Monday, May 25, 2015

Blue Sunshine - 1978

Wow, before we get to the movie, it literally feels like just yesterday I was writing my first review this month and saying the reviews would be in small amount this month.  And, they will be, I mean here we are this month is almost over and this might be my last review.  Okay, on to the movie.

I revisit actor Zalman King in this 70's thriller about LSD.  Zalman King was in that Gorehouse Greats film Trip with the Teacher, and he greatly impressed me in that as a creepy weirdo that was completely insane and brutal- yet balanced, intelligent, and human.  Here, he plays the star of the film Jerry Zipkin.   Jerry is in a house when a close friend randomly loses the wig he was wearing, goes crazy, and starts killing people.

Jerry escapes and begins to investigate why this might have happened.  He uncovers that his friend was involved with a local politician when they went to Stanford University together.  The words written on a picture of them is "Blue Sunshine".  So Jerry goes around investigating what this Blue Sunshine is, and in the meantime a couple more people lose all their hair and become murderers.  Jerry is close by when a woman goes crazy and attacks some children, he is then suspect for the murder and has to evade the law.  Jerry also discovers that Blue Sunshine is the name for a type of LSD that the politician, Edward Flemming, sold while at Stanford.  Jerry's hunch now is that the LSD is the thing that made these people go crazy and become killers.

This movie is probably almost entirely forgotten.  It was made in a strange era, the movie has some of the 70's disco scene, it has those remnants of the 60's drug scene, and it has that 70's drug fear built into it, there were a couple of films that came out around the 70's all about creepy drug experiences gone wrong, and this is a prime example.

The movie succeeds in a astounding amount of ways.  The movie is I guess a mystery/ suspense/ thriller by genre and in that way it succeeds in being all of the above.  The mystery is interesting enough, even though it's solved pretty early on, it makes us interested in seeing how it will play out and it makes us wonder how Jerry will stop it.  As a suspense movie it's done very well also.  The atmosphere gives a very edgy feel of anything-could-happen-at-any-time.  When Jerry is investigating people that are potentially killers-to-be, we are as intrigued as he is about whether or not they "took the acid".  As a thriller this movie blows a lot of others away.  Like I said the atmosphere is tense.  Zalman King turns in a very great paranoid/antihero performance, being all of crazy, sane, paranoid, guilty and innocent.  He was a really good actor, and electrifying man to watch, and it's a shame he was not better known.

This movie was genuinely really interesting and good.  I didn't know what to expect, probably just some bland drug fear film, but the mix of suspense and even horror was really well done.  I realized after I finished this and looked it up on IMDb I have seen two of this director's other works, his most recent film, 2004 film Satan's Little Helper, and Squirm from 1976.  Both of those films showed a lot of promise and had a high interest factor as well.  Despite being lampooned on MST3K, I think we could all agree Squirm was at least well executed, with decent effects and a high production value.

This movie is kind of similar to Squirm.  Yeah, sure you could probably riff on this, find the scenes involving the disco bar scenes and the sometimes pretty poor wig make up funny - or you could look past that and get caught up in the eeriness of the film.  It's made cheaply, low budget, and sometimes that really works in the favor of the movie maker.  I think it makes people use more of what they have and not reach for too many high cost shots.  They make better use of things like atmosphere, acting, and then they add in weird original music to really get the creep factor up.

I would recommend people not to drink, smoke, or riff on this movie.  Okay, you could smoke.  But not get too silly.  I might've been a little high when watching part of this, and it made it better in my opinion.  I think I got sucked into the story more.  It's just got a creepiness factor I really appreciated.  They did a good job with that paranoia:  has the whole world gone crazy or is it just YOU?

The acting was great, the music was weird and fit the film perfectly, and the production value was awesome.  The pacing was good, everything.  Which led me to want to rate this really highly, but I also realize that it will only get less and less known.  And partially I understand and realize why.  Despite the fact that this movie made me want to see everything director/writer Jeff Lieberman had done, this movie does belong lost in the sands of time.

It's weird to think that, but it's true.  I couldn't even say why, for sure.  However, those factors all concerned, I still think this movie deserves 4 stars.  It's my website, after all.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dollman - 1991

Here I am once again reviewing a film that I wasn't sure if I should review or not.  It came down to this: I watched two films made by Full Moon Pictures, "Dollman" and "Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death".  I wasn't going to review them both, that would just be too much grade Z action/comedy/adventure films for my review site.  So I might sort of review Avocado Jungle here too, but mostly this is my review of Albert Pyun's Dollman.

Dollman is early 90's enough to where it's enjoyably stupid.  It's not new enough to be just a fucking sludgefest like the later Charles Band produced bad movies, but it's made to be bad- it's a bad movie with the knowledge it's bad, and made to be enjoyably bad.  Like most Charles Band fare, it's ridiculous, low budget, and if you decided not to watch it you would truly not be missing a single thing.  There's not too much to say about it so let's get to the plot.

Tough cop Brick Bardo is the sort of guy who doesn't follow the rules.  He walks right into a hostage scene at the beginning of this film and casually starts to do his laundry, ignoring the scared hostages and gun crazy maniac.  He gets fired for this, but doesn't really care.  Then he hops into his spaceship, chases a floating head villain named Sprug, and gets sucked into some sort of weird wormhole or something.

Bardo appears on Earth, where he is now the size of an action figure.  We never really see exactly his size, but it looks like he's anywhere between 5-10 inches tall.  The movie never had the budget (I'm guessing that's the reason anyway) to do multiple shots of exactly Bardo's size in comparison to other things, so it's hard to tell.  Anyways, Bardo begins his stay on Earth by shooting some villains and injuring gang leader Braxton Red (Jackie Earle Haley) who teams up with floating head Sprug, and together they try to kill Bardo and the woman whom he saved from the gang, Debi.

It's pretty retarded, but it's also enjoyable, you kind of either love these types of movies or hate them.  I'm sort of in between on these.  I like them alright in little doses, but too much of this shit gets really old really fast.  It's averagely paced, averagely acted, and has nothing special about it.  It does belong to a long line of miniature people type movies that Charles Band is involved with, including 10 of the Puppetmaster films, 2 Demonic Toys films, and 2 Dollman films, one of which is a crossover, Dollman vs. Demonic Toys.  Oh then there's also Puppetmaster vs. Demonic Toys. Goddamn.

Dollman is a good movie to put on if you're drinking, smoking, riffing, or just bored.  It entertains better than a lot of Band features, and it's not THAT bad.  I give it 2 stars.

Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death is just ok.  It has Bill Maher in it, which is somewhat odd, and it was made in 1989.  Most the comedy is really not funny, and the movie is low budget as fuck.  It's about a feminist tribe in California that is killing their men, and for some reason they decide to send in this feminist teacher to learn about them.  She takes along her airhead blond student and Bill Maher, and blah blah "hilarity" ensues.

It's not anywhere near as entertaining as the title would make it sound, but the cheesiness factor makes it watchable and the actors are actually pretty good.  It also has Adrienne Barbeau as the leader of the cannibal women, and thus makes one wonder if this movie actually had connections or a budget to secure two fairly well known actors.

All in all, Avocado Jungle is not as entertaining as Dollman, and only gets one star.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The ABC's of Death 1 & 2 - 2012, 2014

I remember when The ABC's of Death was playing at theaters near where I live in 2012.  I didn't read the description, just saw the poster and the name and decided, "that's a skipable movie".  I dismiss modern horror films without even so much as a second thought quite often, I find that horror movies just lack the interest factor for me that they used to, it seems that they just turned stupid circa 2000.  There are some that I'll get excited about, and watch, and then I'm usually met with lasting disappointment which will make me feel uninspired to watch another.  (Thanks a lot, The Purge.  I fucking wasted two hours on your pointless shit)

When ABC's of Death appeared as a watch instantly on Netflix, I passively added it to my queue and thought, whatever, maybe I'll watch it.  Then I turned it on and watched the entire 2 something hour long movie feeling greatly entertained.  You see, ABC's of Death is a 26 segment film, featuring 26 short films by 26 different directors.  Each director got a letter, and were given no constraints on what to film with that letter, it just had to involve someone dying in a way that somewhat related to a word that starts with the letter.

Okay, exhale. In the case of ABC's of Death 1, A was for Apocalypse.  So the short, in this case directed by Nacho Vigalondo, dealt with characters dying by the apocalypse.  That is how the whole movie was.  Each short was about 2-10 minutes long, and ranged anywhere from dumb to smart to scary to funny to weird to creepy, etc.  When you're working with only 10 minutes you don't spend too long on the unnecessary parts of a movie- the scenes where you might want to fast forward, or zone out cause you've been staring at the same guys for 45 minutes.  It is perfect for the short attention span, and keeps you watching.

I found it was a lot of fun to try and guess what the letter would stand for at the end.  Some of them are kind of obvious, and some are not.  I appreciated that sometimes the letters could have stood for very obvious deaths, like G being for Gun or something, but most of the time they went for something not as obvious.

Anyways, I watched ABC's of Death part two last night, and again, I loved it.  The deaths were again creepy, weird, interesting, bizarre, and scary.  Some of them are not great, of course, in 26 shorts some of them are bound to be forgettable, but others were just brilliant.  Seeing a movie like this makes me search out directors, writers, and others involved because of how clever some of these shorts are.  I honestly can say that I was very impressed with 90% of the deaths in ABC's of Death 1 and 2.

The thing about these as well is that they are all amazingly high budget looking, well shot, and inspired.  I think since these are made out of the Hollywood system, people take this opportunity to truly do something to the best of their ability, make something that people will remember, and impress people.  I don't know how they handle the money aspect of a film like this, because it must not be that high budget, but everything looks really good.

I would recommend these movies to anyone.  Some of the shorts are bound to offend, scare, or whatever, but people can deal with it.  It's clever, fresh, interesting, and unique.  Also, some of the shorts are animated, some are claymation, some are American, some foreign, there's different languages, etc- and that's hugely entertaining to see. Some of the directors are known, most are unknown though, so it gives a chance to see new exciting stuff by what I hope are directors that have a future making more movies.

I gave each film 5 stars, and I stand by that.

Mad Max - 1979

I took in the new Mad Max movie this last Friday night, Mad Max: Fury Road.  It was essentially a two hour long car chase, plotwise.  Very little in terms of advancing the movie ideal, and more just about people doing things.  It wasn't bad, I don't mean to make it sound like it was a bad movie, you just have to accept it for what it is, an action movie.  And it did have several things that made me glad I was watching it:  a dedication to practical effects, a great cast, and an amazing props and art department.  After seeing that, I rented and revisited the first Mad Max.

Mad Max was kind of first in a lot of ways.  15 or so minutes in and you have no idea what's going on, it's just random people talking and you haven't met Max yet, and you really aren't sure what the movie is going to be about.  The fact is that this movie doesn't look post-apocalyptic.  There is no dialogue about an apocalypse, there are still society implementations in place, and Max himself is a police officer, police being the very symbol of society.  I was watching it with my wife, and her pointing this out actually got me really confused, as I started to wonder if I rented the right movie.

The movie moves along at it's own pace, and it establishes the hell out of Max being a good family man, and the villain Toecutter being a depraved human being.  I wonder if this movie was originally made to be post-apocalyptic at all- perhaps it was just supposed to be another place, another time.  I feel like writers are blocked in a way by forcing themselves to say "well it has to take place on Earth and so therefore in order for this movie to happen it would have to happen after the apocalypse".  Just have it take place somewhere else!  Like in this movie, they never establish it is in fact post-apocalyptic, but people probably questioned, "well, where is the rest of the police force, why don't they call in the SWAT team or whatever Australia has?" and then the writers were forced to say that it was post-apocalypse.

Anyways, whatever.  Mad Max is pretty slow.  I realized that while watching it.  1 hour 33 minutes long and well over an hour is just Mad hanging out with his family, some pretty tame villainy on the part of Toecutter, and nothing much else.  Then at about an hour and 5, Max's wife runs into Toecutter and gang, she pisses them off, and they begin to chase her.  They follow her, kidnap her and Max's baby, and then eventually they run both of them over on their motorcycles.  Then it's the story of Mad Max's revenge.

The movie was still revolutionary, it was the first true like post-apocalyptic wasteland type film (despite the fact there is no wasteland in the film).  It was great in it's depiction of the depravity of mankind, and of the story of revenge.  Max was a true revolutionary hero, a dark hero that was a cop gone bad but for the right reasons.  The final 30 minutes is a great sequence and pretty unforgettable.  The movie has great production value, amazing cinematography, and it all makes sense, that's the best part.

It's hard for me to agree upon a rating for this.  It's not aged very well, especially that first hour where nothing happens.  That was painful even for me.  I watched this with my wife and we both admitted at certain parts that we weren't paying attention and didn't know what was going on.  I feel like 45 minutes would've been more than enough honestly, 30 minutes is a long time to just have character establishment.  But that was kind of the style at the time, and it's also not like the hour is wasted, it gives Max a fucking fantastic reason to later go crazy.

I guess I'm just going with 3.5 stars.  I don't really know what else, it certainly doesn't deserve less than 3, but giving it 4 stars is hard.  The movie has it's place, and it's not like the new one is better.  The new one is the polar opposite of this one:  all action no development.  But like I said, this one over-explains some things like Max's relationship, and under-explains everything else, like the "wasteland" where he lives.  Spend some of the time on what happened and why, and spend some time having Max chase the dudes that killed his wife, it doesn't need to end in a tiny 7 minute sequence where he gets all the baddies one after another.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wes Craven's New Nightmare - 1994

Well, continuing my '90's streak I have going here, as well as building onto my slasher binge, I finally watched New Nightmare....for the first time.  Nightmare on Elm Street for me was "the series that got away".  You see, I have seen most of them, some of them multiple times, but I don't know which ones I haven't seen, and which ones I have yet to see.  I know I've seen the first one- who hasn't right?  But then I'm sketchy on the second.  I know I've seen the third, and then not sure on 4, 5, or 6.  Then, I had definitely not seen New Nightmare until now.

What can I say, it's not for lack of interest, it's just that this series was always harder to track down for me, harder to keep the sequels in my memory, and harder to understand.  Something about all the dreams and the realities and whatever made this series very hard for me to actually know what was going on.  I think that was part of the charm of it, always keep the audience guessing about if they're watching the movie, or a dream within the movie.

Wes Craven is a rare kind of self-aware filmmaker.  His early works became legendary, The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes are classic horror films that launched imitators, remakes, cult followings, etc.  Then his career slowed down a little bit with some not-as-successful films of his came out, and in the meantime 10 years passed and Halloween came out, etc.  So he then successfully relaunched a horror franchise with Nightmare on Elm Street.  NoES became a smash hit, producing immediate sequels, though Craven was not involved in most of them.  But he has a rare gift to look at something as the whole of what it is, he both embraces and cherishes the bizarre series of films that NoES spawned, and he made New Nightmare as a film that is both aware of it's movie series proceeding it, and self-aware of itself as a movie within that series.  As odd as that sounds.

New Nightmare brings back Heather Langenkamp playing herself- that is she plays an actress who was in NoES 1 and 3, and played alongside Robert Englund (here, also playing himself).  In fact, she even meets and talks to Wes Craven, as himself, playing the director of NoES.  You see, in New Nightmare, the actress Heather is beginning to have nightmares about Freddy- Wes Craven's creation.  Turns out other people involved in NoES are too, just none of them are talking about it. Heather and her son Dylan are both being terrorized by these weird nightmares and phone calls.  She is having premonitions that are coming true, and just like in NoES, things that happen in her dreams physically like cuts and wounds are taking place in the real world.

So the movie is about the "real world" being infiltrated by Freddy.  It's a greatly entertaining premise that was probably just about the only way to "save" a franchise like NoES- by admitting it's fake, but showing that it still has power, it's a rare move.  It was that kind of thinking that gave Craven the smarts to come up with yet another defining self aware film series in Scream.  In fact, you could say he launched 3 successful horror defining films in 3 different decades.  Rare for that to happen.

New Nightmare has great acting by Langenkamp and Englund, great effects, an awesome score, and is generally really entertaining.  As I said I love the idea of a film within a film, and this is one big film with a film.  It's also self aware in that rare, really good sort of way that just makes it more enjoyable, better to watch for the uninitiated, and extremely smart.  I'd say that this movie might be the most necessary to watch after the first one.  You could probably skip most of the sequels and go right to this (as long as you were aware there were sequels, some of them quite bad and weird).

I'm feeling super optimistic about it right now, I'm proud to give it 4 stars.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Godzilla vs. Mothra: The Battle for Earth - 1992

Well, I wasn't going to get the DVD of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, have this movie on the other side of the double sided DVD and not watch it!  What the hell would be the point of that?!  I did contemplate not writing a review of this one though.  My criteria, as I've established, is nil.  I don't have one.  But if I don't have much to say about a movie, then that helps.  Which was why, in this case, I wasn't going to write one.

Godzilla vs. Mothra:  The Battle for Earth was Toho's attempt to follow up one of the best movies in the Godzilla franchise (vs. King Ghidorah) with another classic Godzilla villain coming back and being re-introduced to the public.  They did a bang up job with Ghidorah, and that film is widely regarded as one of the best in the entire Godzilla series, so why not revisit one of Godzilla's other most-well-known opponents in Mothra, and follow up with that, right?  Well, right- except, wrong.

I'm not going to rag on this one too much.  It's not like, the worst move ever or even the worst Godzilla movie.  It's just forgettable, slower paced, not nearly as innovative or interesting, and the villains aren't as good.  All those points compounded with the fact that this film doesn't flow as easily, and the plot is sometimes confusing.

One thing in it's favor is that it is a direct sequel to the previous Ghidorah film.  When Godzilla arrives, he is still evil.  Previous to the big G stomping in, we had the appearance of a gigantic egg at the beach, along with Mothra's two spokeswomen, the tiny little twins who sing that awesome "Mosura" song.  The egg of course hatches into weird larva form Mothra, that brown slug looking thing that no one likes.  While it is in this form Godzilla first appears, and since Mothra is generally friend to mankind, Mothra starts to battle Godzilla.

However, soon Mothra's ancient opponent Battra also appears.  Battra is like a big, evil Mothra essentially, and battles Mothra for a while.  Godzilla and Battra drive Mothra away, where the larva spins it's web and turns into moth-form Mothra.  Then, randomly Battra turns good and Battra and Mothra team up to defeat Godzilla.  Godzilla kills Battra in his last action, and the movie pretty much ends there.  Actually it ends rather randomly as Mothra is sent into space to deflect a meteor heading towards Earth (in a plotline that has never been mentioned before and hasn't been mentioned since).

The movie's not that bad, it just is hurt by the fact it was obviously rushed to come out, it suffers from the typical plot convenience thing:  Why do these things happen, well, because that's how it is in the script.  Don't question it.

Once again, the actors in these movies are decent enough, the dubbing is hilarious and awesome.  I don't stick to subtitles with movies like these.  They aren't supposed to be taken seriously.  Who the hell cares what they're actually saying when the movie involves weird worm creatures fighting a giant mutated dinosaur!  C'mon people, just enjoy the overacted, ridiculous job the voice actors did.

In the end, it's just another entry into the Godzilla series, and I'm sure I'll forget the plot to it in like, a week or two.  See it if you're a completion-ist, if you love Godzilla, if you want a solid 10-20 minutes worth of kaiju fighting, or if you are even mildly interested.  But it's not a good one to show someone who is unfamiliar with the franchise, or one to watch if you're tired or easily distracted.
I give it a 3 star rating, mostly due to the fact I love Godzilla and believe just about every Godzilla film deserves at least 3 stars.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah - 1991

Fuckin sweet bro!  My first Godzilla review.  I love Godzilla.  Like, really.  To the point where, as I watched this film, I went on Amazon and looked at the prices to buy all the DVDs, the toys, the everything.  I think if I was to collect something, it would probably be Godzilla things.  I'm serious here.  As a kid, I remember watching these movies and loving them.  I especially loved the ones like this, the ones that came out in the 70's, 80's and 90's.  The old ones are great too, but I appreciate them more now that I'm older.  These ones were just so much fun for a kid to watch.

Godzilla is a series that everyone knows, but most people haven't seen all of.  I can say with almost 100% guarantee that I've seen every Godzilla film, a lot of them more than once.  And just like everyone else (I assume) I get them all confused as fuck.  It's always the small details, and what fight with which monster took place in which movie.  You see, if you're not as familiar, a lot of the movies actually feature more than one villain going against Godzilla.  Sometimes the movie will be called "Godzilla vs. Gigan" but will also have Anguirus and King Ghidorah, for example.

The most cluster-fuck of these movies have convoluted plots, too much destruction to where we can't really tell what's going on, and the humans in the movies are annoying and there's far too much dialogue from them.  Then the really good Godzilla movies are just awesome.  They're few and far between sometimes, but totally worth it to seek out.  And I am happy to say, this is one of them.  in fact, 4 great Godzilla movies are available on 2 2-DVD packs.  This movie is packed with Godzilla vs. Mothra from the 90's, and then there's the 2-DVD pack with Space Godzilla and Destoroyah!  These DVD's are only $5, c'mon, just buy it duuude.

In this Godzilla entry, we get the most backstory, the most attempt towards a plot and a story that any film yet had given us.  Godzilla in this movie starts out as good, after all he had been good with very few exceptions since Son of Godzilla in 1967.  So he's good, and that's awesome, except that apparently in the future Japan is destroyed and it's due to Godzilla.  We learn this from some people who have come back in time, and they plan on going into the past to stop Godzilla from ever being created.  To do this, they need to go to the island of Lagos where there was atomic testing.  The atomic testing mutated a dinosaur there to eventually become Godzilla - and that's why Godzilla looks like of like a dinosaur.

It's the first true explanation we've gotten for Godzilla's existence, and it makes sense.  It keeps in line with the original Godzilla film from 1954 and the time travel plot makes sense.  So they travel back in time complete with some weird space alien guys called Dorats. (picture)
The aliens stop Godzilla from being created successfully, however this time the Dorats get mutated when the atom bomb goes off, so instead of the bomb creating Godzilla, the bomb creates King Ghidorah.  King Ghidorah is of course Godzilla's greatest and best known adversary.  So we travel back to the current day and Ghidorah is destroying Japan in Godzilla's place.  And since they stopped Godzilla from being created, there is no Godzilla now.  So in order to stop Ghidorah, they have to re-make Godzilla.  Except he's not friendly this time!  So then once Godzilla destroys Ghidorah, Godzilla starts rampaging, and then they have to mechanize and bring back Ghidorah to stop Godzilla!  It's enough to make your head spin.

Despite that plot that sounds like a series of WTF moments, it's easy to track, makes sense, and is covered by enough dialogue with enough action in between to keep us watching and interested.  This is actually one of the best paced Godzilla films, which makes it a contender for one of the best Godzilla films in general.  The villain is pure evil and awesome.  When he's re-integrated with robot parts, the new Mecha King Ghidorah is one of those badass villains (although he's actually a good guy) that's extremely memorable.

My favorite Godzilla films are the ones that stand out, not the ones where I wonder if I've seen that one or not.  Some of the older ones feel so interchangeable, I honestly keep rewatching some not because I want to see them again but because I don't remember which one it was.  This is one I remember.  I even had a friend who had the Mecha King Ghidorah toy when we were kids (wow, some of those are selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay).

This movie would be watchable by anyone even remotely interested in Godzilla.  In fact, as I watched, I contemplated in my head a top 5 Godzilla films (not in any particular order):
1) Godzilla - 1954 (not the American one with Raymond Burr)
2) Mothra vs. Godzilla - 1964
3) Godzilla 1985
4) Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah - 1992
5) Destroy All Monsters - 1968

It was hard for me not to include my love letter Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla in there, but I honestly should've done a top ten list.

6) Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla - 1994
7) King Kong vs. Godzilla - 1962
8) Godzilla vs. Megalon - 1973
9) tie between Godzilla vs. Hedorah and Godzilla vs. Biollante
10) Godzilla 2000

There we go.  Reminder, this is just my favorites, this list is not like a really best of.  Although, it does include some of the best ones also.  And also a reminder, I like the weird ones.  Like Biollante and Hedorah, those two are bound to not be on anyone's list of the best Godzilla films.

Anyways, this movie is awesome.  I didn't WANT to give it five stars...but, FUCK IT!

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Angry Red Planet - 1959

Here's a good example of a film I liked except for the insufferable dialogue.  I knew I was going to start his review like that.  I know it's flawed logic to spend like half a page writing about one bad line, but you're about to see it happen.  In this film, Iris "Irish" is the sole female on board a spaceship heading to Mars, alongside Colonel Thomas (the obvious romantic interest), Professor Theodore (the old guy), and Sam Jacobs (the happy go lucky idiot).  At one point, after it's made clear Thomas is into Iris, he develops the nickname Irish for her because, well, she's Irish.  She says, "I can't tell if you're calling me by my name or my nationality," to which he replies, "When I call you by your name, you'll know it."

Whoa.  What the fuck.  I honestly don't know how I as an audience member of this film am supposed to take that line.  Is he just the biggest asshole in the history of the world?  Is he flirting with her in the most horrendous way possible?  Or is he just a totally oblivious to what that line sounds like?  What that line sounds like to me is something sexual.  I get almost an immediate sexual, and even somewhat kinky, idea of domination into my head.  Now maybe that's just me, because I'm kind of weird and whatever...but seriously!  Why the fuck would you say that?!  That is such an awkward thing to say, so littered with different meanings and interpretations.

She reacts the exact way one can to something like that being said.  Her mouth drops a little bit, she looks at him in disbelief, and just turns away.  If your idea of flirting with a girl is to shock her speechless with your apparent disregard for respect and decency, then you must be living a pretty weird life.  I'm all for 50's male/female interactions, believe me, but this is a moment that is just weirdly uncomfortable, badly scripted, and stands out.  Perhaps after that they realized they could never actually make these two get together. It's like in Project Moonbase, when the jerk guy says something like "I might have to take you over my knee and spank you."  It's super awkward, again strangely kinky, and she does not react like someone who has just been sexually harassed.

The movie otherwise is pretty good.  It features the CineMagic technique, which is to blend live action footage with animation.  The animation is bizarre and dark, which makes it look cool.  The Mars scenes all have a very surreal feeling to them which gives this film a very different feeling, more like a random dream than your usual sci fi space 50's bullshit.
The 4 previously mentioned peoples land on Mars, and discover some weird creatures there like the above spider-bat thing, and a few of the astronauts die, and then they take off and go back to Earth - that's your plot right there.  The story is told from a flashback perspective by Iris "Irish" Ryan as she is one of the only 2 survivors.  The other is the total dickface Thomas "you'll know it" O'Bannan.

The movie is kind of dark for the time, because although it starts out light and comedic, it eventually kills off two people, features crazy unstoppable monsters, and ends with humanity not only failing it's mission, but being unable to ever return to Mars.  In that aspect it's really cool.  The script sucks, the characters are annoying, and all, but the effects are grade A.  If you like bad sci fi that is.  They are actually grade like, D+, but for me they were grade A.
All that shit combined, I liked this movie, and I'm just super glad they didn't have Irish and Thomas do one of those really long, stiff, awkward kisses that's initiated when the dude does something macho like grabbing her by the arms and jerking her towards him.  The fact they never got together redeems this movie (a tiny bit) for me.  In the end, 3 stars.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Innerspace - 1987

Here is my first review of what might be called a "normal" and or "well-known" movie.  Sure, I've reviewed all sorts of older well known movies (War of the Worlds) but this one is the biggest....I just remembered I reviewed Nightcrawler on this website.  Ah fuck it.  I still don't review big well known movies that often, okay?  Just go with me on this.

I mentioned to my wife the plot of Fantastic Voyage, the submarine shrunken down and injected into a person idea, and she immediately mentioned Innerspace, which I had never seen.  So we Netflixed that shit up and watched it last night.  I contemplated doing a review vs not doing one, but May is most likely going to be a pretty sparse month for me review wise, so each one counts.

Okay, getting right into it, Innerspace is a pretty blatant copy of Fantastic Voyage except with an action adventure comedy twist.  Dennis Quaid plays Tuck, an alcohol swillin', trouble causin', rebel scientist.  He is taking part in an experiment to - you guessed it - shrink him down inside a submarine and inject him into a rabbit.  Turns out another company is working on similar things, and they bust in as soon as his submarine is inside the syringe.

One scientist grabs the syringe and takes off, pursued through a mall, and eventually he injects the contents into Martin Short playing normal guy Jack.  Tuck drives his submarine up to Jack's brain, where he can then talk to him and see what Jack sees. As Jack and Tuck interact, comedy ensues and conflicts are overcome while Tuck leads Jack to his ex-gf Lydia played by Meg Ryan.  Jack falls for her as they pretend Tuck's been kidnapped. Then the evil guys are in hot pursuit, with Vernon Wells as a robot-handed weirdo named Mr. Igoe, Robert Picardo as the bizarre "Cowboy" and Kevin McCarthy as the ringleader/boss dude.

The effects in this are obviously a little bit better, but also not shown as much.  There is kind of an emphasis on the adventure and comedy, which makes sense.  People weren't going to experience this for the first time now in the mid-late 80's.  The acting, the action, and the plot are all good and easy enough to get caught up in, and the movie moves along fast enough to make the two hour length not feel like a chore.

There was not, however, like a "defining moment" or anything and ultimately this film is largely forgettable.  It's a popcorn flick, a date movie, and one that will be forgotten in the sands of time.  I largely doubt that anyone besides someone who lived through or around this movie's timeframe will look it up in 30 years.

For solid enough entertainment value, some decent comedy, and a good enough feel to it, I'll award it 3 stars.  But it's definitely not like a must-see flick.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Memorial Day Massacre - 1989

Let's continue this rip-off of Friday the 13th, unheard of slasher streak here with Memorial Day Massacre.  This is probably only slightly better known than last review's The Forest, being that this movie has been made fun of by semi-famous dude The Cinema Snob.

Memorial Day Massacre is just one of those movies where it doesn't offer a ton of explanation, back-story, or motivation.  Sure it's there, but it's not important, and the moments when it's being told in the movie are just to "be complete", not to actually give the story depth or to make sense.  If this movie simply had it's killer going around doing things it would get instantly discredited, so instead they give it a flimsy plot just to get away with calling this a "movie" and then they moved on.

So that said, the plot is about a weird hermit guy living on a park way out in the middle of nowhere.  A bunch of people come and visit, being disruptive and looking like idiots, and soon enough our hermit guy starts killing them.  Turns out the hermit might be the son of the park ranger.  My favorite line?  When the ranger says "He might be my son," one of the people there says "Who cares?!"  Good point.  He's a fucking killer, who cares if he's your son or not.

The kills range from sort of lame to not that bad, but most are fairly bland.  I have to say that for a guy who was raised out in the woods and can't speak or read or anything, he is very smart.  There are the smarts that make sense, like how he plants traps and hunts people and fights well, etc.  But there are also the smarts that doesn't make sense:  he knows how to open and chop up wires in the engine of a car, he knows how to get a bulldozer started and moving, and he knows specifically how to disable a radio.

They're all just excuses to have these idiots on the mountainland die and that's fine.  They get portrayed in ways that typically make us want them to die.  They're either idiotic, destructive, stupid, or all of the above.  There is no one truly innocent in the movie except maybe the park ranger, but he ends up dying too!  On accident, though.

Now to address the whole name thing.  The movie's alternate title is supposedly "Son of Sleepaway Camp".  This is because Sleepaway Camp (in itself a sort of Friday the 13th rip off) was pretty popular and spawned a ton of sequels.  This movie was re-titled to Son of Sleepaway Camp to try and capitalize off the success.  It of course is not related to the Sleepaway series in any way, but yeah.  There you go.  Is it a rumor or it is true?  I have no idea.  I just know that's what the internet tells me.

The score was actually pretty good again too, more in your face and bizarre than The Forest.  Also, the higher amount of people and death scenes, some see-through shirts on girls, and plenty of laughable fun make this movie a whole ton better than The Forest.  MDM has a big focus on the killer much like The Forest, but he has no lines, is more entertaining to watch, and actually can pull off some very cool stunts.  I wonder if he had a background in stunt performing.  The actor doesn't have any other credits on IMDb so who knows.

Those points made me feel optimistic about it, plus I can imagine someone who actually likes this movie.  All said it's not bad, it's just that there are other movies that are far better.  But I'd take this over some of those Jason, Chucky, or Halloween sequels any day.  I'll give it 2.5 stars.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Konga - 1961

"Fantastic!  There's a huge, monster gorilla, that's constantly growing to outlandish proportions loose in the streets.  It's heading towards the embankment area."  This line is delivered in a completely flat, emotionless, British way towards the end of 1961's Konga starring Michael Gough.

Michael Gough is an actor I'm beginning to like a lot.  Like a lot of people, I was only familiar with his roles in the first 4 Batman movies (he was way better than Michael Caine, btw).  He is actually comparable to Peter Cushing in a role like this though, they are both strong, commanding, and play into these B movies like they genuinely care about them.

Konga is a very British King Kong ripoff that was not trying to break any rules or establish anything new, it was just taking a story like King Kong and adapting it into sort of a more "realistic" storyline.  It's basically King Kong meets Frankenstein.  Rather than having a giant ape exist outside of normal society, this story is about a man who creates a giant ape.

Michael Gough comes back from Africa in the beginning of this movie, intent on a new experiment that will link animals to plants.  He has found strange varieties of African wild plants that feast on flesh and somehow he is going to link those to animals.  He sets up his greenhouse with the plants, which look like giant Venus fly traps and pitcher plants - except they are a lot more dangerous and silly looking.  He is helped by his assistant, Margaret.  He is also a professor at a local university, where he is interested in a young student named Sandra.

He develops a green liquid from the plants, and this liquid he injects into his monkey friend Konga.  Konga is a chimpanzee that saved his life in Africa apparently, and to reward this monkey he becomes his experimentation subject.  So the green liquid makes the monkey grow, and turn into a different type of monkey.  A while later round two comes and then the monkey grows into an ape (or, a dude in an ape costume).  Gough's character then hypnotizes Konga and instructs her to follow his commands.

There is a definite point here, in the movie now, where the "line" is crossed.  Gough uses his power over Konga to make Konga start killing people.  First, it's a different scientist who is in the same field as him, and Gough is afraid of this scientist taking his glory.  Then, it's another person and another....  Gough is clearly off the deep end.  He also makes moves on Sandra which pisses off his old assistant Margaret.  She then takes over Konga, grows Konga into a King Kong sized gorilla, and sets Konga loose upon England.

There, plot done with.  I watched this movie not expecting too much, and realized I had actually seen it about 3 years ago.  It was okay enough though, I had given it 3 stars on Netflix, so I thought I'd rewatch the rest for this review.  And I enjoyed it again, but must complain:
1)  too much talking.  There's like, endless explanations and character development and plots, and it's a fucking giant ape movie!  Get to the action!
2)  No transition in Gough from ambitious scientist to madman.  Although we believe in the character because of the actor, there is no lead up.  It's just, bam, he's evil.
3) Of course, the obligatory no-giant-ape-until-the-last-10-minutes cliche, so we have to wait 80 minutes just to see the damn thing

Even those things aside, the movie is still fun.  It's definitely weird and wacky, riffable, and a lot of fun.  The pacing is okay even with the heavy dialogue.  We do see plenty of the monkey in it's other forms (other than giant) and that makes for comedy since at times the costume is so stupid looking.

 And like I said, Michael Gough does a great job selling the movie and his character, he is a great actor.
That leads me to a final rating, of again, 3 out of 5.

Fantastic Voyage - 1966

No, not the swinging 1980 pop/funk song by the band Lakeside, but rather the 1966 movie of the same name.  This is one of those early "epics" that came along, sporting a tremendously high budget, a top notch cast, and an almost guarantee at an Oscar nod for best effects.  *Check real quick...Yes, it did win an Oscar for special effects and one for Art Direction.  Does that make this my first review of an Academy Award winner?  I'm too lazy to do the research and find out, but probably not.  War of the Worlds must'a won something.  *check again, yes it did, best special effects.

Breaking from my normal routine here, I can actually expound on the film biographies of these actors, cause they were actually in stuff!  Main leading man Grant is played by Stephen Boyd who was in Ben-Hur and The Fall of the Roman Empire.  Raquel Welch wasn't in much before, but this movie got her going with later roles in Myra Breckinridge and The Three Musketeers.  And then there's Donald Pleasence.  Another greatly underrated actor in my opinion, the guy was like a fucking open flame.  You would not fuck with the Pleasence.  He commands the scenery and is impossible not to watch.  Like Kinski, he looks like a total creep also (gee, do you think Pleasence will play a bad guy in this...?)

I missed the initial set up to this somehow, it seemed to just go very quickly, but essentially some super important guy is in some accident and has a blood clot in his brain.  They track down the best doctor, a great pilot, a top scientist, and some other people, and they decide they must save his life.  We follow main character Grant (Stephen Boyd) as he is taken from his old CIA work to the top secret government facility where they have the technology to shrink things down to a microscopic level.  Turns out what they plan to do is shrink him and his team down, inside a ship, inject them into the guys bloodstream, where they will make their way to the brain and destroy the blood clot.  Wow.

The plot is fantastic in it's reach, and the movie is quick to follow it's outrageous notion.  This movie does not dwell on explanation, science, or character interaction in the beginning.  We are thrown haphazard into the plot, the characters follow suit without question, and before you know it they're all in the ship, in the room with the shrink ray, and they're getting ready to "get down" (sorry).  The rest of the movie follows in this pattern.  It is an extremely fast movie, a movie that could've been longer, but they were used to short films back then (this movie is just over 90 minutes).  This was 1966, and the modern 3 hour epics didn't just come out every month like ours do now.

The ship has one hour in the body of the man.  Then it will start to grow larger, which would mean the man's body would sense a foreign invader and white blood cells will attack and kill them all.  Similarly, if they disrupt the natural "environment" inside the man, the cells will attack them.  So, the rest of the movie is in real time, amazingly, and we follow the full hour of these people encountering obstacles as they make their way towards his brain.

This movie was pretty damn fun.  It was as I said obviously very high budget, with all sorts of cool sets, interesting effects, and damn good actors.  The props and the design of it were great for the time and still manage to look cool, if not especially realistic.  I found everyone online on IMDb was clamoring about a remake...why, when half the fun of seeing this is the cool effects and in modern day that's going to be bland green screen CGI?

Some of the effects look pretty hokey, and that's one of those comes-with-the-territory sort of things that you're either going to love or hate.  For the time they were pretty good, although movies like 2001 and War of the Worlds look far better in comparison.

Also, I thought a couple of plot points needed some more explanation.  At one point they talk of sabotage by one of the men onboard the ship.  There is a scene of dialogue between Pleasence and Boyd wherein they discuss the difficulties they've had on their trip and how it is likely sabotage by on of the other two men on board.  But they never get back to that plot point and it's never made clear if in fact it was sabotage or not.  Also, the whole plot is to remove these blood clots in the brain.  Then in the end as the guys escape the body, the movie simply ends....So did the patient survive?  Did the stuff they did in the brain work?  It's an unanswered, annoying question.

All things considered, this one isn't as well known as the other classic adventure sci-fi's and will ultimately continue to not age well.  The effects weren't as good, the plot holes are stupid, and the movie wasn't as grand in scope.  It's a great idea, and the movie is a lot of fun, but it's more of a popcorn flick than greats like War of the Worlds.  I'm arguing between 4 and 4.5 stars in my head, and I'm going to go with 4.5, which makes this the first movie I've rated 4.5 on this site.  Nice!