aw man, that was a LOW BLOW!!!

LOW BLOW (1986)
D. Frank Harris

Part of the Maximum Action 10 pack (now out of print)

Before reading the excellent one two punch books GODS IN POLYESTER and GODS IN SPANDEX I had never heard of Leo Fong. I had maybe seen his name here and there, but never knew who he was. But after reading his recollections of making kung fu styled action films with pennies on the dollar I fond myself really fond of the guy and had to find some of his films. Then after checking out the movie movie WILD RIDERS in one of the BCI DRIVE IN CULT CLASSICS packs there was a trailer for LOW BLOW and I was completely sold. My girlfriend and I HAD to see this movie! We become more than a little bit obsessed with seeing our first Leo Fong movie. I almost didn't get to as the MAXIMUM ACTION set that I found on Ebay never came and after a little research I found that it was out of print. I sent some emails to the company I ordered it from explaining that I NEEDED my Leo Fong fix! That I would not be a complete cult film fan until I got Leo Fong into my life! And they came through, in some dusty corner of the DVD warehouse, hiding under a million copies of GIRLS GONE WILD THE CATHOLIC YEARS was one last copy of MAXIMUM ACTION with not one but TWO Leo Fong movies in the set. Joy was about to set in my peoples!!!

We were not disappointed at all. Within five minutes of the opening of LOW BLOW it had lived up to the what we had expected. The movie hits the ground running, not unlike the vastly inferior LETHAL WEAPON 2 with the action already in progress. A thugs are robbing a coffee shop, roughing up the patrons and generally being loud pricks. The next building over is the office of tough guy Private Investigator Joe Wong (played by our hero Leo Fong) who is aggravated by the noise and ruckus. He throws on his members only jacket and tells his pretty and perky secretary "I'm gonna go see what all the noise is about!" Within two minutes those trouble makers are eating the floor with much foot being put to ass, and Mr. Wong has barely broke a sweat at all. But low and behold some nasty bastards are taking some old ladies purse outside, so they are gonna have to be taught a lesson too! But it is all in a day's work for Mr. Wong. Ass kicking is a way of life! He also has a comic relief car that only he can start by popping the hood and whacking it with a tire iron.Leo Fong's screen presence is a strange one at best, with his pinched up face that consistently looks like someone in the room has just farted, and stiff walk like he may flip out at any second. He's wound tighter than the rubber bands holding the roll of twenty's that was the budget of this flick. His line delivery, all ten of them, is fast, and to the point. Like lines are just a waste of time to get to some ass kicking. He might very well hop out of the screen and punch you at any moment.

The plot finally kicks in when a blond California bimbo is being indoctrinated into some Johnstown styled cult run by a blind Cameron Mitchell and his African Princess named Karma (played by respected black actress Akosua Busia, who actually gives a great performance here). It is never really explained what the cult is actually doing, but it is all about love, enlightenment, and digging in the fields all damn day long. At one point it is revealed they are planting, wait for it, asparagus! Evil bastards!!! Seems the bimbo is the daughter of a rich industrialist played by Troy Donahue and he wants his little girl back. After witnessing Mr. Wong whopping the ass of some Latino's who were trying to steal his hub caps he decides that Wong is the man for the job!

But wait! After some shenanigans in the camp where Mr. Wong gets mildly roughed up (and Karma is clearly enjoying herself, because her nipples clearly get hard after every bit of torture she inflicts on Mr. Wong!) he decides he cannot do this alone. So he holds a tough man contest to find some teammates to help him infiltrate the compound and get the now drugged and wigged out babe to safety. So now it is THE DIRTY DOZEN street style!

Weird thing about this movie is that it is almost family friendly in some ways. The violence (outside of one nasty head squishing) is mostly hand to hand combat kung fu stuff. The gun play is very toned down. There is no bad language or sex to speak of at all. Watching it you can't help but to feel like Leo Fong was trying to appeal as wide a base as possible. And make no mistake, this is Leo Fong's show. He wrote, produced and starred in this bad boy. He raised the financing and made it happen.

There's tons of weird moments to recommend here, like several of Karma's freak outs, the bad guy who gets thrown into a pile of cute puppies who proceed to lick his unconscious body, Leo Fong's attempts at breakfast table comedy, the REALLY out of place macho bonding casual racism that will make you uncomfortable, the muscle bound blond pit fighter chick, that head squishing i previously mentioned, or the incredible compilation worthy action scene were Fong chases four bad guys into their car. He gets so pissed he rips the cables out of the engine, beat the CAR up, smashes all the windows out with a two by four and then buzz saws the top of the car itself off just to kick them all in the ass and send them on their way! Truly it is one of the most amazing scenes I have ever seen in an action film!

So before Seagal, before Van Damme, there was Leo Fong! And he did it for the among of money those guys spent on hair stylists.

Leo Fong, APPROVED!!!

Andy Copp

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Movies for August

Saturday August 2nd, 2008
The Midnight Meat Train (2008) ** - Ryuhei Kitamura's adaptation of Clive Barker's excellent short story has been getting the shaft by it's studio Lions Gate. So much that it only opened on the contractually obliged 100 screens and with that, only at second run discount houses. Advance word of mouth on the film would have you believe it was a horror masterpiece. It falls well short of that mark but has moments of gory mayhem that are worth the price of admission. The story is about a young photographer who is slightly obsessed with finding the gritty "real" side of New York city through his lens. While trying to do so, he discovers a disconnected butcher stalking the late night subway trains who is brutally killing lone passengers like cattle. Soon the two will find their lives intertwining as we discover what purpose the murders on the trains serve. The short story this is based on is direct, compact and to the point. So the film had to take a lot of liberties to flesh it out. Pretty much the whole book is here (there are some slight changes to the ending) but the whole photographer bit is new to the film. All of that works fine. What doesn't work is that the script loses its footing in a couple of places, most notably in that the main character keeps having nightmares about the murders on the train, even before he has any knowledge of them. The pacing also flags at times, with a start/stop feel that bogs down when we are spending time with the photographer's domestic life. But then that could be more to do with the complete miscasting of the lead actor. The photographer is played by Bradley Cooper who has most recently been seen as a supporting player on Nip/Tuck. He's one of those pretty boy actors who, thanks to his expensive bridge work, looks like he is smirking all the time. Which works fine for his goofy TV roles, but when he is trying to be serious it doesn't work at all. He looks like he is laughing even when he is trying to perform pathos. His girlfriend Leslie Bibb, also another Nip/Tuck alumnus, is pretty much the same thing. A pretty face with limited acting ability who fails to register on screen. Vinnie Jones plays the butcher and does fine considering he has one line in the whole film. What does work however are the extremely brutal kill scenes. Even though they are largely digital work, they are creatively handled, suddenly vicious and have some weight to them. So kudos for trying to play it seriously. Kitamura keeps his cinematic fireworks in check unlike his Japanese films such as the abominable Versus (which everyone seems to love but me, I think its terrible) and thank the gods for that. If this had been over directed like his other work it would have been nigh unwatchable. As it stands now, it is somewhat enjoyable but hamstrung by weak performances and some lazy script wirting. First time seeing this.

A.P.E. (1976) *1/2- Paul Leder director of such grindhouse classics as I Dismember Mama and My Friends Need Killing made this King Kong rip off and is clearly out of his depth and seems to know it from the get go. There is no real story to get in the way of the goofiness as a ship carrying a giant ape appears at sea. A captain and his deck hand quietly share a smoke and explain that there is a giant ape on board and that he is sedated and should be asleep for several days. Then suddenly, a gigantic fake monkey hand bursts though the set. The ship mate in the most dead pan voice in the history of cinema says "oh shit." Cut to a toy boat breaking apart and a guy in a money suit rising from the water and then it is non-stop stupidity from there on out. The giant ape makes his way to the shores of Korea and starts stomping his way across country. Meanwhile an American actress played by the mom from Growing Pains is busy making a film there that only seems to consist of rape scenes, who is being romanced by a reporter. It is only a matter of time before the monkey finds her and falls in love. Between those moments he interrupts a Kung Fu movie shoot, chases a bunch of kids at an amusement park, breaks lots of model buildings and pisses off some military guys who never leave the same room until the end of the movie. During one scene where the ape fights off military helicopters he flips them the bird showing just how seriously Paul Leder was taking the movie. He eventually does kidnap the babe but does nothing with her and the Army moves in for the big showdown. Thats the plot, nothing more deep than that. Monkey breaks shit. Army breaks monkey. Apparently at some point this must have been conceived as a 3-D movie as tons of stuff gets jammed into the camera, but I've not seen a print anywhere that actually looks to have been in 3-D. Ridiculous, sometimes fun, but more often than not, plodding and a little bit dull. First time seeing this.

Thursday August 7th, 2008
Wanted (2008) ** - Completely over the top action spectacle about an anxiety ridden office boy who discovers he is the son of a famous assassin who worked as part of a secret society of killers. It seems he is now marked to take his father's place and take out the dude who did pops in. Over-directed to the gills by Russian director Timur Bemambetov who made the similarly over the top Nightwatch and Daywatch. From the get go, this thing is filled with computer animation, sped up and slowed down footage, altered shots, anything else you can think of to take it out of reality. If you thought The Matrix went too far with this sort of thing this movie will drive you bonkers. But its tongue is firmly planted in cheek, but made bearable by the fact that no matter how far over the top it goes, the cast is playing it very straight. So it is a live action cartoon being played out seriously. The script is no great shakes, taking liberal heaps of Fight Club in the first half before pumping up the action. But what I did like about it was the general viciousness of the movie. During a late in the movie train wreck sequence the good guys cause pretty much all the passengers to die without blinking an eye. No one seems to care or ever is it mentioned. There's bodies everywhere, but we're supposed too think its an okay thing to do to get the bad guy! There is also a shitload of interpersonal violence sprinkled throughout the movie as well. Lots of knife wounds and splashy bullet hits. It is surprisingly violent for a summertime action film (to see the opposite just look at the trailer for the Vin Diesel Babylon A.D. movie which I saw today and has a PG-13). Overall Wanted is ridiculous and actually pretty stupid at times. But I'll be damned if it isn't entertaining too. First time seeing this.

Friday Aug 8, 2008 (2002)** -This America Undercover documentary for HBO about hate groups on the web is pretty informative, but the fact that it is so short (part of the America Undercover format) it doesn't delve nearly deep enough into the subject matter. Many of the movers and shakers of the various hate groups are interviewed but not enough to get under their skin. A lot of time is spent on the idea of the "Lone Wolf" which is basically how these groups get away with various violent crimes. A person will go out and kill in the name of say the Aryan Nations but since the hate groups are so splintered the groups basically say he was a lone wolf acting on his own accord and not on any kind of directive by the group. Also quite a bit of time is given to William Pierce's book The Turner Diaries and how it has basiclaly helped indoctrinate many people into his hate group The National Alliance. The explore the theory that Timothy McVeigh was inspired by the book to blow up the Oklahoma City building. But my conspiracy theory self doesn't believe that. First time seeing this.

Psycho Kickboxer: The Dark Angel (1997) ** - Perfectly servicable no budget actioneer and starring vehicle for one Curtis Bush 5 time Kickboxing Champion. This thing has been kicking around in the $1 bins for years but Pop Cinema has put it out now on their Shock-O-Rama lable wih a fairly nice transfer (it gets REAL grainy towards the end though) with a second film called Carnival of Blood. I had heard that Psycho Kickboxer was terrible over the years but it actually isn't at all. As far as these kinds of American chop socky flicks go its no worse than the dozens of Kung Fu movies that Roger Corman pumped out through the 90's. Curtis Bush plays the kickboxing son of a cop. But when Mob thugs kill his dad (with a shocking exploding head shotgun blast you may want to rewind) gang rape and kill his fiance and leave him for dead, its time for revenge. He's nursed back to health by a warehouse dwelling Black Army vet who was crippled by the same Mobster his dad was hunting. So the Black Crippled Guy helps train our hero in street smarts so he can take on the bad guys. Along the way he starts sneaking out into the streets in a ninja outfit and putting the whoop ass on criminals for the hell of it, thus being labled by the press "The Dark Angel". The acting ranges from okay (the pretty female tabloid reporter) the the atrocious (his fiance who gets raped) and everywhere in between. The martial arts aren't bad at all, but they are not shot very well and edited even less so. But what saves them is that there is lots and lots of bloody violence. Obviously they were Steven Seagal fans (and Seagal fans will appreciate that Curtis Bush runs even funnier than Seagal does, which is saying something!) because they emmulate his splatter filled fight scenes. Bush himself is fine during the fighting, but is pretty flat during scenes when he is trying to emote, but shit, thats not much different than a lot of other action stars. I really don't see why this didn't sell to cable or get a better release than it did. I think it just fell into piss poor rip off distribution. Hopefully this new DVD will change that. First time seeing this.

Saturday August 9th 2008
Can I Do It Till I Need Glasses? (1977)* - No this is not a documentary about my sexual self abuse practices as of late, but instead a late 70's sexy comedy sequel to the drive in hit If You Don't Stop You Will Go Blind! which played well in many bible belt cruise ins. This movie is a weird one,being a skit comedy film with each skit leading up to ONE punch line. Not a series of small jokes leading to one big punch line, but huge sets ups, involving lavish costumes, sets, special effects, titles and music all for one lousy punchline. And they are usually ones you've heard. For example. Doorbell rings, inside a couple are arguing. The man opens the door to find a guy wearing a bag over his head, holding a gun but otherwise naked. The husband yells out "Take all our money, just don't hurt us!" The guy with the bag on his head says "I'm not a robber! I'm a rapist!" So the husband turns to his wife and says "Hey Honey its for you!" Badabump! And that was actually the shortest and funniest set up of the movie. The coup is that Robin Williams appears for all of two minutes but it was enough for this movie to get a rerelease when he hit it big on Mork & Mindy. This new release from Code Red looks pretty good. The colors are a bit muted here and there most likely from being a print source, or maybe just it was filmed on the cheap that way. It sounds fine. As much as I love Code red, I didn't buy this one and I don't see me adding it to my collection either. First time seeing this.

Death Weekend (1975) **1/2 - Fairly tense Desperate Hours style riff with that nasty Last House on the Left type vibe going for it too. Don Stroud plays a leader of a group of ruffians who almost run Bredna Vaccaro and Chuck Shamata off the road. But it turns out she is a top notch speed driver and takes them for a run thus deflating their manhood and then takes them right into a creek bed. This explodes the boys macho rage setting the stage for them to hunt the couple down and take care of some business. But once at the house we realize that our male hero is not such a great guy either. He's possessive and proud of his money. He see's people as objects and has two way mirrors with cameras behind them so he can watch his female companions undress. Soon the gang show up and it is a battle of the wills as the slow burn starts with each man trying a bit of territorial pissing, until an escape attempt brings out the loaded shotgun and things get ugly fast. But surprisingly it turns out to be the woman who takes charge and brings the final battle to a boiling point. Director William Fruet does a good job with the material and should be commended for trying really hard to pour some social commentary in about class struggles as well as having some sympathy towards both sides of the coin. Unfortunately the movie lags pretty hard in the mid section, especially when they start trashing the house. It should be distressing but instead it just seems silly and overlong. The lack of any real likable characters hurts the movie as well. Its hard to get attached to Brenda Vacaro's cold fish character, and her love interest is just as prick. Stroud is a very scary bad guy and plays it well, you can't like him at all. There is one great moment when he is trying to rape Brenda Vacaro. The whole time she is struggling and fighting and yelling, while he continues to tell her to "fight more, it makes it more exciting". Then she just stops fighting him, goes limp and just looks at him with fear and disgust. She says nothing, but her look says everything. And he just stops dead cold like a deer in headlights. Like she just saw through who he really was. He tries to keep the facade up for a second saying "Why'd you stop?" But he realizes he can't rape her anymore. He can't get it up and do it. She just took his power away. Even after she slaps him again. He just roughs her up and pushes her out of the room. This scene is the movies crown jewel moment. The rest is serviceable. First time seeing this.I actually watched it over a week ago and forgot to blog about it though...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Creeper, The Hambuger Pimp...

"You better get on before you get jumped on! I'm so bad I kick my own ass twice a day!"

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Last Movies for July 2008

Wed. July 16th, 2008
The Manipulator aka B.J. Lang Presents (1971)*** - This is one truly bizarre movie. Even from the early 70's when movies were weird, this had to stick out as an oddball piece of cinema. Mickey Rooney stars as B.J. Lang an old Hollywood make up artist (he once did the make up for Marilyn Monroe he tells us) that has truly slipped a cog. He is now holed up in a warehouse, apparently on some back lot somewhere, living in a fantasy world where he is a director. He flits around, acting out scenes, giving directions, setting up shots, watching old films, pretending they are dailies, and rather bizarrely talks to the numerous mannequins imagining they are cast and crew. The whole first twenty odd minutes of the movie is just Rooney alone acting out his psychosis. Then out of nowhere he wheels out a wheelchair with a woman tied to it that he has had captive for some time. She is now to act in his fantasy as well. Then as if it couldn't get weirder he shows up in full female make up, telling stories about the good old days of Hollywood as he preps his new star. The rest of the movie is a chamber piece of these two character's battle of wills, complete with funky music, weird camera angles and non-nonsensical flashbacks. The movie is no masterpiece, but its so fucking weird, I couldn't help but to love its shaggy ass. Sad thing is that I saw a certain amount of myself in this movie. I could totally see myself in thirty years, insane locked in a warehouse pretending to be a filmmaker, living out some obtuse fantasy. Hell I could see it happening next week... First time seeing this.

Friday July 18th 2008
Le Frissions Des Vampires aka The Shivers of the Vampire (1971) *** - If you are a newbie to the filmography of French erotic/horror filmmaker Jean Rollin this is a pretty good place to start. All of his obsessions are in place here. world weary vampires, saphic love scenes, color blasted night scenes, climactic scenes on the beach Rollin grew up on, a spooky castle and naked people galore. It is also chock a block full of stunning images such as the main vampire woman emerging from a grand father clock at the stroke of midnight, her seduction of the main character framed by the bedside curtains, the blood of a dove trickling down into her coffin, sunlight hitting the writhing vampires on the beach and the nude vampire's assistant as just a speck in the frame surrounded by the foliage of the castle grounds. The story revolves around a newly wed couple who go to the bride's cousin's castle to visit on their honeymoon. she hasn't seen her cousin's since she was a child. what she doesn't know is that in the years between they had become world renowned vampire hunters and then were seduced into becoming vampires themselves. they know live in the castle under the spell of Isabelle a female vampire, with two human familiars who take care of all of them. That night Isabelle emerges from the clock and begins her seduction of the bride into their clan. As with most of Rollin's work this is more about poetry than plot, which it is thin on. If you go into it looking for a lot of story or logic you may be disappointed. But if you go into it looking for visual thrills, and poetic images that wills tick with you then you will be satisfied. The movies has problems the most difficult being the terrible miscasting of the Isabelle the vampire. Nicole Nacelle who plays her looks like a Height Ashbury reject on a methadone program. She hardly projects the statuesque beauty or power needed for the role of someone who can seduce anyone. Especially considering the beauty of the lead played by Sandra Julien as Isa the Bride who is very attractive. Another great plus in the movie, maybe its greatest achievement is the score. A psychedelic explosion of fuzz guitar that was improvised on the spot of a teenage band named Acanthus that only did one album, this soundtrack. Which is a pity because the music is simply amazing. there is nothing else quite like it anywhere. There was a soundtrack CD available years ago and luckily I snagged it. I watched this on the import Encore 2 disc PAL DVD which is simply stunning. The old Image DVD was superb, but this is amazing. Comes with a 42 page booklet too. The movie used to be available from Something weird on VHS under the title Thrill of the Vampires which was released by Harry Novak's Box Office International. that cut is actually longer because it has a ton more sex that was NOT shot by Jean Rollin, but by Novak's crew that is edited in almost at random. So if you have that old tape its worth keeping as a curiosity item (and is currently out of print). I love Jean Rollin. He is a true original. Seen this plenty of times before.

Saturday July 19th 2008
The Dark Knight (2008)*** - The big event movie of the year is the sequel to the rebooting of the Batman franchise and it is very good. Naturally a lot of the interest and popularity is due to the fact that Heath Ledger died and people are jumping on the bandwagon posthumously. But he IS terrific in the film as the Joker. But what this has overshadowed is that the movie hardly focuses on the Joker or Batman. This movie is really about the Harvey Dent character played by Aaron Eckhart (who is also very, very good). He is the focus of the film and the main character whose story arc carries the picture. The Joker, though important, is secondary to the plot in a lot of ways. I'm not going to bother with a plot synopsis because I'm sure most of you went to see this by now, and if you haven't will see it soon enough. While I liked it quite a bit, it certainly blows away most comic book movies such as the mechanical and rather tepid Spiderman films, I couldn't help but feel like there was something missing this time. Maybe it was the huge hype surrounding it that lead to my slight disappointment. But more to the point I felt like this entry lost some of the darkness and personal demons that made the Batman character so interesting in Batman Begins. This time it felt more like a highly orchestrated, albeit fascinating, chess game to get all the characters and motivations into place. There are some great political jabs at our current predicament about surveillance and one person wielding too much power and a lot of talk about who is a real hero. But the heart of darkness seemed to be more mechanical to me this time. And certainly less about Batman, which was a fault the original series of sequels had too by having too many characters at play. Still it is grand entertainment, well made, acted and very entertaining. So I really can't complain too much when a summer blockbuster has the edge to try as many things as this does. First time seeing this.

Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008) * - I'm not one of those people who thinks the original Lost Boys is some sort of holier than tho classic. I liked it alright as a teenager, but as I got older really found it to be a pandering and pretty lame movie. Its flashy, loud and empty as hell with some downright stupid moments. But it did have a good soundtrack. Well, someone at Warner Brothers thought so too. In fact, they were so enamored with that "Cry Little Sister" song from the original that they wrote the entire sequel around the lyrics to it! And boy did they end up with a flaming turd of a movie. Calling this a piece of shit would be mean to shit everywhere. In this sequel a brother and sister whose parents have croaked go to a California beach town to live with their quirky Aunt. Seems the brother was once a famous surfer even though he looks to be all of 19 years old. He soon discovers that an old surfing legend lives in the town too. The guy immediately seduces his sister which doesn't sit well with him (because that will takeaway his own chances for layin pipe at home). In the movie its because he is just looking out for his "little sister" (He actually says "Cry little sister" at one point) but there are more than a few occasions where it seems that big brother has other yearnings for his younger sibling. Naturally the surfer dude and his buddies are a clan of vampires trying to add her to the clan. And who can blame them since they only seem to have one gal in the clan (though a very hot one) and she exits the movie pretty early on. It seems like a Boys Only type club. So when big brother figures out what is up he enlists the help of Edger Frog played by Corey Feldman reprising his role from the original and frighteningly not looking much older. Maybe he's a vampire too. Everyone goes through the motions, it goes where you think it is going and ends pretty much exactly how you think it will end. Except the brother and sister don't sleep together. But they do ALMOST kiss then think better of it. Seriously. Angus Sutherland is cast as the main vampire because of the relation to Keifer Sutherland. Lets just say that the acting genes stopped of Keifer in the family. This guy is beyond terrible, delivering his lines in a monotone that would have made Ed Wood demand retakes. Someome ona message board said he was doing a Leif Garret thing. But Leif has an excuse for actign that way, he's been stoned for the last thirty years! This douche is just a shitty actor.The rest of the acting it direct to video bad, but no worse than this kind of thing usually is. Tom Savini makes an early appearance doing what he does best, flexing his chest muscles and glistening with sweat.Then is killed off too soon. Thus prooving the movie has no real style, something you could not say about the original, which was all style. Style in this movie is when they fill the background with lots of smoke. This is just lifeless and dull, almost challenging you to stick with it. The only thing that can be said for the movie is that they upped the gore content considerably to fit within the current zeitgeist of modern horror films. But even that seems out of place with the goofiness and tomfoolery on screen. Oh yeah, if you must, stick around during the credits to see the other Corey show up for a blink and you missed him walk on. Apparently he was so stoned for the shoot they had to pull a page out of the Jan Michael Vincent book and shoot him in single propped up shots all by himself. Probably the funniest thing about the movie. First time seeing this and I don't see me ever sitting through it again. Give me Jean Rollin vampires any day of the week, please!

Monday July 21, 2008
The Incredible Hulk (2008)** - It's big, it's loud, it has a lot of the Hulk smashing stuff so I'm sure that audiences liked it a lot better than Ang Lee's underrated 2003 adaption. But at the end of the day this one is a lot of thunder, a little bit of heart and not a whole lot underneath. As a B-movie monster mash it is pretty fun, with good special effects and well done action scenes. You can't fault Edward Norton in the lead role as Bruce Banner. But as much as the film tries you never really get the feeling of isolation and loneliness that Banner is supposed to be feeling as he tries to hide from the world. Which is the real core of the story. That damn sad theme song wouldn't have become so iconic if it wasn't! Mainly because you know at any minute he's going to Hulk out and start tearing shit up. I do realize I'm going to be in the minority on this, but I liked Ang Lee's movie better for the attempts to put a cerebral cortex into the myths. Granted a lot of what he attempted didn't work. Even I bemoan the monster poodles. But at least it was not paint by the numbers filmmaking. That movie took chances. This one, while entertaining, never veers from the chosen path. First time seeing this.

Thursday July 24th, 2008
Tougher Than Leather (1988) *1/2 - Starring vehicle for the rap acts on Def Jam records (hell the entire staff of Def Jam records as it seems, as Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin has major roles too as well as some other flunky acts)that features RUN DMC playing themselves. The guys in the snappy hats get hooked up with some mob run record producer wannabe (played by Rick Rubin who also directed this atrocity and cannot act for shit). When he kills their semi retarded friend and roadie its all about them kicking ass until they get to the the man responsible. That's a fine and good set up for an exploitation piece. So what went wrong? When this came out I remember the boys doing interviews talking about how this was the most violent movie ever made. They actually compared it to The Terminator, Apocalypse Now and Scarface in terms of mayhem. Well, there is a body count of like four or five and they are all relatively bloodless shootings. A couple of people get their asses very unconvincingly kicked and that is about it. A lot os posturing and very little pay off. It is painfully clear that they all wanted to keep this project in house at Def Jam and that is the biggest mistake they made. Rubin may be a killer record producer, but he can't direct his way out of a paper bag. They would kick him off the crossing gaurd for his lack of directing skills. The movie is shot and edited worse than most backyard productions (though the opening Leone inspired sequence had be thinking there could be more promising stuff to come. I was wrong.) What does however work here is the presence of RUN DMC. They can't act for shit, but they wisely perform several times and it is a reminder of why they were one of the biggest Hip Hop acts of all time. When they are performing the movie actually comes alive and surmounts the shittiness around it. Also performing and acting are a very young Beastie Boys who are frankly embarrasing. It is kind of amazing to watch them and see just how far they have come. It is a big leap from drunken idiots on stage to trying to save Tibet. Hav seen this before but barely remembered any of it.

Friday July 25, 2008
The Deliberate Stranger (1986) *** - Well made two night TV movie of the week about the life of Ted Bundy that surprisingly gets most of it right. Mark Harmon more or less killed his career with his very good performance as the well known serial killer. The epic running time allows for the story to follow Ted's personal life including his dealings in political circles in Seattle, his love life (god his girlfriend is annoying) and naturally his murder spree. But it also follows the cops trying to crack the case in Washington and then in Utah. Ample time in given to all aspects which allows all the elements room to breathe and be fairly compelling. The biggest drawback of course, is that being a TV movie a lot of the serious nature of Bundy's crimes are glossed over such as the sexual aspects which are mentioned in a couple of throw away lines but that's it. We never really get the information that his killing spree was sexually motivated and that he raped all of his victims. Otherwise they stick close to the facts of the case including his two escapes from jail and to my shock the final murder of a twelve year old girl (though they don't show it at all, just tell us about it after the fact, which is fine really. What happened to her in real life is probably too horrible to put into a movie at all, much less TV). As it stands this is probably the definative movie on the Bundy case even without the gory details. The musical score is truly awful though. First time seeing this.

Saturday July 26th, 2008
Trapped Ashes (2007) *1/2 - Sean S. Cunningham produced and directed one segment of this still sitting on the shelf anthology horror film that is pretty pedestrian. Also on board is Joe Dante, Ken Russell and Monte Hellman. A group of very annoying Hollywood types go and a tour and end up in trapped in a variation of the Psycho house. For some reason they are forced to tell their worst personal horror stories as a way to somehow get out of their situation. Each of the following stories is a segment of the film. The first one is Ken Russell's about a vain young actress you gets breast implants that turn out to be little blood sucking monsters that attack people. The second story is about a woman who is being lured into hell in Japan by a ghost. The third and most interesting is directed by Monte Hellman and is about two friends in fifties Hollywood and the woman who comes between them and how she stays immortal. This one has some very distinct nods to Stanley Kubrick going on. The last story is about a little girl that while in utero her mother was also carrying a parasitic worm that become her brother. This is slickly produced but all the stories lack payoff so they can come around again at the end and try to have a "shock" finale' at the ending of the film. It doesn't work. It just makes each story seem truncated and frustrating. Mostly it is silly and not very shocking with some interesting ideas thrown away on poor scripts and weak acting. Only Monte Hellman's segment really has any depth and almost would play better as not a horror piece at all. It is really a three character chamber drama with almost no horror and could work as its little existential drama. Ken Russell's piece has some bizarre images but doesn't get under the skin of the matter where it could have had some interesting things to say. Over all it is better than say Creepshow 3, but then tapeworms in my stool are better than that one. First time seeing this.

Simon Says (2006) *1/2 - Yet another horror film that has been sitting on the shelf for a while. This one stars Crispin Glover as twins, one mentally retarded, on not, both insane, stalking an unlikely group of partying kids in the woods. This tries to be a post modern slasher movie by presenting all the cliche's and then turning everything up a few notches, but it doesn't really work. Its fun to see Glover cut loose and goes way over the top, even for him. The gore is almost as over done as his performance as people are skewered and split in half under geysers of blood. But what the movie gets deadly wrong is that the people that are being hunted are so painfully dimwitted, stupid and repellent, that you can't care about them. They group of kids are the worst of Hollywood casting as they are just a list of "types" the musclehead, the pothead, the good girl, the slut and the pretty smart girl all thrown together to party for the weekend. All of them instantly unlikable. Nothing creative is done with the material. There is some interesting kills, but it goes nowhere you haven't seen before and the snarky tone becomes annoying after a while too. Directed by the dude who directed Harry and the Hendersons if you can believe it! First time seeing this.

Sunday July 27th
Cocaine Cowboys (2006) *** - Absorbing if overly flashy documentary about the rise of cacaine trafficking through Miami starting in the late 70's and into the late 80's. The story ends just before the government takes up the cocaine trade and starts shipping in the white powder into the U.S. themselves in the very end of the 80's as part of the Iran Contra Affairs (which are not covered in this documentary). What is covered is how two low end business men, one a pilot, another just a basic street drug dealer managed to build a smuggling empire with the Colombians. Then the "narrative" switches gears to how one woman, known as the Godmother, managed to take over the trade and turn the streets of Miami into a slaughter ground with people being murdered left and right. The most fascinating interview in the film is with her right hand assassin who is in prison for life. While the subject and interviews are illuminating director Billy Corben's style is a big aggravating as he piles on the Adobe After Effects, hyper stylized editing and Jan Hammer score to the point of annoyance often detracting from the subject matter. I'm sure the point was to simulate the hyper reality of the Cocaine subject matter, but more often than not it took away from the experience. Still it is a worthwhile documentary with a lot of information. Be warned the the abundance of crime scene photographs, many of then brutal and bloody, and some of them children, almost puts this in the mondo film camp. First time seeing this.

Tuesday July 29th, 2008
Requiem For The Vampire (1971) *** - Once again took a look at this Jean Rollin vampire classic on the Encore DVD special edition set and it is a revelation.The picture is so vibrant and crisp it is like seeing it for the first time, as cliche as that sounds. The colors and detail literally jump off the screen. As good as the old Image disc of the movie was, and it was very good, this blows it out of the water completely. This movie was one of Rollin's narrative experiments. He has said he was asked to hand in a script in a matter of days or else loose a chance for financing. So he sat down and literally decided to tell himself a story as he wrote. No notes, no outline, not even a real idea. Just to let it unfold as he wrote over a period of a couple of days. What came out was a tale of two young women, on the run from a heist, from which they were dressed as clowns, who run afoul of a clan of vampires at a chateaus they hide out at. While the film is virtually plotless, it is one of Rollin's richest in images, starting with the two girls in full clown regalia racing away in a car shooting at cops. There is the moment when they wash the make up off in a stream, turning the water streaks of red and white. We never actually see them wash it off, just the water changing colors. Then there is the big vampire orgy that introduces the vampires. Bathed in red gels, lush music and vampire bats nestled in one woman's crotch, this is not stuff that is easily forgotten. This is a film that does not ask you to follow along , as much as it asks you allow it to unfold before you. Your patience for arthouse horror will tell if this is to your liking or not. Seen this several times before.

Thursday July 31st, 2008
Dr. Gore (1973) *** - Bad movie buffs take note, this is a real winner! On DVD from Something Weird video this used to be available years ago from Paragon Video with an introduction from Herschel Gordon Lewis. It seems that Lewis was friends with the director/writer/star Pat Patterson who also helped Lewis with the effects in some of his later films. Here Patterson takes the full reigns to deliver a unique and grisly bad movie bouquet that should delight fans of this sort of thing. It seems our beloved doctor Branon has lost his wife to a car crash, but as we discover in the very first scene he intends to bring her back to life, but better. More perfect in every way! So him and his hunchback grunting assistant (horrifyingly named...Greg!) set about robbing graves to nab the right parts. But after covering a corpse in tin foil and trying to reanimate it goes wrong. They decide that the only route that makes sense is to hypnotize women and cut off the perfect parts they need. So you get Pat Patterson and his amazing colossal comb over making out with babes in bikinis and then luring them back to his lab in a trance. Never mind the fact that if he has the power to pretty much bed any hot babe around why would he need to create a living perfect women in the first place! So they start hacking up girls in effects scenes that are surprisingly effective for the time period and obvious lack of budget. One dismembered torso is actually rather frighteningly conveyed. Unneeded parts are done away with in the handy acid vat. Greg keeps his bottle of hooch in the freezer with the dismembered body parts and a bunny rabbit just hangs out on set for no reason at all. One shot has some delivery men bring a big box and you can see well over the tops of the set by at least three feet or more. Once the perfect woman is completed the movie sort of comes apart as it clearly is unfinished from this point out, starting from a montage where the Doctor is explaining how he has to teach the new woman everything from scratch about being alive. His voice over explains a whole bunch of stuff, then the montage shows us the same stuff he explained, AFTER he has said it. He teaches her how to love but she takes to hit a little too well and when he catches her hugging on poor Greg, things get ugly fast. Towards the end there is the most blatant and shocking camera clap board ever left in a film in history further underscoring that this is unfinished. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the incredible music by one Bill Hicks. Not the acerbic and dearly departed comedian, but a cherubic, bearded lounge singer whose songs stop the movie dead at least twice. I dunno about you but I kinda miss the days of no budget movies when they were padded with lounge musical numbers meant to further the careers of musical nobodies. If you haven't gotten the point yet, this is AWESOME!!! First time seeing this.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Movies for JUly 2008

Movies for July 2008

July 3rd 2008
Brave (1994) *** - This long form music video for the album of the same name from Marillion is also mostly known for being directed by cult director Richard Stanley. While he pretty much disowns the the final product, I still think it is a powerful bit of work. The story deals with a young woman who is in an insane ward as we cycle through her mind to see what drove her to this point. Each segment follows with a different song from the album and we experience her life in very surreal vignettes. We see her molestation by her father, her become homeless, become a heroin addict, try to commit suicide, get arrested, kill her boyfriend and finally actually commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. The whole while she is stalked and seduced by a man in a white mask who is at times her tormentor, friend, lover and Savior. While the film is overlong and has moments where things are stretched a bit thin, and has narration that doesn't need to be there, there is also plenty imagery that stays with you. Haunting moments like when her and the man are making love on a trashed river bank in her mind, while she is trying to kill herself in a bathtub. Or the entire "shadow theater" sequence which is vintage Richard Stanley occult tinged dementia. Overall the music gels really well with the visuals to create a haunting portrait of someone on the edge, and them thrusting themselves off. Seen this many, many times.

July 4th, 2008
Poultrygeist (2008) **1/2 - The Troma teams latest cinematrocity is getting surprisingly good reviews around the country and in many ways the film deserves it. This is Troma's slickest production to date; The production design is very good, the effects are outstanding and plentiful, there is nary a scene without dozens of extras keeping the production value high and plus it is a successful musical! But the sum of the parts are not as good as isolated moments, and maybe its just me, but the avalanche of shit and cum jokes have ran their course to a degree. there is only so much you can do with that and keep it creative, and Troma has been at the forefront of the bad taste movement for decades. They broke that hymen years ago and now its dry humping a corpse (almost literally as the opening of this movie would have it). that's not to say some of that isn't funny, but the path is so well worn that it is just on autopilot a lot of the time. What this movie does however get right is the various social skewering, whether it be America's fast food culture, or the liberal protest cause of the week the movie has a rather shark political wit that is well defined. the moment the protesters who have been protesting the evil coporate fast food chain all whip out Starbucks coffee is one of the more biting and funny scenes of the film. Most shockingly is the musical segments of the film which are really well done. The music is catchy, the choreography fun, and it integrates well into the movie. Unfortunately about half way through they just abandon the whole idea and it stops being a musical altogether, thus dropping one of the films best ideas. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the effects work again. This movie is loaded with make up effects to the point that it times it is jaw dropping. I wouldn't call them fantastic effects, they are supposed to be goofy, but the sheer amount of them is astounding. This has to be Troma's biggest budgeted and most complex movie to date. So in that regard it is certainly worth a salute. This is making rounds on the independent theater circuit so if it comes to your theater you should check it out just to support one of the last indie companies around. its a fun movie. Just flawed in some ways. First time seeing this.

Saturday July 5th 2008
The Onion Movie (2008) **1/2 - I had heard nothing but bad things about this sketch comedy flick from the long running comedy newspaper but to my surprise it wasn't all that bad. some of the sketches were pointless and others ran too long. But there were a few gems in there like the little known racial stereotypes bit. The Steven Seagal as the Cockpuncher gag is really funny and it is cool to see the former martial arts film champion poking fun at his image. Some of the gags seem out of date, probably because the movie has been sitting on a shelf for a few years but it is nowhere as bad as you've heard. first time seeing this.

This Divided State (2005) *** - Pretty infuriating documentary about during the 2004 election Michael Moore was invited to the Utah valley stater College for a speaking engagement which sparked off a battle within the community to have him banned. The majority ruling class of conservatives in Utah rallied to have the college stop the engagement, with one man in particular having Republican students start petitions to have the student president and staff who okayed the engagement removed. When this appeared to not be working this same man, tried to buy off the college, then brought a lawsuit against them. He also rallied enough local support that over $200,000 was lost in funds to the college. All just to stop Michael Moore from speaking there. He spoke anyway but there was a good deal of fallout from it. A frustration bit of documentation of how the conservative right can wield their money and power to silence a person or even an institution from whom they disagree. Very scary stuff. first time seeing this.

Sunday July 6, 2008
Wal-E (2008) **** - Pixar's latest computer animated romp is so much more than the trailers make it look like. while it is completely suitable for kids, it is not really a children's film. It is one of the most biting satires of our consumer culture that has come down the block in many a moons, as well as one of the most compelling science fiction films in ages. Top it off with a love story that has more to say about humanity than any gushy romance film and you have a movie that I'm sure Walt Disney would have been proud to have had his name on. Wal-E is the last inhabitant on the planet Earth, save one single cockroach that is his companion. The planet was forced to be abandoned because it was overwhelmed by trash and waste. So humans colonized a space station and left robots to clean up the toxic mess on earth. Seven hundred years later Wall-E is still doing his job, stacking trash as high as skyscrapers, and occasionally collecting detritus that he finds interesting such as old VHS tapes. He's fascinated by how people interacted and in particular touched when they were in love. He is desperately lonely, isolated and lives a repetitively life where the finding of a piece of interesting junk is the best excitement he has. One day a spaceship lands and a sleek robot starts scanning the landscape. They eventually become friends as we discover the robot is female and send from the humans spacecraft. Through lots of adventure they both end up back on the space station where all the humans have become these monstrously obese things that float on telepads, watch TV and drink processed food all day long. They can no longer read and robots literally do everything for them. But the arrival of these two new robots along with the one living plant from earth they are carrying will signal a huge change for everyone. The movie is fun, with a light touch so little kids can easily watch it and enjoy it. But the heavy themes are plain as day in scenes such as when the human babies are shown in the day care watching corporate propaganda (funny how the irony of that being in a Disney movie is probably lost on the executives) or when the captain of the spaceship can't read the old directives because they're in an actual book. Throughout the production design on Earth is a corporation called Buy & Large that is clearly modeled after Walmart that has bought up everything and helped destroy the planet. On the spaceship this corporation 100% owns everything. But the movie never gets lost in its eco friendly messages. The characters are rich and textured and you really get drawn into the situation they present. In some ways it is almost like a teen love story as Wal-E is slightly obsessed with holding Eve's ( the female Robot) hand and keeps screwing things up in his quest to do so. It is his need to be touched and to touch someone else that drives the film. the animation in the movie is probably the best computer animation I have ever seen. the early scenes on earth are so textured that it doesn't even seem like animation. There is some live action snuck in there in a few places which makes it seem all the more convincing. All in all this is a classic bit of filmmking and I wish all kids movies could be this smart. Hell, I wish ALL movies could be this smart. First time seeing this.

July 8th, 2008
Night Train To Terror (1985) ** - Really goofy hatchet job of an anthology that took three other somewhat unrelated movies (all were co-scripted by a chap named Phillip Yordan) and hacked them down to 20 to 30 minute segments and shoe-horned them into one nonsensical flick. The wrap around segment, from which the title is drawn involves a train on which a white bearded God and an old gangster looking Satan discuss various theological things. Elsewhere on the train a horrible 80's post-romantic pop band sings and dances their way into the pit of your stomach, while the black conductor wanders aimlessly among these neon clad atrocities. It seems the train will crash at dawn with God and Satan arguing over who will gain the souls of those who will die. To pass the time they reminisce about some past cases, which are the three stories of the movie. Or I should say the cut down versions of the other films. The first one is culled from an unfinished film called Scream Your Head Off featuring a slumming John Phillip Law as a dude being held at some experimental hospital after a car crash killed his wife. Seems this hospital is conducting experiments on women, so they hook him on drugs and have him go out and drug women to bring them back. Every woman is strapped down, stripped and worked on. Richard Moll from Night Court is on hand as a creepy orderly. This segment sets the stage for the rest as it makes not a lick of sense, jumps around all over and is filled with tons of nudity and gore. There is narration a plenty to attempt to fill in the gaps, but it just adds to the confusion. Apparently Scream Your Head Off is floating around as a bootleg. So if anyone has it, please Hook a brother up!

Next up is the condensation of Death Wish Club, a movie about a guy who becomes obsessed with a porn performer. When he finds her it seems she is part of an exclusive club where they all take part in games of elaborate Russian Roulette where the stakes are someone's life. Each game is more complicated than the last and he and the girl try to get out of the club. But they keep getting forced back in and play. This one fares the best of the three segments, even though the first half of the movie is basically cut out thus you have no idea how the two main characters really get together. But the gist comes across and the creativity is still there. The original is a pretty cool little movie and this is too.

Lastly we have Cataclysm aka The Nightmare Never Ends. This movie even in its long form is a complicated mess, that barely hangs together. Its still a fascinating little flick with some great ideas, hamstrung by a truly shitty lead performance by the main actress. This short version makes no sense at all, no matter how much narration they lay on it, but they wisely cut around her lousy acting as much as possible. Richard Moll is back again as a writer who writes a book called God is Dead which is basically a manifesto for atheists. Meanwhile an old man has discovered that the Anti-christ has been living down through the decades. he has pictures of him from Nazi Germany and current pictures where he has not aged a bit. It seems that Richard moll's wife, the crappy actress, is the chosen one to fight Satan. there is a great climax involving some REAL open heart surgery footage.
All three segments use new narration to try and make them work. the last two segments have new stop motion creature effects to try and boost the production value of each one. They're okay but not really needed. Overall this is fun, but really on the chintzy side. Though I'm sure if you were drunk off your ass in some grindhouse somewhere this was a real hoot. First time seeing this.

Saturday July 11, 2008
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008)*** - While the first Hellboy was a fun movie movie, I felt like it was struggling against the Hollywood grain to really become something spectacular. There were flashes of Guillermo Del Toro's brilliance in it. But I felt like Hollywood was holding him back. That isn't the case with this sequel. In fact this movie manages to capture the same kind of movie magic that many of us felt as kids when we first saw the original (unedited and un fucked with) Star Wars movies for the first time. There is a scene in Hellboy 2 when the gang enter a Troll marketplace that has that same sense of awe that we got thirty years ago when we followed Luke Skywalker into that wacky cantina for the first time. The story this time has has the last remaining siblings from an ancient race vying for the controlling pieces of a golden crown. This crown when put back together will enable the owner to control the fabled golden army, a thousand strong army of indestructible robots. These are relics of a time when beasts and man battled for control of the world but these robots swayed the battle and almost wiped out mankind until the king, feeling remorse and pity called a truce, allowing the human race to live. Now his son has vowed to wage war on humanity and take his rightful place as ruler. Hellboy investigates this after the prince has let loose a bunch of critters called tooth fairies into a crowded auction that was selling a piece of the crown. Though these things sound cute, and even look cute, their voracious appetite and relentless spirit are anything but. The scene where they attack our heroes is a showstopper. But only the beginning in a film full of them. But for all the flawless effects, terrific stuntwork and incredible production design, what sets this apart from other fantasy films is that Del Toro knows how to inject real pathos into his characters. Even the villains of the piece have shades to them and are not cut outs. There are moments when you understand them, and maybe even empathise with them. Hellboy's journey in the film is less about fighting monsters, than about finding out a very personal road to travel. For all the good, the movie is not perfect though. There are some major problems in the script, such as the whole twins connection between the villains that easily telegraphs the ending of the film. There are also several times when characters do things that make very little sense, except to move the plot along from A to B. But these things are not detrimental as they could have been. The movie is still magical and well worth your time. The audience we saw it with clapped at the end, which is something I've not experienced in a while. First time seeing this.

The Love Guru (2008) * - I was forced to watch this. It looked like a piece of shit from the trailers, and the trailers didn't lie. You know how bad Goldmember was? Remember how staggeringly unfunny and painful? This is way worse. Mike Myers has totally lost his barometer of what makes a joke work. So instead he makes a joke (usually one that isn't funny) laughs at it himself (as part of the character you see) and then goes on to fucking EXPLAIN the joke, either to the other characters or in some instances to the AUDIENCE! This doesn't just happen once, but over and over and over throughout the movie. Then there is the whole joke of having The Love Guru sing a pop culture song. He sings 9 to 5 for the opening credits. It's dumb and you hope that you've experienced the last of the singing. But then he pulls out one of the biggest pieces of shit songs in history with More Than Words from Extreme, and proceeds to sing the whole fucking song of that. But wait, at the end, he does Steve Miller's The Joker. Why? Because The Guru's character is named Maurice and that name is in the song. Sheesh! Justin Timberlake should have been funny in the movie. He tries really hard, but is saddled with such shit material that he just sinks with the ship. The whole joke being that he has a huge dick and a cheesy mustache. Verne Troyer really deserves better than this garbage too, and that's saying something considering he just leaked his own amateur sex video. There is actually a scene where Mike Meyers does the whole gag of "accidentally" calling him a shrimp and a midget. Oh how original. Next they'll have him running around with a bucket on him...oh wait they do that too. There is ONE good scene, thus explaining my one star rating. The plot, as it stands, deals with a hockey player whose wife has left him. He is explaining to the Guru about how much he misses her and how they would make love and fall asleep together and he would wake up a few hours later to his wife softly saying "damn". As in damn I'm glad I'm with you, or damn I love you. Its a tender moment, with real, gentle heart. It's like it wandered in from another movie. And naturally they fuck it up by later showing us how she said the exact same thing when seeing Timberlake's massive schlong. But take heed, there is justice in the world. This piece of crap tanked. Making a pittance of its cost back. But then that just might mean that Meyers will retreat and force another Austin Powers movie on us. I shudder to think. First and LAST time I'll be watching this.

Tuesday July 14th, 2008
The Tracey Fragments (2008) *** - This Canadian Indie drama from acclaimed director Bruce Macdonald is hard to get into at first because of the visual style. The entire movie is told through visual fragments, represented by multiple screens that are always changing. This is split screen effects taken to the ultimate extreme. At any given time there will be anywhere from six to literally dozens of separate frames on screen with different images in them. This approach takes some getting used to, to say the least. But it isn't being used as simply digital editing masturbation. This does indeed represent the mindset of the main character and the viewpoint of the film. The movie stars current indie queen, the beautiful Ellen Page as the title character a "Normal fifteen year old who hates herself". We meet her sitting on a public bus, wrapped in a shower curtain (well we find out later its a shower curtain, it looks like a sheet) as she addresses us directly. We discover that her mentally handicapped little brother has gone missing under her supervision and she is out in the city looking for him. Her parents are the model for dysfunction and falling apart from the stress. Tracey tells us all kinds of personal things about herself, including intimate details of her first sexual encounter with her boyfriend, who she is seemingly obsessed with. See he's the new boy in school and one of those too cool for the room guys, that disaffected girls always fall for. We infer through the fragmented narrative that she was with him when she lost track of her brother in fact. Narratively the movie seems like it is going to be one of those dark journey into the night types of flicks where an "innocent" travels into the big city and encounters all kinds of scary things. There is a bit of that going on; She ends up in a strip bar, witnesses a huge fight, sees a high class pimp plying his trade with a young girl, and is almost raped at one point. But what the movie is really about is her grip on reality slipping as she layers on her own versions of fantasy to cope with things. We learn that many of the things she has told us early on in the film are fiction. Fiction that she is telling herself as she loses grip on her sanity. Throughout the movie there is this impending threat of a huge blizzard that is supposed to blanket the city. Characters constantly warn her to stay inside to protect herself from it. Its almost as if that oncoming blizzard is the complete white out of reality with her own version of "facts". The movie zips forward and back through time, supplants fantasy and reality at will and leaves the viewer to make up their own mind in many instances. It can be a frustrating experience at times, but it is held together my the galvanizing performance at the center from Ellen Page. She has proven without a doubt that she is the best young actress of her generation. While other actresses are busy trying to find ways to have music careers or become "celebrities" she is choosing to do challenging work like this. This girl can say more with her eyes than most teen actors can do in a whole season of TV acting. She holds you to the screen through these dangerous narrative forms and makes you care about what happens to her. Even when her character is making stupid and naive choices that will effect her life. As you have gathered this is not a feel good movie. People who are coming to this as fans of Page because of Juno are going to feel like they have been slapped around. It is the Anti-Juno in a lot of ways. Thats not a bad thing. First time seeing this.

Monday, June 30, 2008

More Movies for June

Monday June 23, 2008
D'Wild Weng Weng (1982)*** - If you don't know who Weng Weng is then you really shouldn't be reading this blog. Weng Weng is a god among men, or at least he was when the little guy was alive. He was barely 3 feet of caged karate fury with a bowl haircut who would whoop an ass without breaking a sweat. The ladies loved him, he wore leisure suits, had rocket jet packs and tons of other gadgets. He was cool as ice before the motherfucker Vanilla hijacked the phrase. This killa from Manilla was the toast of the Philipino movie industry in the early 80's and made a crap load of movies all based around the fact that he stood no higher than your thigh. But he was a screen presence to be reckoned with as all of us who sumbled upon For Y'ur Height Only in the bargain bins way back in the 90's will attest. Weng Weng changed lives man. So that brings me to this adventure, one of his more obscure flicks or it was until this print started making the rounds. Here the weng stars as a secret service agent along with his friend Mr. Gordon who are sent to Santa Monica(!) because the Mayor has been ruthlessly murdered by a bandito named Mr. Sbastian (everyone is Mr. someone in this movie). From there the dynamic duo basically just keep kicking the asses of Sabastian's men until the incredible climax. Along the way they make friends with a dude with his tongue cut out (his annoying screaching will give you a headache), a couple of babes, and a pigmy midget Indian Chief (played by the dude who played Mr. Giant in For Y'ur Height Only). Sights you will see include Weng practicing his karate shirtless, him in his mariachi outfit saradading outside a babe's window, Weng thrown like an Olyumpic football into the second story of a bad guy's lair, Weng stuffed into the monk robes of Mr. Gordon and carried around like a fetus, and Weng strung up like a turkey to bake in the sun. But the keeper are two action scenes; one about 45 minutes in and then the climax. The middle scene is simply just Weng Weng strolling along and every time he sees a group of bad guys he whips out his gun and kills them dead. Cold blooded Charles Bronson style! He's done fuckin around! He kills at least two dozen people in a ten minute period! For the climax I swear Sylvester Stallone had to have seen this movie before he wrote the latest Rambo film because the similarities in the climaxes as odd to say the least. Both films have the heroes surround on all sides by the bad guys, and both films have the hero manning a huge machine gun and mowing down the invading armies. Both films then have a native people rush in and help by fighting along side, in this case the Pygmy Indians (where did they find so many midgets?). Oh shit I forgot to talk about all the ninja's in this thing! Mr. Sabastian employs not only traditional "Mexican" banditos but a small army of ninja's too! While this movie is undeniably entertinaing it lacks the loopy, goof-ass charm of The Impossible Kid and For Y'ur height Only where things were clearly not being taken totally seriously. Here director Eddie Nicart seems to be wanting to blend the cheapjack Fillipino action film to something akin to a Peckinpah movie. Plus the dubbing is far too serious unlike the uprourious For Y'ur height Only. But still, this is a worth while cult addition and for Weng Weng completists it is a must have. First time seeing this.

Tuesday June 24, 2008
Dream No Evil (1972) **1/2 - Extremely low key and unusual horror drama was written about highly in the excellent and must have tome Nightmare USA: The Rise of the Exploitation Independents by Stephen Thrower. This movie is also the co-feature on the DVD set with Delinquent School Girls as part of the Psychotronica box set. The two films couldn't be more different and a worse double feature if you tried. Dream No Evil is really not even an exploitation movie at all, it is a quiet, slow moving treatise on loneliness and isolation driving one to madness. A little girl in an orphanage cries out for her daddy but is told, rather heartlessly, that her Daddy is dead. Cue years later and she is working with a preacher who has integrated her into his roadshow as a highfall artist to demonstrate how one can fall "straight to hell" from sins of the flesh! But she is still obsessed with finding her long lost father and has convinced herself that he is in the current town they are visiting. She finds him with the help of a sleazy pimp (who pimps obese old women to the elderly men in the old folks home) who doubles as the coroner. Seems her Father has died and is still on the morgue slab. Suddenly rises from the slab and kills the pimp and Father and Daughter are reunited. They move into a house that sometimes is a beautiful ranch home and sometimes a dilapidated, boarded up nightmare depending on where her mind is at. Then more people start dying. It doesn't take a genius to see what is going on in the movie, but it must of boggled the producer's mind at some point because there is this bogus narration that keeps popping up that just simply tells you that the lead gal is crazy, thus spoiling it for you. This happens about ten minutes into the movie and keeps coming back throughout and really hurts the poetic flow of the film. It clearly is not part of the original flick, or so it seems. But even without the narration it still isn't a big surprise when the climax arrives. To appreciate this movie you have to get into its bizarre groove of oddball characters, and weird situations. There aren't very many movies like Dream No Evil, its mostly melodrama, with a heavy dose of southern charm and slight psyechedelia, with a few drops of blood. Something like this would never be made now. The pace is too off, characters too weird and payoff too lopsided. While it is no great movie by a long shot, it is still to be appreciated for being different, and I do wish filmmakers would take these kinds of chances these days. The print is letterboxed and worn all to hell, clearly not remastered at all. And the one instance of nudity is censored! I have no idea if the old VHS is like that or not, and it looks like I've misplaced my old DVD-r of this for comparison. First time seeing this.

Autopsy 1 & 2 ***1/2 - Excellent HBO Series about Forensic pathologists and how they are integral to solving crimes. The first show is all about the Coroner from the New York area and the various things he's done over the years including investigating the deaths in the Attica riots, a husband who strangled his wife and put her in the trunk of their care for 10 ten days and most horrifyingly a mother who killed nine of her babies before someone figured out she was doing this. The second show opens up to several different pathologists and includes stories of a lower torso found in the Mississippi river that was dismembered with a chainsaw, a little boy that was beaten to death and how the mother who gave him up for adoption as a baby discovered his case fourteen years after the fact and still managed to get his case tried and a conviction, and a corpse found in a carnival funhouse as part of the attraction! This is a great show but only for those with strong constitution as it is pretty graphic stuff. First time seeing this.

Thursday June 26th, 2008
Exorcism (1975) *1/2 - Pretty weak Paul Naschy possession flick really suffers from coming out after The Exorcist. Apparently this was conceived prior to that hit, based on some real possession cases, but not okayed for production until the Warner's film was a huge success all over the world. Problem is that Friedkin's film clearly is an influence on this one to the point that it eclipses what ever nuances this may have. The story starts out very different with a college age girl at a witches sabbet. They are partying down, dancing naked, drinking blood and worshiping Satan as well as smoking drugs. On her way back from that shindig there is a car accident which causes her to be bedridden at her families estate. The local priest is called in (played by Naschy) because she is cursing the family and claiming she is"evil". Soon people are bing found dead with their heads twisted all the way around (sound familiar?). Before too long she's a mess; drooling, forming scars with nasty contact lenses and soon the priest has to do that old hocus pocus to run the devil out. The largest problem with this film is the pacing. It is languidly paced, taking its sweet ass time to get anywhere and when the climax finally arrives it is too short to really satisfy. Everything is overly familiar, though if it had really punched it home that could be forgiven. But instead it it relatively tame except for a lot of nudity during the couple of Satan worshiping scenes (which have great music by the way). The film is lensed quite well, and the acting is fine, but it just doesn't go anywhere, or do it in any kind of a hurry. Probably the weakest of the Naschy efforts I have seen so far. First time seeing this.

Friday June 27 2008
Psychos In Love (1986) *** - A real rarity, a horror comedy that works. I remember watching this as a teenager and thinking it was hilarious. What a surprise to revisit it as an adult and find that it still holds up as a clever and sweet natured splatter comedy that is both witty and gross, never sacrificing either element. The leads played by Carmine Capobianco and the very cute Debi Thibeault are a pair of murderous psychopaths who kill people who annoy them, mainly folks who cross them over their hatred of grapes. They bond over their murderous behaviors and fall in love. Meanwhile a local plumber is also a killer, but he is doing it simply to satiate his cannibalistic urges. The movie is filled with tons of in jokes to other movies such as the Hitchcock inspired gag where a victim refuses to die and the couple's decision to stop killing and only watch splatter movies. Also the director choses to break the fourth wall from the very opening scene and unlike other more pretentious movies like say , Funny Games, this ends up becoming rather charming and never comes off as cloying or grating. The leads are incredibly likable and there are some great supporting players too such as the Chinese karate guy who hangs out at the strip club, or the senile priest who marries them. The movie isn't a ground-breaker or anything, but it is just a well made and fun flick that is really worth the time. Seen this before obviously.

Frat House (1998) ** - Todd Phillips the director of the acclaimed documentary Hated about GG Allin made this HBO documentary about the pledging process and hazing rituals that plague college campuses all over the United States. The problem was that HBO discovered that Phillips faked a large portion of the footage and therefore shelved it. He still got his large payday and laughed his ass all the way to huge Hollywood directing gigs doing lame ass comedies. This doc starts off strong with Phillips and his partner Andrew Gurland finding a Frat run by a certified psycho who calls himself "blossom". This dude likes to do things for fun like beat up wooden skids with his bare hands. They get to watch a group of pledges start their ten week hazing, but after a few nights of relatively harmless stuff, Blossom and the boys get nervous about the cameras catching the truly horrible stuff they are about to do and run Phillips and his boys out of town. This stuff feels real and is probably the legit stuff they shot. Then Phillips and Gurland find an unnamed Frat at an unnamed school and decide to pledge themselves and run the gauntlet of torture, physical pain and humiliation. I'm pretty sure from this point on it is bullshit. These guys don't look like typical frat guys, though they do act like it. And frankly I don't believe Phillips would put himself through it without some sort of safety net. The stuff they show is grueling, but they never get under the skin of why anyone would WANT to do this. So its almost like a mondo movie in some ways. Its faked, its shock value, and its puddle deep. Don't get me wrong, it is compelling viewing, Phillips knows how to lead you in and keep your attention. But at the end you've not learned much of anything, unless you are shocked easily. The only thing I learned is that I'm glad I would never, ever want to be part of a Frat in the first place. Seen this before.

Saturday June 27th 2008
The Brown Bunny (2003) ***1/2 - Vincent Gallo's second directorial effort was torn apart when it premiered at Cannes in a much longer apparently more self indulgent cut where Roger Ebert called it completely unwatchable. Gallo went in and cut it down to 93 minutes, yet still people refused to talk about the actual movie. Instead focusing on the climactic hard core blow job sequence performed between him and Cloe Sevigny. What audiences missed is the fact that this is a heart wrenching, challenging, and yes self indulgent, existential head first dive into the heart of darkness. The movie is one long trip into one man's pain and torture of loneliness and refusal to forgive himself for his past.What trips people up is that much of the first hour of the movie is languid, but beautifully photographed, sequences of Vincent Gallo's character driving across country. The scenes are clearly meant to put us directly in his shoes as he isolates himself further and further. Throughout the movie he makes attempts to reach out to the opposite sex, usually at first with ease. But as soon as it requires him to give, even an tiny bit, of himself he abandons the effort and returns to the isolation of the road. By the time he finally reaches a L.A. hotel room and is reunited with his lost love the torture of his past is almost unbearable. The scenes between Sevigny and Gallo and painful and fraught with honest emotions and pain. Once the infamous blow job happens it could be argued that it is shock value, but the fact there is important dialogue going on that relates to what is happening plays out that it is not so. The final reveal of the movie is a bit on the heavy handed side and maybe is more than this otherwise beautifully crafted tone poem needed. But it is undeniably affecting. It hits you like a ton of bricks weather it is needed or not. Anyone who has ever felt abandoned, alone, or ashamed should be able to relate to this movie in some way. But then few will have the patience it requires to tune in to its unique and offbeat rhythms. By the way, once the 93 minute cut was released Roger Ebert came around and gave it three stars. First time seeing this.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Movies so far in June

Tues June 3rd 2008
The Devils (1971) **** - Ken Russell's masterpiece based on the book The Devils of Loudon by Aldous Huxley is a terrifying and thrilling piece of cinema that is still shocking today. Hence why it is still not on legit DVD and censored in all existing prints. The story of a priest, who cannot help himself to the pleasures of the flesh because as he puts it, he has a thirst to get to God quicker, finds himself forced into a position of defence as Loudon comes under attack from the crown. Meanwhile a nun that is infatuated with him is used being against him to topple his authority. This causes the entire convent to be accused of being possessed resulting in mass hysteria and a trial for witchcraft and heresy. The film is rife with imagery that is blasphemous and horrifying such as the purification of the nuns through enema's, the scene where the nun imagines the priest as Christ coming off the cross as she licks his wounds and fellates him as well as the only reinstated in the bootleg cuts, infamous "Rape of Christ" scene where the insane nuns pull a huge statue of Jesus down and literally fuck it. But the movie is about so much more than ballistic theatrics. It is about a man who finds God when he least expects to. About a time when corruption reigns supreme both in church and state and about when those two things intertwine to the point of pure strangulation. It is about how of love and sexuality should not excluded from loving the lord, and how those things can be perverted for political ends. Truly it is an amazing work for audiences that can take the risk.I have seen this many times before.

Saturday June 7th 2008
Werewolf In A Womans Prison (2007) ** - This shot on Hi Def video splatter/ Women in Prison/ Monster mash certainly tries very hard to please, and truthfully if drive-ins and grindhouses still existed to show exploitation movies this is the kind of thing they would show. So on that level it succeeds. A woman is bit by a werewolf while camping with her boyfriend in Mexico. Her boyfriend dies and she is imprisoned for his death in a brutal woman's prison where they use the prison's population for soft core porno. Soon she is seeing her dead boyfriend's ghost who warns her that under the ful moon she will change into the werewolf herself. After a prison yard dust up where she breaks arms and busts heads, she finds herself turning beastly and wrecking extremely bloody havoc. There is tons of boobs bared (some very impressive), gallons of blood and creative gore and a real attempt to throwback to the days of yore. The problem is that the acting is from acceptable to bad, the effects are only okay (with really poor digital work), and the story line lifts way too much from An American Werewolf in London for comfort. So it all just levels out as just an okay time waster at best. If your looking for gore and boobs this will fit your bill, but it could have easily gave us much more. First time seeing this.

The Sinful Dwarf (1973) **1/2 - This is one grimy little movie! I guess this was supposed to be a sex movie but what it ends up being is a twisted, grotesque little peep into a perverse world that is so fucked up you almost have to appreciate it just for the sheer repellent factor. The story is about a dwarf named Olaf and his Mother (a former actress) who own a boarding house. But in the attic they keep a room full of chained naked women that are hooked on heroin that they pimp out to particularly disgusting men looking for a lay. When a down on their luck newly wed couple rent a room Olaf and Mommy set their sights on the new voluptuous gal to add spice to the midnight playpen. Olaf is played by a dwarf actor named Torben who apparently was a children's show host in Denmark. He's a frickin force of nature with his gravel voice, insane laugh and penchant for playing with toys. Whenever he is on screen the movie is locked in for the kill. You can't take your filthy eyes off of it. Mommy has a penchant for reliving her glory days by doing sad renditions of Carmen Miranda numbers complete with full on costumes and smeared liptick. These are some of the most frightening moments in the film and are sure to send chills up your spine. The whole movie is dark, brooding and looks like it was dipped in piss, right down to the set design and props. Nothing is clean in this movie and you will feel dirty for watching it. But for some reason I find that to be a reason to recommend it. Seen this before. BTW the DVD that is floating around from over seas is NOT remastered. Severin DVD is planning a new release. Check out this bit from You Tube about that upcoming release. Its hilarious!

Wed June 11, 2008
Dream Deceivers:The Story behind The Judas Priest Trial (1992)***
- Very engrossing hour long documentary about the whole backmasking hootanany that almost took down the band Judas Priest in the mid 80's because a couple of Midwestern teens decided to blow their brains out. One of them lived after shotgunning off his face and claimed that it was the music of Judas Priest that led him to do it. His Christian conservative parents sued the band claiming that the song "Better By You, Better Than Me" contained subliminal messages and hidden phrases including the words "do it". This documentary includes a lot of interview footage with the band, James Vance the boy who blew his face off (now severely deformed) and his family. Much of the trial is shown as well. Many experts are brought in to analyze the music in which they find lots of little messages, many of which "could" be something. Yet it seems more likely the power of suggestion is at play. More important is the discourse of Vance himself who openly admits to doing drugs and seems intent on hanging his misery on the music instead of his home life. He's a sad figure who was clearly depressed and probably mentally ill. His abusive stepfather who admits to beating him in the documentary but lies about in the trial probably didn't help matters. All in all its clear that the band is totally innocent of any wrong doing and that the family is at fault but totally running from their demons. Ironically enough, a theme in much of Judas Priests music. First time seeing this. Watched it on Google video.

Thursday June 12, 2008
Sylvia (1976) **1/2 - Entertaining and goofy porno that is enlivened by surprisingly high production values and an energetic performance one time performer Joanne Bell. The movie is a take off on the popular (and recently remade) 70's mental illness drama SYBIL in which a woman who has multiple personality disorder from some sexual experience in her past starts fragmenting in her adult life. In this movie Sylvia acts out sexually and dons several personalities such as Mona who ravishes a vacuum cleaner salesman (played by Marc "10 1/2" Stevens) or a bullish lesbian. Frankly all her personalities seem the same though as they all shed their clothes, are aggressive, leer hysterically and perform analingus on the surprised dudes she is shagging. The most hilarious scene has her defrocking a pastor after terrorizing him with a giant crucifix she has torn off the wall. There is an impromtu exorcism scene too that is a riot. Directed by one Peter Savage aka Armand Peters who was a "made man" in the New York film scene and friends with the boxing legend Jake LeMotta. He basically helped write the book that Raging Bull was based on. The movie is kookily directed with lots of off kilter cutaways and loving melodrama that makes it feel like you have tuned into a a hardcore soap opera from another planet. But it is impressively shot with slick camera work, nice music and decent production values making it a unique movie both for its genre and vintage. But the real reason to buy this disc is the outstanding, must listen, commentary from assistant director and genre legend Bill Lustig (director of Maniac and Blue Underground head honcho, like you needed to know that). He is a great story teller and filled with dozens from the era, not just of the hardcore industry. He's hilarious, but so informative making the track outstanding. This is seriously one of the best commentary tracks ever. His tales of dealing with Joanne Bell, (though his hatred of her is a bit much), are enough for the price alone! A decent movie made a must for the commentary. First time seeing this.

The Zodiac Rapist (1971) *1/2 - Ultra no budget xxx that sought to capitalize on then hot news topic of the Zodiac Killer. Uh, yeah when I want to get hot and bothered the first thing I want to think of is the current serial killer on the loose! This has got to be one of the most wrong headed ideas for a porno ever. John Holmes stars as the title dude but don't take it too literally as the women he goes after are hardly what you would call victims. This is pure goofiness and while there is nonstop sex, no one is ever really "assaulted" as they see Holmes and his huge member and immediately want him to do his stuff. Only in the porno world... Immediately we know we are in no budget lunacy from the get go as we watch a girl planting flowers with no pants or underwear. In a tasteless close up we see that she has the hairiest, dirties butt in porno history. But John Holmes just happens to be hiding in the bushes and turned on by this nasty brown eye. He's Naked and masturbating. When she sticks the rake handle into her nether regions he decides he'd be better suited and they go to town. All the sound is post dubbed and doesn't match. I mean at all. Mouths are closed but moans are loud and furious. Later we meet Sam Dobbs the hero of the story, a clean cut, kinda chubby, perpetually naked detective on the case of the Zodiac Rapist. If only because the rapist keeps calling and pestering him. Dobbs is doing his secretary who is wearing this intensely scary nursing bra in which her nipples stick out of like horrifiying flesh torpedoes. Dobbs tells her in a dubbed over voice " I don't mind being sucked by you, but I hate being fucked by the Zodiac!" He's interrupted by an applicant for another secretary whom he proceeds to screw as a test to see if she could lure the Zodiac out of hiding. Later when she goes home the Zodiac climbs a tree to see her in her room and masturbates while in the tree. It's kind of impressive. He breaks into the house where her and another girl are sleeping on the bed together and announces "I'm the Zodiac Rapist" and a huge blast of guitar feedback shoots through the soundtrack as his theme. They both let him ravish them until Dobbs shows up. Holmes jumps off the balcony, doing his own impressive stunts. Later we see Holmes driving around looking for new victims and he is masturbating even while driving! Finally Dobbs gets help from a dominatrix Police woman who will help him catch the Zodiac but for some reason Dobbs has a real hard time getting it up for her (even though shes the cutest girl in the movie). This thing is nuts. Its terrible, the sex is unappealing for the most part (one girl's vagina looks like uncooked pot roast) but there is enough hilarity, especially the dubbed over dialogue to make it worth it at times. Holmes is clearly having a blast doing stunts and whacking off in public. This is way before the coke starting ravaging him. Too goofy to ignore. There is another Sam Dobbs adventure in this DVD package I have yet to watch. First time seeing this.

Sunday June 15th 2008
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) **1/2 - Decent enough Americanization of the Hong Kong fantasy/action films that characterized the Chinese output of the eighties. The plot is pure hokum and pretty disposable as an American kid finds a magic staff in a Chinese pawn shop and during a robbery by some young punks is whisked away into feudal China. There it turns out the staff belonged to the Monkey King, an always jovial, very hairy Kung Fu god who was turned to stone by an angry general 500 years before. Seems this kid is now the chosen sentry to take the staff back to the now concrete Monkey King so he can will be freed. But the General is still ruling since he is Immortal or magick or some shit, so it wont be an easy task. All of this information is related by Jackie Chan during one long flashback and dialogue sequence by the way. The kid befriends Jackie Chan who basically reprises his famous Drunken Master roll from the series he made famous. Along the way they pick up a vengeful and beautiful harp playing gal and a renegade monk played by Jet Li (who also plays the Monkey King). The movie moves at a brisk pace and the fight choreography is outstanding as to be expected. The big money fight between Jet Li and Jackie Chan in the middle of the movie is a ten minute long show stopping affair that is worth the price of admission alone. If you came to see those two titans battle it out with all the famous styles of Kung Fu, you will be satisfied. The fights are shot and edited like a Hong Kong flick too, so there is a noticable lack of fast editing and too close for comfort camera work to try and hide anything. The action is the reason to see the movie. Though it is also curiously un-exciting at times (save the Li/Chan fight) mainly because the movie is clearly aimed at families you never get the feeling there is real danger. Though there is some surprising violence now and again (the good guys kill a couple of people) it still feels kind of like going through the motions. Things are not helped by the lead character played by Michael Angaramo. I don't know if it was his performance, or the writing of the character, but the kid is a zero watt bulb. He's such a wuss that you want him to get his ass kicked throughout most of the movie just to teach him to man up a little bit. In fact, even though the plot hinges on him, you wish he'd just disappear and let the other character's lead, as they are out doing him charisma wise in every single shot. Another interesting thing about the movie is the amount of references to classic Hong Kong cinema. Numerous Bruce Lee nods abound, Jackie Chan doing the Drunken Master routine, Li playing the Monkey King from famous Monkey series, and there is a villainess who is clearly The Bride With White Hair (from part two though, after she became a man hating assassin). In fact they name check that movie just so you get it. The opening credits are a wonderful collage of poster images from classic Kung Fu movies. So over all its fun and diverting with one classic fight in the center. But it is the American elements (I.E. the kid, the flimsy script) that make it less than it could have been. First time seeing this.

The Machine Girl (2008) ** - Completely over the top Japanese splatter/Yakuza/comedy tries so hard to be hip that it almost hurts. While the movie at times is fun, and there is more than a few arresting images and moments, ultimately this has more in common with a video game than an actual movie. The plot is fairly simple, too simple actually. A college age girl's brother is killed by other similar age thugs, one of whom is part of a Yakuza/Ninja family. For reasons never explained, she has a lot of martial arts training and goes after these thugs and the Yakuza family. In the process she is caught, tortured and has her arm chopped off. She manages to escape and is taken in by the mechanic family of the other boy that was also killed. they create a gatlin gun replacement arm for her and she (as well as the mother of the boy) go and a killing spree of revenge. She also replaces her hand with a chainsaw at one point too just in case you weren't getting the Army Of Darkness reference. The movie is extremely over the top, with gallons of blood spilled in great geysers, even beyond the typical Japanese arterial spray found in the Baby Cart films. The gore in this movie has more in common with the early films of Peter Jackson than anything else. But while the gore is going over the top, the film itself tries to play everything completely straight, no matter how super-ludicrous it gets. Which SHOULD work, but most of the time doesn't. It takes a director with a special flare to pull this off. Takashi Miike has done it over and over such as in Ichi The Killer or Fudoh both of which this movie seems to want to be like (minus the sexuality, this movie is totally absent of sexuality). Yet director Noburo Iguchi doesn't seem to rise to the challenge. Instead the film feels forced and flat, only coming to life during the outrageous gore scenes and not even all of those work, hampered by some poor effects and situations that are so extreme you are taken out of the movie. In the Peter Jackson movies you were dealing with the supernatural so you could go overboard and make it work, here you are still sort of playing in the real world to an extent. So when a guy is having nails driving into his face over and over and doesn't die. You sort of are jsut left wondering why its happening. But what do I know? It is already becoming a huge cult hit and everyone seems to love it. I just felt like it was missing the mark and recycling stuff that other filmmakers have done better. First time seeing this.

Sunday June 22, 2008
Sole Survivor (1983) *** - Solid, atmospheric and fairly scary flick that has recently been released on DVD from Code Red is a little diamond in the rough waiting to be rediscovered. The plot is fairly similar to the Final Destination movies, so much so that the director of this movie tried to initiate legal proceedings at one point. A young woman mysteriously survives a plane crash only to start having creepy people following her everywhere. A washed up actress dreamed about her situation before it happened and is trying to warn her about the impending doom that is oncoming. Seems that these figures are something much more deadly. The plot devices here aren't that hard to figure out and owe a pretty big debt to Carnival of Souls (no she is not already dead though). But what makes this movie sing is that it takes it time to build up realistic characters and a real sense of dread. Beautiful camera work and a slow, careful direction really crawls under your skin so when the well timed scares happen they are immensely effective. There is a bit of jumble in the midsection where the movie tries to through in some exploitation elements to try and appease the grindhouse crowds (Brinke Stevens makes an appearance and takes off her shirt for no good reason at all), but the film gets on track pretty quickly for a rousing climax. Though I found the epilogue to be a bit unsatisfying. But otherwise this is highly recommended. First time seeing this.