Sunday, March 22, 2015

Grindhouse Sci Fi Collection - Review

Alright!  Finished all the movies in this Grindhouse Sci Fi Collection today.  Here are my reviews, summed up below with plot-lines included.  Reviews go in order of what appears on the front of the box, top to bottom left to right.

The Galaxy Invader - An alien spaceship crash-lands in rural Maryland, the alien survives, and wanders through the woods whilst pursued by drunken rednecks, as well as a local science teacher and student.  The alien's gun gets taken by humans and wackiness ensues.  This movie was a lot of fun, fast paced, and easy to follow.  Truly a B movie, to be enjoyed while drinking would be recommended.  I give it 4 stars.

Kong Island - Bad guys in the jungle are putting radios into the brains of apes, radios that allow these evil people to control them.  Tarzan-like girl Eva and park ranger Burt must stop them.  Bad film quality, bad acting and over the top ridiculousness makes this one fun to watch, but poor pacing and lack of anything cool happening soon kill your vibe. It's a mild chore to get through, but not unlikable.  3 stars.

Warriors of the Wasteland - In this Mad Max ripoff, greasy guys in cool cars drive around post-apocalyptic Earth and defend some innocent group from the local hell raisers.  It's really no plot, but that's what it claims is happening anyways.  Ultimately I wanted to like this movie.  It looks pretty decent, but cheap.  The actors aren't great and plot is very weak, but it's still fun and a great movie to watch with some friends and drink to.  I give it 3 stars.

Cosmos:  War of the Planets - A strange cryptic signal is picked up by a spaceship, and they are off to investigate.  Once they get to the source - a dark planet, they land, only to find a race of silver aliens in fear of a tyrannical robot.  Slow beginning that leads to a pretty decent payoff in the lat 45 minutes, this movie was far better than I expected.  It's got loads of atmosphere and is genuinely kind of creepy (or at least bizarre).  Another 3 stars.

The Day Time Ended - When a strange green object shows up at a house in the desert, it's the start of a bizarre alien war that takes place right in some folk's front yard.  This movie was reallllllly cool.  I loved it.  It's strange, memorable, fast paced, creepy, heavy on the atmosphere, and had fantastic effects.  Something I would see again, and show to people.  Deserves a cult following.  5 stars.

Doomsday Machine - A shuttle takes off with a crew of 4 men and 3 women, en route to Venus.  Will they be able to stand the 2 year journey?  This movie was pretty bad, and the weakest part of the set.  Stereotypical characters, no real tension or interest, it's a movie to put on and then forget what you're watching.  1.5 stars.

War of the Robots - Star Wars ripoff filmed in Italy, the plot revolves around some kidnapped scientists from Earth and the group of robots sent to rescue them.  Not so much terrible as it is completely incomprehensible, this movie is at least cool to look at.  Weird visuals, endless Star Wars rip offs, confusing battle scenes, and bad dialog and dubbing at least give this camp charm.  2 stars.

It's Alive - A sweaty old man has a giant dinosaur thing in a cave, which he feeds people to.  He traps 3 people and they are set to be his next victims.  Extremely bad film quality by schlockmeister Larry Buchanan.  It's supposed to be bad, and in that it succeeds.  Actually, this is the worst move in the set, I take it back, Doomsday Machine.  This movie became a joke for me, as I would endlessly compare bad movies to it.  Although, I do need to see it again.  Somewhere between zero and half a star.

The boxset itself is nice quality.  4 single sided DVDs in those mini-cases, and there's menus, chapter selections, "other features" trailers, and commentary on The Galaxy Invader!  Have to watch that some time.  Since I gave 5/8 of the movie at least 3 stars it averages out to a pretty good score overall.

Mine was given to me as a gift, but sells for $15 on Amazon.  Totally worth it, for The Day Time Ended alone.

Doomsday Machine - 1972

I must preface this by saying I know I did not want to review any more films skewered by MST3K or Cinematic Titanic.  I watched this because it is the last film on my Grindhouse Sci Fi boxset, and I've been neglecting it too long.  So for the purpose of completing my review of all the films on that set, I watched this, without riffing by hilarious Joel, Trace, Mary Jo, Frank and J. Elvis.  I've also decided "fuck it".  I will watch movies skewered by riffing peoples.  Because that's excluding some of the wackiest films out there.  And since I don't follow Rifftrax that much it's entirely possible that I've reviewed films they've made fun of.  So, fuck it, rule lifted.

I do see why they riffed this movie though.  In trying to be progressive, in trying to be sciency and cool, this movie failed big time.  It hurts, honestly.  It's not entertaining, good, fun, or even interesting.

The film begins with the imminent launching of a rocket.  The astronauts, a crew of 7 are wandering around, acting cool, and everyone at the launch pad is also wandering around, saying things.  Then the executive order comes in, shortly before takeoff.  The crew has changed at the last minute, and rather than 7 men on the ship, it will now be 4 men and 3 women.  Oh and have I mentioned that they'll be going to the planet Venus, which is going to take 2 years?

Knowing that they won't be able to keep it in their pants that long seems to be the main plot point of this movie, as everyone talks about it endlessly.  But nothing is to be done, and the ship goes ahead and takes off.  Then in space everything is going averagely.  I don't really remember anyone's name even though I just finished it, but there's:
1) the asshole (man) immediately starts hitting on the most expendable forgettable girl
2) the expendable forgettable girl, who gets hit on by above dude, but also leads him on 
3) the old guy with heart problems who probably shouldn't have been on the trip to begin with
4) the nice guy who immediately falls in love with the innocent girl
5) the innocent girl who immediately falls in love with the nice guy
6) the expendable forgettable nice guy who is obviously going to try and sacrifice himself
7) the "ethnic" in this case Russian girl who is sweet on the above sacrificial dude

The asshole causes problems, the Russian and the sacrificial guy are sweet on each other, and everything moves along at a snails pace.  One cool thing, is that the "Doomsday Machine" is why there are girls on the ship.  You see, America learned the evil Chinese have this nuke that will essentially destroy the world, and by putting women on the ship they could potentially have some kids in the new world of Venus once they land there, should America (and the world) blow up.

Once this is explained, the world promptly does blow up.  So this movie gets to be one of those with the highest death toll, as 6 billion or so people die in it.  Nice.

The ending was also kind of cool, where (spoilers) at the last possible minute before they reach Venus, they get a phantom call, from people already living on Venus.  The Venusians know of man's destructive tendencies and don't want them to land there.  However, they do open a portal and send the ship to another place where they can land.  Although the movie ends before we know if they land or not, it's an implied happy ending and it's at least kind of original.

It wasn't anything special, and deserved to be riffed on.  And I find the asshole/love interest to him interactions to be insulting and degrading.  Especially cause she does lead him on.  Which I am just going to write off to a bad original script.

I dunno.  1.5 stars sounds about right.

Zeta One - 1969

Getting right back into that ever expanding genre of "exploitation".  Good ol' exploiting of peoples.  This movie is interesting for sure.

What have we lost with the invention of the internet?  Although the list is debatable, one thing that we have definitely lost is the need to have weird sciency movies with needless nudity.  I was thinking about that as I was watching this movie last night.  What does it mean that at any moment you, me and everyone with a computer can log onto the internet and see endless pornography of all types?

I do believe people are less likely to have the need to go see a movie in the theater that promises nudity if they can access it whenever they want.  Now, you'll have to dress the the nudity up with romance, or you'll have to have it as an unexpected bonus to an action or horror film.  Of course, it won't disappear, but many films can avoid it easily and not suffer.  Of course its not like every movie back in this era had nudity, but what if going to the theater was virtually your only way to see naked girls?

You know, I haven't seen that many girls naked - in person.  I really am not that charming or confident, so it's not like girls are lining up to bed me.  But I've seen hundreds, thousands?  Tens of thousands?  Online.  I'm 28, which means I've been looking at girls online for roughly 14 years.  That is incredible.  Pornography is changing sexuality more than I think we understand.  Can you even imagine, my generation is going to be the last that doesn't have lighting quick internet as soon as they are born.  As time goes on, internet is only going to become easier and quicker, pornography is only going to grow.  There are literally millions of naked girls available to look at online.  That's unprecedented.

Zeta One exists because people could either 1 seduce a real girl (not especially easy, and for some people nearly impossible)  2 go to a nudie bar or venue (depending where you live, maybe not available, also, not necessarily cheap and you couldn't touch them or yourself) 3 go see a movie.  Movies were cheap, you could even jerk off if the theater was dark.  Thus you have an entire industry that sprang up because of people being horny.

What Zeta One is, well it's an excuse for lots of naked girls (well, topless at least) and a loose, who cares plot.  The plot is something about girls disappearing, a secret agent named James "investigating" the disappearances, and aliens who look like normal blond girls.  This movie is a comedy, a nudie flick, and a bit of a drunkard/stoner flick all in one.  Which again, all these genres have changed a lot since 1969.

The comedy in it is mostly low key.  Easy, accessible.  For example, it is ripping on the recent James Bond craze by having a British spy named James as their main character.  Just like the Bond films, James in this movie is a secret agent who answers to a boss (in Zeta One, W instead of M) and James beds crazy amounts of women.  It's a joke in that film that James spends the majority of the film bedding girls rather than doing his spy work.

There are a few "trippy" sequences involving the alien girls (who by the way only wear nipple covers and underwear the whole movie).  This is panning to all the people that snuck their joints or their flask into the theater.  I can't even imagine going to a theater to see this.  Weird old guys who wear giant coats and touch themselves...unabashed early 20-somethings getting beyond high in the front row while they feel up some very uncomfortable looking girlfriend who only agreed because they wanted to seem cool.

There is something to be understood and gained by watching a film like this.  It's indicative of an era.  The 60's are an era that naturally people like me who had parents that went through it, but we ourselves did not, want to understand.  Drugs are actually statistically more in use now, harder now, and much more dangerous now.  But it was more accepted then.  You could totally do a j in a theater.  I think.  I mean I have no idea, actually.

There are a few funny parts to the movie, and it is sexy.  So in that way it is a success.  There is a particularly funny sequence in an elevator that I thought was clever.  They did a good job picking girls for the film that looked similar, and thus we get the feeling that's a trait of the aliens.  The girls are hot and there's plenty of nudity.  One thing that I noticed was that modern films would not go near the prospect of sexual torture in a comedy/stoner film.  That's the sort of shit reserved for movies like Hostel or something these days, and in fact, they don't really go near that either.  I can't even say what the most recent film I've seen with sexual torture is.  And I mean non-consensual.

Is it good?  Well that is the question isn't it.  I don't really know.  I feel slightly unqualified to judge.  This is the type of film that is going to attract some people, and repel others.  It's not offensive, certainly.  But it's also not up to our modern "standards".  For people like me that interested in these genres, old films, and B movies, it should be watched.  But it's probably only for fans of these genres.  I doubt it would attract anyone else, besides maybe older people looking to relive their youth.

I liked it though.  It is fast paced, obviously high budget and high production values, and like I said, it is still sexy and funny.  That alone is enough to make it relevant, in my opinion.  If the comedy flopped, and the plot was incomprehensible, and the girls were not well shot or just not attractive, it could've failed.  I do have to say, on the subject of incomprehensible, that it was at times hard to follow.  But I think that's because the plot took a bad seat to nutty happenings and nudity - as it rightfully should.
I feel pretty good about it right now.  But still feel compelled to not rate it TOO high.  It has it's place, but does that mean it gets 5 stars?  No, certainly not.  4?  3?  I really don't know what to give it.  A rating of a B movie is like 80% or 4 stars, so let's give it the B it deserves.  4 stars.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Dark Planet - 1997

Purple Rain is a well known, award winning film that defined musician Prince to millions of fans and is a cult classic film.  It was the first feature of director Albert Magnoli, who was a recent film school graduate.  Magnoli would subsequently befriend Prince, become his manager, and direct the less than successful sequel to Purple Rain.

I mention this because Albert Magnoli never had much of a film career after Purple Rain.  Perhaps he was meant to be a music manager instead, who really knows.  I have no idea what he's up to right now.  But one of the other films he did direct was made for TV sci fi flick Dark Planet.

Dark Planet feels extremely made for TV.  To say that's good or bad, well, it's really depending on your individual taste and what you want.  It's accessible in that everyone can watch it.  It walks the very bland line of accessibility, it's not cool or dangerous, not out to make any impact, and very forgettable.  If you're tired and have a snack, it might make the perfect Wednesday night thing to do though, if you're in the mood.

The plot is not especially strong.  One antihero guy is recruited by some space people to help them get to this planet which might be hospitable.  You see, this is the future and Earth will soon be uninhabitable.  Of course it will be right?

It's got a decent sequence of tension where they're going through a mine field, and it's got a sort of attractive girl that the antihero hits on.  Otherwise, it's very low in aim, execution, and intelligence.  It is ultimately not as good as Purple Rain, in other words.
1 star.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

War of the Worlds - 1953

You know what I love about writing this blog?  I love that it gives me a totally realistic excuse to watch movies I never have, to rewatch movies that I didn't appreciate the first time around, and to watch classic films that I had not seen before.  I mean really, I had never seen Donovan's Brain, or the Brain from Planet Arous!  Those movies were goddamn priceless!  While I have seen War of the Worlds before it's been ages, hell, it could have even been over 20 years.  So watching it again was like seeing it the first time.  I had completely forgotten everything about it.

Another thing I've noticed is that these movies fall into two categories.  Movies where you need just a couple sentences to convey the plot and movies where you have to describe everything in like two or even three paragraphs.  Of course the harder to describe ones you could just do a rough idea, say "aliens come to Earth and terrorize humans" or "a couple guys decide to kill someone".  But this is a movie review website and some plot synopsis comes with the territory.

War of the Worlds is your classic alien invasion story.  We follow scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester (hey, that name sound familiar, fans of MST3K?) as he observes a strange meteor crash in the hills.  He rushes to the crash site and sees what appears to be a large, burned meteor.  Some other locals are there, and they're all stunned at a few anomalies, such as the radioactivity of the thing, the angle of it's descent, and the fact it did not make a bigger impact crater.

Then, they leave the site after a while under the watch of three guards.  That's when a round hatch on the meteor starts to slowly unscrew, pop out, and reveal a very strange tentacle looking thing.  I have to say the tension here is masterfully done.  It's a moment where you feel like anything is possible, the unscrewing as the guys look on in curiosity and terror is tremendously achieved and breathtaking. The tentacle fries the guys and starts a fire. Forrester and a bunch of others see the smoke, go investigate, and find a cool looking silver spaceship thing that has a long tentacle coming out of it.

The spaceship effects in this movie are terrific.  Sure, by our standards now they look cheesy and too colorful to be taken seriously.  But who the fuck says aliens would have to fly huge ominous looking black evil spaceships?  Why shouldn't they look like a child's play toy?
There's a really cool moment when a priest tries to approach the spaceships and pray for peace, and gets fried.  There's really just nothing but cool moments as the humans get obliterated.  Another super tension filled and terrifying moment is when Forrester and his love interest Sylvia are in a house, separated from everyone else, right where the aliens are attacking.  They have to be really quiet because the aliens might hear them as they sneak around the house.  Then, the aliens lower some sort of weird eye thing down to look inside the house.  It's just incredibly weird looking and a moment in the film where I was legitimately freaked the fuck out.

It's that fear and knowledge that anything is possible; we know they won't die, but that curiosity of what the fuck are the aliens doing, what is this eye thing?  It looks creepy and outworldly too.  Anyways,  Forrester and romance interest Sylvia stay out of the fray and follow the human war front, as the humans eventually try and kill the bastard aliens with an atom bomb (of course).

It's great how powerful the aliens really are.  They are invulnerable to everything, and shrug off the huge blast of the atom bomb with little care.  All looks bleak and final towards the end.  The aliens have crushed mankind's every attempt at stopping them, the atom bomb was useless, and Forrester gets separated from Sylvia.  It's an ending where you know that it's going to end happy, with the aliens losing, but you genuinely feel like it's a depressing, defeating finish.  Which for the time and the era was unfathomable.

This movie is absolutely a classic must see.  I could see all the things large and small that modern alien films stole from this, films like Independence Day are basically carbon copies with modern loopy shit thrown in.  It holds up amazingly well and the effects are stunning.  I would recommend this for everyone, but at the same time it might be creepy to the very young.  But fuck them, show it to them anyways.  This is when sci fi was not only good, not only creepy, but genuinely a fucking thrill ride.  Highest rating, of course.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Brain from Planet Arous - 1957

Kind of continuing my theme of 50's and 70's, I took in this classic evil brain film just now at work.  While I was supposed to be working.  In my cubicle.  C'mon, dude, you're jealous, you know you are.  Yeah, why you would work when you can watch 50's evil brain movies online is beyond me.  Thank you, YouTube.

I like movies like this one, the classic 50's era, because they are just so goofy.  Nowadays these are so laughable and clean that they couldn't scare a kid, and you could show this to anybody.  Were people actually going to theaters showing a movie like this and getting freaked out by it?  Okay, new technology thing and effects aside, how in the fuck would this scare you?  What were you, born and raised in a white room where you couldn't see outside?

This movie was pretty good though.  Good in that laughable 50's movie way but also good in that classic sci-fi way.  Everyone points to films like War of the Worlds or The Time Machine (even though it was 1960) as classic 50's sci fi, but this one is a worthy one also.  It's just that the villain and the idea is too wacky for people to take seriously.  It's like going to see a sequel to a horror movie, you know before you sit down it's not going to be as good.

In a 50's monster movie, everything/everyone has to:
1) involve radioactivity or the atom bomb
2) involve a sweet young girl in love with a man who kisses her really hard and passion-lessly
3) be set way out in the middle of nowhere
4) usually involve a seedy newspaper man who wears a cap or a weird suit
5) have plenty of (usually useless) guns, presence of the military, and fear of space
6) when confronted with an alien, don't act amazed or anything, just simply nod and look half interested

Here is how this movie rolls out - somewhat scientist guys Steve and Dan are picking up bizarre radiation from a nearby mountain nicknamed Mystery Mountain.  They decide to go out one day and find a fresh new cave has appeared.  There's a great line here as Dan declares the cave is "probably full of beer cans." Usually so true.  Inside that cave they see mystery lights and phantom readings of radiation, then suddenly a huge, floating, semi-translucent brain appears!  It even has eyes!  It kills Dan and knocks out Steve, then we see it absorb into Steve's body.

When Steve reappears, it's been a while since his run in with the brain. Well now Steve's acting different, he tries to force himself on fiancee Sally and gets in a fist fight with her dog George!  Sally tells her dad about what's going on and with her father they go investigate the same cave where Steve met the brain and they meet a new, good brain there.  The good brain tells them that the brain that took over Steve is named Gor and it's a villain on the brain world.  This good brain later infests itself in George the dog and follows Steve around to find out what Gor/Steve's plans are.  And his plan has something to do with exploding planes and an atomic test.

TBFPA was a fast paced little romp, quite interesting at times and with enough to keep anyone interested.  It's just great that there isn't like the usual "start off with a bang" which then inevitably gets followed by "slow paced bland dialogue for 60 minutes" then the back to "cool conclusion".  That seems to be the formula for countless films from all eras, especially 50's-80's,  The threat from Gor is always talked about or built on, and he makes for a genuinely evil villain.  It was pretty uncommon to see almost-rape in a movie from 57, so when he's forcing himself on Sally, I was pretty surprised.

I liked it, it was fun, and worth a rewatch.  A good movie to show to friends and drink to.  Maybe not the perfect late night party movie, but still quite fun.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Asphyx - 1973

Sometimes all it takes for me to see a movie is a cool synopsis and the fact it is available to watch instantly on Netflix.  Yes, I am a Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube watcher - not really TV or any other watching service guy though.  I pretty much stick to what's easy, cheap, or free.  Of course like everybody has Netflix, so do I, cause I'm a follower and not a leader.

I found The Asphyx under circumstances that I completely do not remember even though it was only like 4 days ago.  I watched it in two sittings.  It is the only film directed by second unit photographer Peter Newbrook who did some work on Laurence of Arabia .  The actors are in some things, nothing I have seen, though one of them was in The Who film Tommy.

The plot is:  a photographer has noticed that in some pictures of dying people, he has captured what appears to be a black smudge in these photos.  They appear on several photos and it's really creeping him out, man.  So then he is out boating with his son and his son's fiancee, and he is filming them as they boat around a river.  His son somehow strikes his head on a branch, tips the canoe, and both the son and his fiancee die.  Whoa, bad accident.  But on the film, when they were boating, as he struck his head, again appears that same black smudge.

The photographer, Hugo, and his adopted son Giles then isolate what it is they think traps the smudge in the photos: some chemical in the photo process actually traps "death" coming for the person, and that is why the smudge appears.  Of course, since a photo is instantaneous, as soon as the shutter closes, "death" escapes again.  So they devise an ongoing light which uses crystals to shine a blueish light which should keep death trapped.  Soon they're testing it on a mouse, which proves successful.  And since they have trapped the soul, the mouse cannot die until his death (or as they call it, The Asphyx) is returned to him.  Meaning if they keep it under that blue light forever, the mouse is in essence immortal.  And human testing is next....

This movie was smart, and had an interesting concept.  The actors were believable and the pacing was pretty decent as well.  The "Asphyx" is a stop motion little bug looking monster guy:
And it tended to work out, mostly because we didn't see it for incredibly long.  Also, as you can see in the above still, the sets and the production value were pretty nice, it had a lot going for it.

There are some weak points in it to be sure.  Sometimes the characters are amazingly stupid for otherwise very intelligent people.  There are some unbelievable and clunky parts in the movie, there are parts where it just jumps ahead without explanation, and the ending is pretty dumb too.  I feel like a really good idea, the whole Asphyx thing, was the best part, and everything else was weak.  So maybe keep that idea, and construct a different movie around it.

It's nothing that I'd rush out to buy.  Some people would inevitably love this film and see it as a wonderful, even philosophical film.  I just didn't.  I'll throw it 2.5 stars, completely middle of the road type film for me.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Alien Factor - 1978

Aaaaand thus we come to my first and hopefully last film I will review that has been skewered by MST3K.  Actually, it was skewered by post-Mystery Science troupe Cinematic Titanic, and I truly did not know that until I was a few minutes in.  By the time I remembered seeing it on Cinematic Titanic I had pretty much decided to just go ahead and finish it, and now we're here.  It's not that I don't want to review films that have been riffed on, it's mostly just that these films clearly speak for themselves.  Sure, MST and other riffing groups do a variety of films, but you can pretty much guess that if it's being riffed on by one of these groups, it's beyond cheesy and bad.

Being featured on Cinematic Titanic (which was Joel, Frank, Trace, Mary Jo, and J. Elvis) was definitely the right thing for this 70's schlockfest.  This movie is tremendously bad.  It tries too, it's not one of those that's trying to go for the comedy-crossover type thing.  It actually wanted to be smart, to be sciency, and to make an "impact" or a "statement".  Rule number one, don't hire people to act that clearly have no idea what they're doing, stumble through their lines, and sound completely unrealistic.  The actors in this thing are beyond bad.

Thus we enter into that area of "so bad it's good".  This movie is that, spot on.  Like any great 70's trash-o-rama it even has a recent sequel!  When I tried to find the sequel online, all I found was the trailer, which I can seriously say looks worse than the first movie.  It is barely a trailer at all, and more like a short film unto itself, and is pure comic gold.  Here, check it out.

I watched this film because it was directed by Dan Dohler, the guy behind The Galaxy Invader, and after giving that 4 stars and thoroughly enjoying it, I decided to check out and track down other Dan Dohler movies.  This movie does play out similarly to Galaxy Invader actually.  They have almost parallel plots, to a point.

In Alien Factor, a spaceship crashes on Earth, and something starts to kill people.  Turns out the spaceship was carrying a weird, projected-image alien that looks like a large kids show character:

The humans start to hunt down this thing, it's sheriff Cinder and mayor Wicker, and a guy named Benjamin Zachary who comes to town, and they're all after it (although they don't know what it is yet, they haven't seen it at this point).  In the end, it turns out the ship that crashed was a sort of a transport, that was carrying multiple aliens.  This green guy was one of them on board, and there might be another one skulking around somewhere....

By the way, the scenes where humans interact with this thing are fucking hilarious.  It's extremely poorly done, and the humans sometimes go through the thing, sometimes act like they can't, "bumping" up against it.  It's unclear if this thing is actually able to be is it see-through because it's like a ghost where you can't touch it, or it it just see-through?  It's hilarious and easily the best moment in the film.

Apparently this movie was also sequel-ed by another Dohler film, Nightbeast!  Sweet, now I must see that one too.  Although I will finish Grindhouse Sci-Fi Collection set first, I promise.

This movie was entertaining as hell, much like Galaxy Invader.  Also filmed in Maryland, the outdoors locations are pretty and work, the monster is laughable and goofy, and the ending was cool.  The pacing in this is a lot slower, though, and the film is more dialogue heavy.  Also, we don't see the monster as much so it makes for less entertainment in general.  I saw this a couple days ago, and I honestly don't remember much of the first 40 minutes.  I'm pretty sure nothing happened.  So, it's not AS fun.
I'll give it a star less than Galaxy Invader, 3 stars.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Donovan's Brain - 1953

I put this movie on last night, hearing a lot about it for a while and not expecting much, and I really enjoyed it.  It's one of those movies that really doesn't ever slow down, it keeps the plot moving at all times, and the characters and actions are quite believable.

Doctor Patrick Cory is a scientist, the sane kind though.  He is played very well by Lew Ayres (All Quiet on the Western Front).  I loved that he is somewhere between a truly mad scientist and a man who is just possessed by a strong and unflinching passion.  The script and the acting are done in a way that make it evident that he genuinely cares a lot about his experiment, he's doing it for all the right reasons, and though he lets it take over his life more than he should, he is filled with regret and is aware of what he's neglecting because of his work.

He is married to Janice (played by Ronald Reagan's future wife, Nancy Davis).  This character, despite being a typical 50's housewife, is actually well written and strong.  She provides a strong human tone to a story about inhuman things, and she is actually given several important things to do in the movie.  Rather than being the typical clinging housewife afraid of everything, she has a role in the experiments, she supports and nurtures her husband at his low times, and she is a dependable focus of the film.  That alone is something to be commended and worth noting in the pantheon of 50's films (especially horror/suspense ones).

Dr Cory is running an experiment to remove the brain from a monkey, but keep the brain alive in a jar post removal.  He has this cool fish-tank kind of container with a murky white liquid in it which he keeps a monkey brain alive in.  Then, a millionaire named WH Donovan is in a plane crash and dies.  Well, turns out his brain is also in good shape so why not remove it, and see if it too can live in a fish-tank like the monkey brain??  It can!!  Yay.  So then the brain not only survives, but starts to grow bigger...and draw nutrients from the murky fluid...and pulsate.  Turns out it can also eventually take over people, forcing Donovan's will and persona onto them.  It first inhabits Dr. Cory himself.

In life, Mr. Donovan was a dime-tracking, shrewd businessman who didn't give away anything.  He didn't even pay his taxes.  It turns out he also kept dozens of bank accounts under false names, as to hide how much money he had from the government.  So now that he has taken over Cory's body, he starts to go around collecting on all these bank accounts.  Given that he can of course sign checks as these businessmen who opened the account (since they were his pseudonyms) he withdraws his money before the government can find and seize it.  Meanwhile, Cory's wife Janice and his assistant Dr. Schratt see the effect the brain has had on Cory and plot to rid everyone of it's influence.

This movie as I said was quick paced and well done.  The brain is genuinely creepy looking as it pulsates and glows in it's puddle of water.  They also do a great job of clearly stating how they are taking care of it, and making it very clear exactly how Cory has set up the care of the brain- under the influence of Donovan.  Once Donovan's brain senses that Janice and Schratt are against it, it takes pretty extreme measures to protect itself and everything is given clear reason and explanation and closure in the script.

The ending was a bit abrupt and perhaps not that well planned out.  I felt like they tried to have too many different ways of killing the brain in one lump ending, and it felt sort of hackneyed to have one attempt fail and then another fail, etc.  Additionally, I thought that maybe Donovan's brain's plan should have been a bit more explained.  What is he going to do once he has all his money?  Why does he need to get it in this way, and what's his goal?  These points aren't elaborated much.  It's typical in that way for a 50's movie, and the pacing covers the plot's holes very well, so these are just minor grievances.

All things said, I really liked it and it is a classic horror/suspense film absolutely.  Wonderful acting by everyone involved and terrific effects with the brain, which we also get to see a whole hell of a lot, which is great.  I regret feeling like it deserves 4 stars rather than 5, but that notion of giving it 4 has remained with me since last night so that is what I'll give it.  Some other reviewers could easily give it 5 and I would not fight them on that choice.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Thor and the Amazon Women - 1963

This is the film that was made back to back with Taur the Mighty, the film which I spoke of in my review of The Galaxy Invader.  Since I could not find Taur the Mighty online, I settled for the sequel, Thor and the Amazon Women.  You see, even though the first film is called Taur, the character is actually named Thor.  It's confusing, but it's mostly due to bad translations, copyrights, and what-have-you 60's thinking.

This is my first review of what is called the sword and sandal sub genre of action adventure films.  This is one of those genres that you either love or hate, there's not a lot of middle room.  As a genre, it's interchangeable with martial arts films in that both genres reuse stereotypes and plots and character devices time and time again.  But the difference for me is of course the settings and the talent level involved.  I love martial arts films because of the kung fu, and the stunts.  Also, the Asian charm and the values present are stronger I think.  These sword and sandal flicks, usually filmed in the middle of some empty desert and featuring talentless actors, are much less entertaining in my opinion.

The core to a sword and sandal movie is the main character:  the beefy muscled up dude usually supposed to be Hercules, or Hercules' son, or Samson or Thor or Sinbad or Maciste, the list goes on and on - this guy is a moral good guy through and through.  He usually helps out desperate villagers, a good king, or something similar.  He has to have a worthless sidekick, get kidnapped, resist the temptation of an evil queen or sorceress who wants to fuck him, and then in the end rescue his sidekick, some damsel in distress, and wrap the plot up in like 2-3 minutes.

Other recurring themes are (more) guys in tiny clothes who are oiled up and bulging with muscles, plenty of horses, bad guys who are sadistic and cruel beyond reason, and plenty of fire.  Especially when these films were being made in Italy it seems as if there is an abundance of fire everywhere.

In this installment of the Thor 2 part series, Thor and his black sidekick Ubaratutu stumble upon a land that is ruled by evil Black Queen.  Black Queen has overthrown the male government and instituted a matriarchal society that keeps male slaves.  Black Queen also makes her females fight to the death in a regular fashion, granting the one who wins 20 victories freedom and command of her armies.  Yamad and Tamar are two female dissidents who do not like this matriarchal society and are plotting to overthrow the Black Queen.  When Thor gets captured by Black Queen and she marries herself to Ubaratutu, they get thrown in to suffer various bad fates as well.

It all comes to head in an actually pretty neat ending.  Thor has to prove his strength by going up against 101 women in a tug of war type contest over raging flames, while Tamar battles resident women champion Ghebel (who only needs one more victory to get her freedom).  The ending is the only part that actually has tension and good editing, it's a long build up story line for the maybe 5 minute ending.
He can best 101 women, but can't break the ropes holding his arms in this scene...

This movie appears to have some bad editing, or missing footage.  Often, some parts of dialogue are chopped off, music chopped off, and it all looks pretty bad.  There are not a whole lot of locations to speak of, but generally things look okay enough and the production value evens itself out.  The actors are decent enough too, typical in their overacting, and with a pretty bad dub job, but that comes with the territory.

I liked the totally un-subtle racist and masochistic views present in the movie, as they add some needed comedy (even though they were not filmed to be comedic for the most part).  There is a heavy presence of how a society "should be" aka run by men, and one of the women even says she needs "a man who is stronger than I".  The end goes on and on about the need for men to run society and it's pretty fucking stupid and laughable.

I am not the biggest fan of this genre as I've said, but at least this movie was not confusing like some of these types of films.  It takes a while to get anywhere, and the pacing is slow and tedious.  Everything that happens you can definitely see it coming a long way out.  Nothing to watch over and over again, but if these types of films are what you like, this one is another entry into the long list of cannon fodder sword and sandal flicks you can watch when you want to be mildly entertained and put off your suicide by 90 minutes.

One and a half stars

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Galaxy Invader - 1985

The Galaxy Invader has a rather unusual "claim to fame".  It is featured at the beginning of another terrible 80's alien movie, a little film called Pod People.  MST3K riffed on Pod People, and thus, a small segment of The Galaxy Invader, which was played during the opening credits of that film.  Similarly, in the beginning of Cave Dwellers on MST they featured the Italian film Taur the Mighty.  Which I would love to see, to complete this little marathon of somewhat riffed on featurettes.

The Galaxy Invader is a tongue-in-cheek little ride, made with some humorous attempts and complete with stars that almost entirely consist of non actors and rednecks.  It was filmed in Maryland, and it is actually a pretty cool outdoors looking location.  I did find it funny that in the opening credits it features like 5 people who did "meteor effects" or "meteor sequences".  The meteor effect lasts a total of like 1 minute in total and is a pretty bad effect, so maybe don't draw toooooo much attention to it.

I wondered as I was watching it what the first movie to feature rednecks as the main sympathetic heroes was.  Of course, Texas Chainsaw Massacre had rednecks in it, but they were villains.  I really wonder what the first movie with hero rednecks was.

Basically, redneck student David sees the meteor and calls up his high school teacher to tell him about it.  What the fuck student would just randomly remember his teachers home phone number?  And its not like he lived in the same town or anything either.  They specifically say the teacher guy lived 6 hours away.  Meanwhile, the Montague family patriarch Joe, an abusive alcoholic, runs through the woods in a ripped white t-shirt and discovers an alien that had come out of the meteor, which was the spaceship.  Then you have the alien wandering through the woods, pursued by men Joe Montague promised money to, and also pursued by David and teacher who want to capture it for science.

I liked the fact that this film did not ever say the alien was evil.  It is put in a sympathetic light, always simply defending itself from the humans.  It also once saves a man from death.  It appears as if it's perfectly capable of being harmed, it's not supernatural or anything.  It has this power ball that gives energy to a gun it uses, which the human have at different points, and that becomes quite a little subplot to itself.

This movie was fun to watch.  It's pacing is quick, it's linear, doesn't dwell on any single plot-line for too long, and the alien looked good.  Having rednecks as the characters was a good idea, it makes for a generally entertaining distraction from the usual drabness of these types of films.  Another thing is that it features plenty of opportunities to riff on it.  My wife and I riffed on it a bit while watching, this movie practically asks for it, which is great.

I love movies like this.  It knows exactly what it wants to do, and does it.  It just wants to be fluff, a popcorn flick for stoners and B movie fans, and that is precisely what it is.  4 very earned stars.

Kong Island - 1968

"It was gorillas that ruined our plan." Yeah, real quote from this movie which is also known as King of Kong Island.  Coincidentally King of Kong would later be used in the name of that documentary I still haven't seen.

This movie is pretty bad quality on the DVD that I have, this being part of the Grindhouse Sci-Fi Collection.  I don't know if it's entirely due to production value of the movie originally or if it's due to a bad transfer or whatever, but everything is very murky and dark.  It seems they did not have adequate lighting for most of the scenes, and others they obviously did not have a tripod and shaky camera ensues.

No information is given about where this movie was filmed, also, but it does appear to be filmed somewhere exotic.  Now, I'm not a person to hit the nail on the head as far as filming locations.  I am pretty good at guessing the year of these movies (I was only one year off on my guess for this) but if I had to guess location on this I would think they might've actually filmed somewhere exotic, perhaps South Africa.

The plot concerns a mad doctor man, Albert Muller, who is inserting radio-controls into the brains of apes.  These controls make the apes do whatever he commands.  He has about 2-3 of these guys under his control, and he is going to use them to make a fortune (somehow).  Turk is an evil henchman, sort of, who is helping him out.  Then there's Burt, a very muscled up explorer guy who gets thrown into the plot as the good guy, and mixed up in here somewhere is native forest girl Eva, who used to be friends with the apes until they got these new radio implants.

The movie plays out okay.  The pacing is alright, it does keep you watching for the most part, and the movie looks pretty decent in terms of the real location shooting and the real animals involved.  It definitely makes plenty usage of stock footage of animals, and it's all pretty silly.  There's a ridiculous scene wherein they're taking a cruise through the African safari, and every time it shows an animal, a stock sound effect plays.  You can clearly tell the animal it is showing is not making the sound.  The best is when it shows the lions, clearly bored and I think one is laying down, and the sound does a ferocious roar.  Ha, stupid sound people.

It's a very easy movie to riff, it's very easy to forget is playing and distract yourself texting or looking up old friends on facebook.  It's definitely forgettable and doesn't have much replay value.  One thing that I have to say is that mostly due to the very dark footage of the ape costumes, they don't look that bad.  There is also almost nudity from Eva.  So, win.

I'll give it like, 3 stars.  2.5 stars.  I don't know.  It is fun!  Just not like, tons of fun.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

100 Bloody Acres - 2012

Let's face it, there is no particular reason why I review the films I do on this site.  Sure, most of them are grindhouse or something similar, be it a B movie, a cult classic, or a unknown film I want to make people aware of.  But then I also reviewed movies like Rodentz and Grim and Nightcrawler, films that really don't "belong" here.  But that's cause it's my website, and if I only wrote about one type of movie well I would be boring.  And even though no one reads this site anyway, I like to think that I might have something in here for everyone to read.

So the basic point of this little intro is to tell you that I'm going to review whatever I want and if you don't like it, don't read it.  You don't have to.  In fact, no one is reading this site anyway, and that only proves that I am sort of in the right here.  Also, to all my teeming billions of fans out there eagerly anticipating updates, yes, I have slowed my review process down.  I did tons of reviews in January and February and this is my second March review, 5 days in.  I've been busy and tired.  In fact, my regular bedtime has been 10pm despite the fact I'm not 70 years old.  Just haven't had the time to watch anything.  I'm married, I have a job, and sometimes a life, so really it's not my fault.  I also have been watching some MST3K lately as well as some TV shows.  So, distracted in other words.  I will try to find the time in the future.

100 Bloody Acres came to my attention because like most sensible movie viewers, I love movies filmed in Australia.  It's such a cool, diverse place.  It's got some of the most interesting things in the world, in my opinion.  I was really into the idea of "Ozploitation" a while ago and I did a bunch of research about classic Oz films, I watched a couple of them, and then I wondered about movies being made there now, and found this movie.  There, complete history of how I came to know about this movie.  You're welcome.

100 Bloody Acres is about 3 young people travelling through Australia to a concert when their car breaks down.  It's a couple, James and Sophie, and a mutual friend Wes.  Wes and Sophie are also sleeping together unbeknownst to James.  Reg is a driver for a fertilizer business and about this time, he comes across a car accident and a body lying there, in the road.  He takes the body and shoves it in the back of his fertilizer truck.  Then he happens upon Wes, Sophie and James, and gives them a ride.

Reg and his brother Lindsay, you see, are using bodies in their fertilizer.  They have a big grinding machine and they grind em up and sell em, and now they have three live people which they are going to use as fertilizer as well.  Reg has a soft, sane side though, and he succumbs to this side because of his attraction to Sophie.  Then it's brother against brother with 3 hapless victims thrown in.

I really liked this movie.  Which is why it made the website.  It was clever, well made, and funny.  It is a horror comedy, and it's one that actually succeeds in both.  There aren't scares really, more of just over the top blood and guts.  Which is another way in which this movie is comical.  Every character in the film gets their chance to be weird and funny, every action makes sense, and the story is easy to follow.  There are plenty of bizarre moments in the film, and it's just very likable.

There's a terrific scene which I must mention, where there's this old lady that is visiting with elder brother Lindsay.  Lindsay is a cold, mean killing machine.  At this point in the film he has tortured people, he had beat his brother and tried to kill him, and just generally been the bad guy.  The lady comes over and the two of them have tea.  We cut away and follow someone else for a while and when we get back to Lindsay and the woman...he's under her dress giving her oral sex!  It was such a WTF random moment.  It was smart, could be hilarious to some people, and just so out there.

It was a fun movie, not like a "must see" but definitely a lot of fun, and different from so many cut and paste horror comedy movies.  I think it deserves a spot somewhere along with Shaun of the Dead and whatever else is a well known horror comedy.  I'll give it 3.5 stars, or 4.  I don't know.  It's so hard to rate a movie like this.  Cause it's not like it was that funny or memorable.  Maybe I'll just give it 3.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cosmos: War of the Planets - 1977

Also known as just War of the Planets.

This movie was just a little bit insane but still better than I expected.  70's, Italian, low budget, sci-fi, you can understand why I expected this to be a lot like War of the Robots.  In fact, it's the same director, even, Alfonso Brescia.  So all the cards are in place for a bad, ridiculous sci-fi movie.

In War of the the Planets, which takes place somewhere in the distant future, a mysterious signal arrives to Earth, and a group of astronauts decide (against orders) to go investigate where the signal could be coming from.  Upon their eventual arrival, they find an Earth like planet that initially seems to be uninhabited.  Then they find one of their crew murdered, and another missing.  So they begin to search for the missing man, and discover there is an indigenous race of silver colored aliens living on the world, a race of aliens that are being terrorized by a tyrannical robot that is also the one who murdered the ships crewman.

This movie, as I said before, had all the recipes for a bad, confusing, convoluted movie.  But it somehow wasn't.  Okay, so it took me a little while to understand who was who, and it does take like 45 minutes of the movie just for the guys to get to the planet where the signal is coming from.  But it's also easy to follow, not overrun with plot annoyances, and the actors in this are significantly better then the ones in War of the Robots.

I guess the main appeal to this movie is that once it gets about 45 minutes in and they actually reach the planet, it picks up the pace, gets interesting, and is entertaining.  It picks up cheese-charm from the huge, stupid looking robot, the silver, loin-cloth-ed aliens, and the dismal darkness of the planet.  They also up the atmosphere in the second half of the movie and make it a little unsettling by the lack of light, the big red lights on the robot, and the strange cryptic feel.

I liked the bizarre sequences that went on when they're on the planet, such as a scene where there is a body positioned between these two columns.  A couple guys from the ship see the body and rush over to find out what happened.  As they get between the two columns, a light flashes and everyone disappears.  Apparently, they died, I only know this cause we never see them again.  But WTF?  Was that the robot that did that?  Because why didn't it just do that to everyone?  And where did they go, did they just disintegrate, get transported somewhere...?

The movie stays good until about the hour 5 minute mark, and then it gets kind of confusing and overly done towards the end, unfortunately.  It looked to me like perhaps someone went a little edit crazy, because there seem to be small scenes that are missing (such as there is no scene where the ship actually takes off from the planet with the robot).  Then the ending is jampacked with too much:  a crewman goes crazy and starts killing people, they take on an alien from the planet and he joins the crew, they start their going back to Earth, there's tons of dialogue, and then bam it's over.  It's a very condensed 10 minutes.

The ending was pretty cool though, still.  I just wish they had not drawn out the beginning SO much and then sardine-canned the rest of the film, the ending especially, with everything happening at once.

This would be a good movie to watch with friends and riff, definitely.  I did some riffing myself, just practice, and found that it had a lot to make fun of.  Plus it would make a great kids film, and a great late night movie.  If you are willing to sit through the first 45 minutes (or honestly, just fast forward) then you will be rewarded.  A solid 3 stars.