Thursday, January 28, 2016

Planet Outlaws - 1953

In 1939, my grandfather Lee Ellsworth Titus was 18 years old.  It was also the year that Buck Rogers became a serial in local theaters.  See, it was a pretty genius idea actually.  People were still going to the theater as just "something to do".  Tickets were dirt cheap, and it was a common practice to just show up whenever, see part of the movie that was playing, and then stick around to catch the next showing.  Once you were all caught up, you'd presumably leave.

One way to attract more audiences was the pre-show that went on before a movie would begin.  Usually there would be a cartoon, a newsreel, or a short film.  There were also serials, like this one, Flash Gordon, Commander Cody, Undersea Kingdom, and plenty more.  Buck Rogers was originally a 12 segment series, each segment was about 5-10 minutes or so.  In each segment, there'd be a quick recap of what happened last time, there would be the feature, then the ending which was normally a cliffhanger.  That would make people want to come back next week to see what happened with that cliffhanger.

However, what you could also do with these segments, was edit out the recaps and the cliffhangers, string them all along together, and make it into a feature length movie!  Right?  RIGHT?!  Well, no,  I think.  In my opinion.  But that is what happened, and thus we come to the film Planet Outlaws, which to me sounds like improper English.

Planet Outlaws takes place in the future.  The whole idea behind the Buck Rogers series was that Buck gets transported to the year 2500.  Buck was a airplane pilot in the past where he came from, and basically he uses his skill and his knowledge to help out in the future.  You see, evil overlord Killer Kane has imposed a cruel dictatorship over the world, and it's up to Buck and a small band of rebels to overthrow him.  Buck quickly accepts all this without batting an eye, and before you know it, him and his friend Buddy Wade are the leaders of the resistance.

The action is mild to put it lightly.  In fact, there is not really direct action so much as dialogue and people pretending like they might insinuate action.  The thing about this show, and about all the other serials I've seen, is that they are actually about nothing happening.  Sure, every once in a while, the stars might be evading laser beams or hot lava, but usually its the villains making plots which the heroes evade because they're "smart".  AKA they somehow know what the villain is up to and foil the plan.

The plot to this was incredibly hard to follow as well.  Characters are in one or two "episodes" then disappear.  Plots come up, are dropped, etc, quite randomly.  It's obvious that this wasn't meant to be a movie in other words.  Without the cliffhangers, there is very little to make the action interesting.  Also, there was probably at least opening narration in the show (I'm not sure) and that has been taken out.  Without any explanation of what's going on, it was very hard to follow this movie.

Given that information, and the info that this was filmed in 1939, it's hard to be too critical on this as a movie.  I know that it's not exactly the kind of entertainment most people are going to casually turn on.  I do wonder why, 14 years after it premiered in theaters, they decided to cut all the shorts together and make a movie of it.  Because surely even in 1953, when War of the Worlds, Roman Holiday, From Here to Eternity, Shane, and Peter Pan were all coming out, this had to look really dated.

For lack of any other way to rate it, I guess I give it 2 stars for being classic.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Evil Clutch - 1988

Originality aside, sometimes you have to like a movie.  Yes, this movie was not original.  And yes, I liked it.  Fuck y'all.  I read about 4 reviews of this online, as I sometimes do, and everyone's bad mouthing it for being an Evil Dead rip-off.  Whatever man, I dunno.  Sure, it have some copied elements from the Evil Dead.  First person monster cam, the moon fogging over, ample blood and guts.  But what this movie has more than that is a fast paced, sporadic, regular horror movie kind of a feel.

Wandering lovers pick up a hitch-hiker in the beginning of this movie.  We know that's not going to end well.  She is of course evil, and has a giant hand like monster that comes out of her vagina.  I love how in horror movie reviews everyone doesn't want to say that.  WTF.  The movie is rated R, we're all fucking adults here, and saying the word "vagina" still isn't like "allowed"?  Just say she has a fucking vagina monster!  I hate it when people say things like "nether regions" or "private area" like what are you, 5 years old?!

So, in addition to vagina monster lady, there is weird white faced zombie guy, and there's also plenty of gore in the movie.  The gore in the movie is decently done, surprisingly.  There's not loads of it, but there is enough to keep a gorehound happy.  The whole movie was perhaps not lit well or it could be the quality of the transfer (again, this is a Troma release, and they don't exactly scream quality in most cases) but the movie is hard to look at.  Luckily, Troma wasn't the actual company that made it or I'm sure it would be a lot worse.

One thing I will say about this movie is that is has a lot more throat-y yelling in it than just about anything else I've reviewed on this blog.  Take that as bad or good I guess.  I take it as bad because it is really annoying.  Like seriously, there's this one sequence where the girl is about 50 feet away from the monster, getting away, has no need to scream.  But she just keeps going!  "aaaah!  AHHHHHHH!  aaaaaaaaaaaaH!"  Like dude bitch, shut the fuck up!

Problems aside, I liked this.  Sure, it's not the adrenaline ride some movies are.  But something is always going on in this, the setting and the actors and the effects are good, and the music is awesome.  It's energetic, feels very relaxed in atmosphere.  Like a good, solid, 80's movie in other words.  I challenge many other rip-off horror films to get to that level.  Most movies that were coming out were too boring, not interesting, had no effects, etc.  This compared to say, most of the other 80's horror I've reviewed:  this one wins hands down.  At least there wasn't long points of bland dialogue by bad actors.

I feel like it's gotten a terrible rap, and being that it is only somewhat unoriginal, I think it deserves a view.  I'd show this on a bad film night any day of the week.  I give it 3 stars.

Side note:  I realized as I was watching it that very thing I was just discussing:  the idea of watching this, or any other movie with someone.  I know it's pretty irrelevant, but I tend to look at movies that way.  As a solo watcher, I know what movies I would definitely never put on if someone else were with me.  And I know which ones I would put on.  I think it's just interesting that movies are rated on that level.  Of course it makes sense, most people aren't alone.  Most people have friends, relationships, parents, etc.. And of course a movie doesn't care if you're alone or with a group of 50.
I dunno.  This may just seem like a random thought, but I thought it was interesting.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Queen Kong - 1976

I could've been fine without revisiting the really lame side of comedies.  This is a straight up comedy, maybe a sci-fi comedy or something if you're a genre nazi.  This movie was made because the King Kong movie with Jeff Bridges also came out in 1976.  This was a quick piggyback onto that film, so that if you wanted to see a Scary Movie style take on King Kong, you could go see this.  This is the Scary Movie style, but since Scary Movie was funnier than this (not hard) this is more like the....Scary Movie 5 or Epic Movie or some other lame comedy flick.

The official reason that this movie got no release in the US was because it was too similar to King Kong.  They didn't want to get in legal problems, and thus no US release.  Who gives a fuck, I'd like to pretend that the reason it didn't get a release was because the movie was too fucking stupid.  It follows the King Kong plot pretty precisely:  white people go to an island of aboriginal peoples, those people worship a giant gorilla.  In this case, it's an all female island and a female gorilla.  The gorilla falls in love with effeminate British guy Ray.  Then they take Queen Kong back to England where it goes on it's rampage thing.

The comedy sucks.  As I might've mentioned.  It's all done by bad actors, and it is the lowest of the low type of comedy.  Gags include putting the gorilla in a bra and underwear, the guy who only ever says "Yes Dear", gorilla puns, and more.  This movie didn't even make me think of laughing.  Not even once.  It hurt pretty bad.

"She might have been the queen on this island, but in London half the guys you meet are queens."  Get it, like, queens as in gay?  I mean this is the kind of comedy where it's like, I get it, but that's not funny.  That doesn't even make sense.  It's just a one liner someone thought of and since the movie was supposed to be "comedy" they inserted that line into the script.  It's also like, the characters do everything that needs to be done for the joke setup.  Sometimes they're smart, usually stupid, say things that don't make sense, or know a lot about something for no reason other than it fits the scene.

So in the end, this movie isn't even worth putting on to see how bad it is.  It's only good if you're really, really, really, REALLY high.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Glen or Glenda - 1953

My second review by Ed Wood, and one of his movies I had not seen before, believe it or not.  (Do believe it).  What can I say, I always lean towards "less known of" when I watch bad movies.  I know that everyone watches the Ed Wood films, and so I stay away from them.  You can read countless reviews of them everywhere.  Yeah, I reviewed the most popular one, Plan 9 From Outer Space, of course.  And I'm not saying I won't ever review more.  I'm just saying don't go expecting write-ups on each and every Wood film.

Glen or Glenda was Ed Wood's first movie, and was based loosely on himself.  Wood, a crossdresser, decided to take on the idea of crossdressing and transgender issues in a drama with a science fiction twist.  True to his nature that he would establish more in films after this one, he crosscut several different stories, most of them relating very little to each other, and then made it all somehow one "complete" film.

We open with Bela Lugosi, typically sitting in some bizarre room, introducing himself.  He plays a character that has nothing to do with the movie, he is credited in Glen or Glenda as "The Scientist" and to me he came off like perhaps he was a God of Sexuality (maybe).  We then go to Lyle Talbot and another man discussing crossdressing and sexual reassignment surgery.  Lyle tells the story of a man, named Glen, who felt more comfortable dressing in women's clothing.  Glen hasn't told this to his fiancee, Barbara.  This is all presented very loosely, and there are other stories thrown in, along with other people who crossdress.

The movie doesn't feel altogether disjointed, but has no natural flow to it.  The Bela Lugosi segments are indiscernible and make very little sense.  It feels like Ed Wood didn't actually film Lugosi with this role in mind, just sort of had him say things and then edited into this movie later where it made the most sense.  The Lyle Talbot / other guy interaction are the real tying piece of the story, not Lugosi.  And then there's the weird Satan appearance and sexual "wtf" thing that happens about fifteen minutes away from the end.

Since this was a drama film, there is no "climax" of the dramatic story, so to serve as a climax for the movie, there is this series of ultra-bizarre sexual imagery which was apparently added in after the film was shot to make the interest factor go up a bit.  It feels like it to.  There's scenes of women undressing, being touched and raped, and some kinky f-ed up shit.  This was actually a pretty cool sequence, it was disturbing and strange, and made the movie feel a lot more like a bad drug trip than anything else.

The rest of the movie is hit and miss.  I can't say that I know of any other movie from 1953 or before that touch on some really relevant issues, including controversial ones like crossdressing and sexual reassignment surgery.  I would have to concede in all seriousness that in those ways this was way ahead of it's time.  I've seen a lot of 50's movies, and this one walks the line between an educational film and a silly fun flick.  In another world, I think especially if this had not been made into a feature length film but rather an educational short, I think this would be seen as quite ahead of it's time.

But instead, it got Lugosi thrown into it, it had not one, not two, but three stories within stories, and the end part about sexual reassignment feels as tacked on and abrupt as it possibly could.  Say what you will though, the sexual scenes, and the grace which it offers to it's subject are actually quite well done.  I do have to say one thing though:  I am really surprised Ed Wood ended the talk about crossdressing in the manner he did.  He seems to say that men who crossdress do it because they need something from their wives.  In the story once Glen and his wife work through the issue, Glen stops crossdressing.  I don't know, but isn't that untrue?  I would think they can't just "talk about it" with their wives and then stop?  I would think that's what they do, it's who they are, and I would think Ed Wood as a crossdresser himself would have said that in this movie.

I apologize if this review wasn't as legible as some others.  This movie was mind-boggling to put it lightly.  What it feels like is if you took some 50's educational flick about crossdressing, and intercut scenes from a Lugosi film about monsters, then you took yet another movie with Lyle Talbot and edited that in, then lots of stock footage and other educational shorts, and edited parts of those doesn't flow at all.  Well, Ed Wood is known as the worst director ever and so it's not surprising the movie would feel this way.  But, when you take the individual parts for what they are, some of them are quite good.  So therefore, I would give this film 2.5 stars.  As a B movie and as a real movie, it deserves some attention.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Blood Sucking Freaks - 1976

Different ways in which I wanted to start this review:

1) This movie has more nudity than many pornographic films.  Ahem.
2)  WTF.  Seriously guys, WTF is going on here?!
3) "Exploitation" isn't a dirty, filthy, soulless enough word to describe this film.
4) aka Bloodsucking Freaks

I could have probably thought of more but look pretty closely at 1, 2 and 3 above and you'll see why I mention this.  This movie was, in a word, extreme.  I had no real idea what to expect, I was definitely expecting something a little bit more like Virgin Witch and for that matter, something kinds like The Torture Chamber of Doctor Sadism or a movie like Dr. Tarr's Torture Chamber.  If you're unfamiliar, it's the type of film wherein the torture is talked about a lot and shown very little: mostly implied, shown off camera, etc.  When you do see it, it's mostly mild.  Someone gets whipped.  Someone is handcuffed.  That type of thing.

This movie is balls to the wall fucking torture.  Torture to the death in most cases, even.  The main evil torturer is Sardu.  Sardu is from that long line of sadistic rich weirdos that for whatever reason get off on torturing women.  He runs a very small theater, but a popular one.  In the beginning of the film we get a taste for what kinda shows he puts on.  He has real women come up onto the stage, and he proceeds to strip them naked and torture them the death in front of the audience.  The audience thinks she's an actress and it's all fake.  When in fact, it's all real and they are watching her die.  There is also the midget assistant named Ralphus, which is quickly becoming one of the most revisited characters in these types of movies.

The audience is thrilled from the "reality" of it.  How does Sardu get such good actresses? Tom Maverick and his girlfriend Natasha are the only ones who seem to not like the show.  She is a dancer, a real performer, and someone who detests the blood and nudity of the show and he is the same.  Also, critic Creasy Silo is against the show and wants no part of it.  Sardu kidnaps Natasha and Creasy, and holds them both captive.  He wants to break the will of Natasha by showing her his methods of torture - he wants to do this so that she agrees to dance in his show.  And with Creasy, he wants Creasy to review his show.

I won't overestimate here when I tell ya that virtually every single girl in this movie is naked.  And also, when I say that this movie has tons of girls...all nude.  Yes, this movie is fucking exploitation.  Yes, yes yes.  Plus, the torture scenes are fucking intense.  Like, I've seen Hostel, the Saw series, a lot of other shit, and this movie is one of the only ones that actually grossed me out.  It's all done in a downplayed, very casual way too.  Kind of like, who gives a shit, we're just killing some random people?!

I really don't know how to rate this movie, which another thing.  Is it sexy?  Fuck yeah.  Exploitative, oh god yes.  Violent, bloody, extreme and tortuous - to the maximum.  So in all those ways it is definitely a success.  The tone of the film I'd describe as off, however.  It's all done in a very casual, who cares kind of way, and a lot of the extremity is downplayed by the tone of the film.  The actors are surprisingly decent for mostly non-real actors and porn stars.

The blood and goods level I would rate as "fantastic" for the most part.  The nudity is there, but presented in a non-sexual way usually.  Not that I'm complaining, because I think that takes some strength - to film nudity and sexual going's-on, but to not have it be arousing.  To invoke disgust rather than desire.  But, there are some times when it is presented purely sexual and in those cases it works as well.

I guess I just feel weird about giving it a high rating.  It's not for everyone of course.  But for what it is: a sleazy, exploitative, no-fucks-given, disturbing and horrid film, it succeeds big time.  I was going to not give it a rating at all....  But mind you, it was either no rating or 4 stars.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Body Bags - 1993

I haven't done an anthology horror film yet, which is a shame cause I really love them.  Think about it, it's everything I love:  horror, thriller, deaths, effects, etc.  And none of the things I hate:  slow plots, boring dialogue, pointless character development.  Plus I'm always up for the "weird one" that is seemingly always present.

Even when it's only 3 films, which is usually the case, one of them is usually supernatural.  It seems that they always run like this:
1) the beginner:  straight-forward horror/thriller or mystery.  Sometimes directed by or starring someone well known (start with the star) and isn't heavy on body count or effect.  This is also the most likely story in which the killer will die.  It's what I'd call the most "realistic" in terms of a real horror idea.  No high body count, no supernatural elements, and the killer isn't super smart, dangerous, or un-defeatable.
2) the weird one:  this one is usually the killer doll, the possessed person, the guy who gets super charged by lightning or can control a killer ape.  You know, something outlandish and WTF.  This is the kind of thing that would never make a full length movie (or if it did, it would be a huge mistake) because then they'd have to have a legit "reason" for what happens in it - that or it would take the road of doing it for comedy, or they would just under-develop it and people would complain.
3) the super dark one: this is where they pull out all the stops to leave you with a good memory of the film.  Blood and guts abound, perhaps some nudity.  Also, this is the chance to have the most "developed" of the anthology.  Like, perhaps this one is actually a sex thriller that has horror elements to it.  It doesn't have to be strictly horror, because this is anthology and it can represent different aspects of "scary".  This is an odd entry into the anthology though, because sometimes they'll also want to end on a comedy note, or a personal movie wherein the characters all learn lessons or whatever.  Like I said, this is where the most developed movie goes.

Part one of this anthology, it's simple and straightforward (damn I'm good).  A gas station attendant is hunted by a killer.  The atmosphere is well done, and the look of the whole thing is pretty awesome.  I liked it as a basic, realistic horror movie.
Part two is about male pattern baldness (huh?)  Dennis is losing his hair, is obsessed with it, and is going to all extremes to keep his hair.  Naturally, the solution he finds is now going to be his doom.  So, I hit two for two, this is the weird one.
Part three is about Mark Hamill as a pro baseball player who loses and eye. So naturally, he gets an eye implant from a dead person.  His new eye starts seeing weird-ass things, like dead people and stuff.  Huh....Isn't that the same plot as the movie The Eye?  Speaking of part three, check this out:
 1) it has nudity (called it) 2) it's easily the most developed of these ideas (called it)
Please note that I wrote those things above, the 1-3 before I watched this anthology.

Body Bags had a lot of stars in it too!  Stacy Keach, Tom Arnold, Robert Carradine, Mark Hamill, Sam Raimi, and cameos from Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper and Roger Corman.  All these stories are introduced by John Carpenter as some weirdo morgue keeper.

Mark Hamill overacting and being strange as fuck is a huge highlight of this movie, he does an accent and everything.  In fact this whole movie feels high on the corniness level, like it was made tongue in cheek to try to be humorous.  Which makes sense, I guess it was originally going to be a series of some sort for Showtime.  Pretty damn solid, for what I think would be considered by most to be a second rate anthology series.  Perhaps cause it was eventually released direct to TV.  But couldn't tell ya why, this would be a great one to watch with friends, or without.  I give it 3.5 stars!

New Years Evil - 1980

I'm only like 12 days late for New Years, no biggie.  C'mon.  This is perhaps the best known of New Years based horror film.  I mean, yes, there are other movies that take place on New Years.  But only this and Bloody New Year have titles that revolve around the fact that 1) it's New Years and 2) it's a horror movie.

Immediately I am reminded of Alice Sweet Alice from 1976.  Probably cause the masks are similar.  There's also some similarity in pacing and feel.  But since I haven't reviewed that one yet I guess I'll be a little more descriptive about this movie's plot and all that.

New Years Evil is about a sort of based on real life world.  It's a little more glitzy and strung out then our world, but it's kinds like "believable".  Absolutely awful looking celebrity woman Diane Sullivan is doing some ridiculous TV special for New Years.  People are calling in for some reason, and soon she gets a call from a killer telling her he's going to kill someone at the stroke of midnight.  I should also mention that this movie takes place in New York, and that's kinda important for later.

She blows him off, but is obviously fazed by him.  He tells her where the body's going to be or some other info, and at midnight the kill happens as he said, and the cops find out.  Then she's freaked, and the killer calls back.  Turns out what he's going to do is kill someone each time it turns to midnight in each different time zone of the US.  So 3 more bodies are going to show up.  That's at least a pretty good idea to have, kinda the ticking clock idea.

The kills in this range from pretty dumb to average, there's nothing terribly special about them.  Honestly, it's a pretty okay movie, I think it ranges right in the middle of most barometers.  I don't have tons to say about it, for whatever reason.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie - 1996

In 1988, Joel Hodgson created the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 on a local broadcast channel in Minnesota.  The premise was simple: take some old movies, and make fun of them.  You put the characters in seats right in front of the screen, and these guys lampoon the movie as it's playing.  By adding some cool original robots, and different levels of humor, and by adding skits surrounding segments of these movies, you make it into a show, and you add a connection to the people who are "riffing" the movie that they're watching.

The show didn't exactly explode or anything, it was slow going and the jokes were not developed yet.  They didn't write anything for the jokes, they would watch the movie maybe once or twice to get an idea of what it was, then they would sit down and film themselves in front of it.  Long silences, half thought out ideas, and people stepping over each other's jokes did happen.  But the show garnered enough interest that a new channel, called simply The Comedy Channel, decided that they wanted to pick the show up for a season.  Thus, the show went on and 11 years later in 1999 it finally ended.  During that time, it spawned one movie, in 1996.  

Of course, virtually everyone who has been familiar with bad movies for a long time has heard of this show, and has come across it multiple times.  In 11 years, they covered virtually every known bad director, actor, writer, producer, etc.  They also did their best, I think, to cover films that were not "known of".  Sure, they did some Ed Wood or Roger Corman works, but they also dug into the unknown, unearthing films that truly no one had heard of or remembered.  

When I was younger, during the time MST3K was on, I didn't have cable TV and I was pretty unaware of what was on TV.  I remember seeing part of the episode Jack Frost at my friend's house in who knows what year, and that was my sole experience watching MST3K when it was actually on TV.  Unlike other shows, MST3K was not something they could keep playing reruns of, because the nature of the films they lampooned on MST meant that rights were usually difficult to acquire and attain.  Plus, several people and companies did not want the lampooned versions of the films shown, and thus could deny MST the right to show it, or could at least make it difficult for them.

One day, I remember, I simply picked the MST3K film up from the comedy section and I decided to rent it.  That was it.  The great thing about this show was that initially Joel Hodgson made it very child-friendly.  Although there were jokes that would certainly go over a kid's head, the robots in the show and the friendly atmosphere, as well as the movies they showed, all appealed to kids.  It was almost treated as a kid's show at first, I've always thought, and that retained in the film.  I mention this because I was probably.......12 when I saw that movie.  That's my guess.  So I wasn't like, 6 or whatever, but I was still a young, idiot kid who would still enjoy childish things.

Now, I do not mean to say that MST3K is childish.  It certainly is not.  It's one of those shows that can truly appeal to anyone, and everyone will enjoy it for different reasons.  I was, and still am, one of those people that loves classic science fiction movies.  For that reason, I loved seeing This Island Earth, which is the film they made fun of, and I loved the hilarious jokes they made at the expense of This Island Earth. 

MST3K will always have a special place in my heart.  In a world where you're told to take everything seriously, where you just accept what you're given, MST showed us that you don't have to do that.  You can make fun of it!  Of course everyone does that!  But they brought it out in the open, they said not only can you do this, you SHOULD do this.  You should openly mock these awful movies.  But they also did it from a place of love.  

One enduring discussion has always been Joel versus Mike.  Fans know that in season 6, Joel the creator and star abruptly left the TV show, and they switched stars to Michael J. Nelson.  Now, I'm not going to go into a whole thing about this, but I mention it because I talk about Joel in most of this blog entry (which by the way, is very much not a real review) while Mike is actually the star of the movie.  This was almost exactly after Joel left the show, and the "feel" of the show was still very much Joel.  So that's why I mainly talk about him.

Hilarious, quotable, re-watchable to the extreme, and great looking, the movie still holds it's ground almost 20 years later.  I love, love love the movie.  I have been quoting it for almost 15 years now.  That's pretty fucking cool.  It obviously gets 5 stars.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Supernova - 2000

Why is the "lone weirdo in isolated space setting" so appealing?  You could argue that it also touches on the same idea of "lone weirdo anywhere".  It's the isolation factor, that idea people have that if someone is removed from society, they essentially go insane.  I think that's what it is anyway.  And thus we have another tired version of "lone weirdo" this time set in some unknown future year.  Watching this made me think a lot about the Sam Neill movie Event Horizon (1997) and about the movie Sunshine (2007).

The cast is also all over the place.  James Spader is leading man Nick after the captain of the ship is killed in what is basically a suicide.  Angela Bassett is an icy medical officer, Lou Diamond Phillips and Robin Tunney are mindless sex objects, and Peter Facinelli is a hunky mystery man who is one the ship that called for help.  I saw this movie only because of James Spader.

They rescue the ship I mentioned with Peter Facinelli, he immediately starts acting all off and trying to seduce the two female characters.  In a laughable sequence, there are line 3 sex scenes in the first half hour basically, each one is really overdone and awful.  It's like in The Room when there are those two almost exactly the same sex scenes.  Facinelli's character Karl has a secret which is found about 5 minutes later, some bizarre light emitting pod that looks like it's all bad.  It's obvious this thing influences people, and it makes them grow younger.  It starts to mess with the crew, Karl grows slowly more menacing, and James Spader leaves the ship on a mission, leaving his crew alone with Karl.  Uh oh.

The soundtrack and filming style are pretty laughable.  This was in the periodic resurgence of "extreme" camera work.  It's not uncommon to see strange shots, angles, and a in-your-face type of childish look to this movie.  It was obviously trying to appeal to teens and young adults, but it was far too predictable and low-brow to even make that fanbase happy.  The shoot was riddled with problems, which I think is the "why" of this movie's failure.  Traded from director to director, rewritten what sounds like millions of times, cast traded in and out, everyone had a different idea of what this movie should've been.

The same problem happened with Event Horizon.  In both cases, the original director and script wanted a dark, bloody, claustrophobic sci-fi thriller, and the studio wanted something more appealing to the idiotic drone humans.  The cool factor got removed in trade for watered down effects, cutting off character development, and adding unnecessary scenes like the sex scene between Spader and Bassett in this movie.

Given all this, I'm surprised because this movie wasn't THAT bad.  It's definitely unoriginal and very "blah" entertainment.  The scenes all seem to be stolen from some other movie.  The acting is unbalanced, and gives the movie an almost hostile feel.  Everyone in the movie is inexplicably mad all the time, was my first thought on it.  Spader, Bassett, Phillips, they are all simply wrecks of people.  One thing I liked was that several plot points, like Spader's character's drug addiction, are mentioned and then simply never gotten back to.  So, was that like important??  Cause it's only mentioned twice....?

I love sci-fi, and I love anything set in space.  If it has a horror element, all the better.  This movie is nowhere as good as Alien, Event Horizon, Sunshine, Sphere, the list goes on.  But do what I did: see this because it's bad.  Watch it for the same reason I watched Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.  It's cheasy, overdone effects.  It's hollow, eternally mad characters.  It's sophomoric, super-duper 2000's camera work and soundtrack.  Just see it.  I give it a solid B movie rating, and 2.5 stars.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Child's Play 2: Chucky's Back - 1990

No, I haven't "gone main stream" or anything like that.  Hey I have firmly established, I review whatever the fuck I want.  However, yes you are right if you are saying that I've had a small series of well known movies lately, that Friday the 13th movie, etc.  But I only reviewed that cause it was 1986, and as I stated I'm marathon-ing 1986 movies.  I'm not going to go out and watch all the Friday the 13th movies or anything.

I somehow convinced my wife to watch Child's Play with me like a week ago.  We have had two themes going in our movie watchings:  "late 90's early 2000's action movies" and "1980's classics".  Those are two awesome themes by the way, I highly recommend them.  Both are ripe with awful dialogue, awful clothes and styles, and the early 2000's action movies especially are super cheesy with their CGI attempts.  So we Googled 80's movie classics and Child's Play came up, and she'd seen it but only once, remembered it being "weird" and that was enough reason to rent it!

Seeing Child's Play again was great.  I reference it a lot on here, because I like killer doll movies, and it's not an overdone genre.  Chucky is "the" killer doll.  If you say killer doll, no matter what, people will think of him.  Puppet Master, though it has more films, became too horrible too fast, whereas Chucky at least had 3-4 decent enough movies before they turned awful.  And of course, see my reviews of Pinocchio's Revenge and Dolly Dearest.

Andy Barclay is back, the character from the first movie who surprised us all with a reminder of how good child actors can be.  In this he is asked to do a little bit more, and there are parts where it's not perfect and seems a little wooden, but overall he's very good in the film.  Now he is an orphan, his mom being in a mental hospital (!) and he's being sent to live with a new family.  Meanwhile, the toy company rebuilds Chucky for some unknown reason, and Chucky immediately comes alive again. Chucky resumes his hunt for Andy so that he can transfer his soul into Andy, and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake.

This is the classic approach of "take the original, erase the suspense, and replace it with blood and other over-the-top qualities".  It's not that I don't like the approach.  Think about it, you have basically only a few options.  You could have Andy be forgotten, the doll rebuilt, and given to another child....but we the audience already know the doll is evil and the suspense will be gone when we see it.  Or, you could have the doll rebuilt, given to Andy, and have him be all "unsure" if the doll is evil again...except it's the same problem, no suspension of disbelief for the audience.

Andy is trying his best to be a good kid, and living with the new family is tough.  Especially cause in the toy chest is another one of those Good Guys dolls, and seeing that goes about as well as you'd expect.  Andy teams up with another adoptee, Kyle, and they form a bond.  Andy will need it, because next thing you know, the doll in the toy chest isn't friendly little Tommy...

For what it is, this is a pretty decent follow up.  It's definitely not as good as the first one, and it tended to be a little bit more embarrassing too.  Watching it with my wife I felt a little dumb for recommending it.  It's not aged especially well.  But worse than that is the absence of black humor and the bizarre/weird factor that was in the first one.  The first one walked this line where it wasn't a direct horror movie, it was almost a mystery film, and then it suddenly took an extreme turn with the doll.  It's not that we as the audience were wondering if the doll was indeed alive, it's more just that it seems so extreme, over the top, and it's quite surprising to see just how alive the doll truly is.  It was near impossible to one up that in any sequel, but they do try, and that's what is hard to watch.

The best part about this movie is the end.  That was the most memorable part, and it will probably always stick with me.  I love it.  It's nearly a half hour long insane hunt through a doll factory.  It's over the top and ridiculous, and the effects are fucking over the top with how great they are.  The doll factory looks fucking awesome, and I won't spoil it if I say that Chucky's death scene(s) = goddamn entertaining.  So that gets it a full star.  Which I guess gives it a 3.5 star rating.


Monday, January 4, 2016

Robinson Crusoe on Mars - 1964

I haven't seen the new Ridley Scott film The Martian, so some of my guesses in this review are completely unfounded.  But then again, I've seen the trailer and I read the synopsis online, so I'm not completely naive to it's basic idea and plot.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars is another one of these films where the title is both the name of the movie and the plot.  In Robinson Crusoe, a man is deserted on a island with no other inhabitants.  He has to find a way to survive, get food and water and shelter.  In this movie, the main guy juggles his oxygen supply, food rations, etc, and in the meantime makes surprising discoveries about ways to survive an a lifeless alien world.  So then, is it just me, or is that not the same plot as the new film The Martian?

In the opening of RCoM, a human spaceship diverts it's course and the two men on board need to evacuate.  They are Chris Draper and Dan McReady, with Draper going out first in a escape pod, with Dan going to follow soon after.  Also on board is their monkey pet Mona, a regular small monkey they have for some reason or other.  Once Draper lands, he encounters a bleak, alien world.  The effects of the world were the first thing I noticed that was simply top notch.  It was a lot of forced perspective, a lot of stitching shots together, and a lot of front and back projection, but the planet looks absolutely awesome.  There's fire everywhere, and cool colors, and it looks extremely inhospitable.

Draper salvages what he can from the crash, and goes out to seek shelter from the random fire everywhere.  He finds a cave.  Also, huge problem number one, he almost immediately discovers there is oxygen on Mars, but it's very minimal and he needs to supplement with his supply.  He figures out that he has about 2 days of air and about 60 days of water.  In his first two days he needs to try to find McReady.  He soon finds where McReady crashed, but McReady is dead.  He does however find the monkey, Mona.  That situation resolved, he takes Mona home, and is about to run out of oxygen.  Slowly he discovers a way to get oxygen, then water, then food, then clothing, etc.  All of this happens in the first hour.  Then an hour in, he makes the discovery of other life on Mars.

This is where the film lost it's interest and it's cool factor in my opinion.  I would have been more than happy to see him struggling on the planet, with an ambiguous ending - hell, even some half thought out ridiculous ending of him getting rescued.  But noooooo.  He finds this alien race that has slaves, one of the slaves escapes, Draper names the slave Friday, and it essentially IS Robinson Crusoe without the religious nonsense.  That sucked.  I mean, I get that it's right there in the title.  But do we have to have every single aspect copied?  Yep, guess so.  So then it more becomes about these guys struggling together, and them escaping the aliens that come looking for Friday.

The movie isn't bad, it's just that it has a complete tone change and feels different from the first hour to the second.  The darkness is gone, the cool sci fi feel is sacrificed.  Maybe if I'd expected the appearance of Friday, I would've thought it different.  But I got my hopes up that maybe this was just a survival story without that other bullshit.  It was not.

But still, great effects, the alien ships are awesome, and good acting.  There were definitely some parts that didn't age well, as is bound to happen.  But generally I'd say this is a true classic.  It even has a Criterion release.  Classy.  I give it 4 stars.

Don't Open till Christmas - 1984

So I'm a little late with my Christmas movie entry here, and everyone knows that there are a ripe dozen or so Christmas horror movies to choose from, if that's your jam.  I was going to review, and still plan on reviewing Elves from 1989, as I think that's a far less known, and far more random a choice for a Christmas horror movie review.  Heck, I was even tempted to try and squeeze in New Years Evil in time for today, to throw that up on the site as well, but that is probably not going to happen.  What can I say, I was stereotypically busy during the past 10 or so days, and constantly with people.  People that, be it a blessing or a curse, don't want to see holiday themed horror films.

Black Christmas was a precursor to the entire slasher genre, the first real holiday themed horror movie, and the obvious influence behind this film.  It was remade in 2006, has a legacy, but more importantly for my purposes it spawned multiple awful rip-offs that started popping up around 1980.  Why we don't have holiday horror movies now, is anyone's guess.  Sure, every once in a while they come around, but I'm looking at like 6 in the span of 4 years in the 80's.  That musta been a great time to be alive.

Don't Open till Christmas isn't the typical type of Christmas horror movie, instead of putting it's killer in a Santa costume, it makes the killer someone who kills people in Santa costumes.  It's a world of difference, dammit.  But seriously, the killer is hunting down Santa's and virtually anyone that's wearing red and white.  This being a movie, basically everyone is celebrating Christmas by wearing red and white and wearing Santa costumes, and thus potential victims are on every street-corner.  I live in a fairly big city, and let me tell you I saw maybe one person a day (or less) who was all dressed up for holidays. Granted, this isn't 1984, and I'm not exactly a holiday person myself, but I'm just saying that in movies, it's always like EVERYONE celebrates big, dresses up, etc.

This movie is British, and filmed in England.  I mention that because I was just going to start this the paragraph with "Scotland Yard" and you'd be left drawing conclusions.  Scotland Yard is hot on the trail of the killer (well no, they're not, but they are trying to find the killer).  The Santa killer kills a guy at a peep show place, and so now one of the girls is a witness to the murder.  Which brings us to the other reason this movie was made:  a whole bunch of topless girls.

Let's just wrap things up early here.  The movie, for all the killing and all the topless girls, still isn't very good.  It feels like it's done very dryly, every performance is toned down and lifeless, and the atmosphere feels the same.  Most of the film we're just waiting for something cool to happen, and then when a kill happens or someone is topless, we just sit there thinking "is that what I was waiting for?"  Maybe it's the pacing, or maybe it's just the general inescapable feel of the movie.  Sure, cool stuff does happen.  But it somehow just didn't work for me.  I'll give it 3 stars though still, because the ingredients are there, and as a holiday horror movie it has a place.