Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Unknown Chinese VHS - 1998

I took a random walk through Chinatown the other day here in SF.  It's something I do at least once every couple months.  I like Chinatown, and I'll go to the stores or get dinner or whatever the case may be.  I get my haircuts there, cause they're cheap as fuck.  $6.  Anyways, I was stopped at the street corner when I smelled and saw someone's trash they'd dumped at the side of the street.  Not quite in the trashcan, there was a bunch of whatever all over.  Including several small stacks of VHS.

This being Chinatown, all the tapes were in Chinese.  I looked at two of them.  The first one had some sort of sticky red crap all over the VHS box, so I left it.  The second one seemed fine.  I stashed it in my bag, and I have absolutely no clue what's on it.  I'm going to upload pictures in hopes that my legions of teaming fans will translate it.

My guess is that it's either Chinese television programs that have been recorded from TV, either shown here in the states or back in China.  Second guess is that it's someone's legit home movies....a graduation, a wedding, you know the drill.  So, I'm going to give it a watch!  I'm writing this big intro and I'll post it, and then watch it probably on Thursday or something.  I also plan to be at least partially drunk when I watch it.  I'm going to hopefully give it a legit review...in my mind it's gonna be awesome, it's gonna be genuine ridiculous Chinese movies, and I'm going to be happy as fuck.  But it's probably gonna be seriously disappointing, if it even plays.  We will see.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Future Hunters - 1986

I just cannot get this review started.  You know reading this, if anyone ever has, doesn't capture the process.  It doesn't capture me, tired on a Monday morning, sitting at work and feeling depressed, as I wonder "what the fuck happened in Future Hunters, anyway?"  I know you know that.  I know this isn't like, a portrait of me as a person.  But it's funny cause these are my thoughts, this is ME, and yet anyone who ever read it would never know that, cause they don't know me.

Anyways, that was my introspective moment there.  Future Hunters stars Robert Patrick.  In the plot, the spear that killed Jesus is rescued in the future by a guy who then must go back in time to save the world with the spear.  Kind of similar to Terminator, but before Robert Patrick was in T2, so this does get some credit.  This guy passes the spear off to Robert Patrick and Linda Carol, the two stars of the film, and then it's on them to care for the thing and save the world.
The music was pretty cool too.  Actually, you know, this movie was pretty good.  It's your regular action adventure film, these two are pretty good in the roles, and the action is decent.  About 15 minutes of it coulda been edited out, and the ending coulda made more sense, but hey, I'll take it for what it was.  Robert Patrick is a good antihero, and the girl (who really didn't do many films) was not bad at all.

This film was directed by Filipino schlock hero Cirio H. Santiago, best known for blaxploitation films like TNT Jackson.  He's directed a pretty big handful of low budget, easy to digest action movies that range from yawn-inducing to decently entertaining, and this is somewhere over in the decently entertaining side of things.  This may be the first of his films I've reviewed on the blog.  File that under "reviewed because of Sci Fi Invasion boxset".

As I said, a bit overly long and the ending got weird with Amazon women and all sorts of other dumb shit, but it was still okay.  It felt ahead of it's time, with obvious similarities to Terminator. Terminator meets Indiana Jones, basically.  It was likable and weird enough to appeal to a large audience.  I give it 3 stars.

Friday, July 22, 2016

She Wolves of the Wasteland - 1988

Persis Khambatta had a short career, made even shorter perhaps by her death at age 49.  She is best known from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, where she plays the bald alien Ilia.  I first noticed her in Star Trek, where she is a creepy and very prominent character.  It takes a lot to be cast in a Star Trek movie and to stand out despite not being part of the regular cast of Shatner et all.

It's kinda funny because the rest of her roles are basically B movie haven, with made for TV flicks and films such as Warrior of the Lost World, Megaforce, and some second rate Stallone feature.  This one, She Wolves of the Wasteland (also known as Phoenix the Warrior) is no better than those.  She Wolves is your average rip off of Conan the Barbarian with a female cast much like the recently reviewed Hundra.  Toss in some Mad Max and some Hell Comes to Frog Town and that's basically She Wolves.

Let's combine the elements here:  post-apocalypse like Mad Max, but in this apocalypse there are not as many cars and badasses wearing leather, instead the world has regressed to a caveman era of technology, and the nuclear holocaust has caused the male population to almost die out completely.  Much like Hell Comes to Frog Town, the plot line is in search of a fertile male to which they can repopulate the world.  So main good girl Phoenix and her small group of females is pursued by evil clan leader Cobalt played by Persis Khambatta.

I was extremely surprised to find out just now that lead actress Kathleen Kinmont had a long and continuing career as an actress: she comes off in this like she is awful and has no clue what she's doing.  But then again so does everyone else.  Based on this movie I would think no one in it had been in anything else, as well as I'd think the director was some high school gym teacher who decided to make a movie.  Persis Khambatta appears to be attempting to ham it up but instead just comes off as overacting, really awful, and completely ridiculous.  So, the problems with this aren't singular.

The DVD I watched was definitely sourced from a VHS as well.  I can't imagine why you'd put the VHS as it is directly onto the DVD without cleaning it up in some way.  This must've been a very early DVD, when people were still confused by "the black bars on the screen" and they didn't expect things like higher quality or a variety of special features.  It's even got the signature soundtrack fuck ups that are well known and associated with VHS,

All that considered, it sounds like the sort of thing I'd like, right?  Campy and low budget, ripoff, VHS style.  Yet, I didn't really like it.  I dunno why per say, but it felt like it was just TOO bad.  Like, nothing in it went right and instead of being fun for that reason, it was instead dull for that reason.  The action is subdued and the plot is thin. Basically it holds no strict entertainment value.  But the music, the locations and the effort is still there, and others might like this more.  Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for it. It does have about 3 minutes of some topless girls too.  But not even much skin, it's like just enough to get the skin in, but not so much where they'd have to edit it a lot to show it on TV.

Eh, whatever.  I give it a 2.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Welcome to Blood City - 1977

Okay, so this is another Sci Fi Invasion boxset streak I'm on right now aside from God Told Me To, this one is a sort of western sci fi clearly inspired by Westworld.  Keir Dullea from 2001: A Space Odyssey stars as Lewis in this very bizarre, but very ahead of it's time film.

It started in a way that made me super excited too.  Keir Dullea and a bunch of people wake up in this nowhere town with no memories of anything, who they are or where they came from etc.  Soon enough it appears there are some masterminds behind the scenes who are controlling things, and altering things in a god like way.  The Supervisor is a evil main villain who twists things to his desires, and that directly effects the players in this wild west world.  Jack Palance fills out the cast, and here's what's cool: due to the change in the scenarios, he doesn't stay evil for once!

So, this review will make more sense if you've seen the 2012 movie The Cabin in the Woods.  In that, there's the teenagers at the cabin, but then behind the scenes there's Richard Jenkins and co who are controlling what happens at the cabin.  So take that idea, but imagine if they could also change the characters themselves.  They decide to turn one guy evil.  They decide that two characters need to have a fight.  Etc.  Then, you also have a few actors playing different parts, which I genuinely didn't notice until the end.  It's a very interesting twist to a otherwise very regular film.

But that's all it takes.  The Cabin in the Woods may be one of the most innovative and entirely 'new' films to come out in a long time, and this movie made me think of it a LOT.  I wish other movies would do this.  It doesn't take a lot to twist a fairly stale genre.  As readers of Shakespeare will know, he did it in his plays from time to time.  He'd have characters remark, either to themselves or whatever, about the situation they were in and twist things.  Or he'd have a character of a god come in and tell the audience:  look, this is what I'm going to do, let's see how the character reacts.

There is not a problem with a bit of nontraditional plot telling.  To break down that barrier, become a bit self aware, and to remark on your own legacy as a storyteller, that is a great idea.  This movie did that, as does The Cabin in the Woods.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say I liked this a lot more than Westworld.  Westworld to me was one of those movies that has a fantastic premise, but in the end it's just a average slow paced sci fi film with a western setting.  Yul Brynner is cool and all, but I like Keir Dullea and Jack Palance way more.

It had some times where it was confusing, it probably could've used some more fleshing out and a better script, but it was a great start.  The quality sucks too, as the pan and scan was apparently performed by a retarded chimpanzee.  Most of the shots that are close up, you can't see a characters whole face, or body, or whatever.  If this were on a good unaltered version, I bet it would be a classic film.

So for having tons of potential, making me think, despite the flaws, I give it 3.5 stars.

Friday, July 8, 2016

God Told Me To - 1976

Shots ring out, bodies fall in the streets.  High above a lone shooter, an average man with a sniper rifle.   A man who never hurt a fly, and who had never fired a gun - less so one that wasn't even sighted correctly - and yet he kills 14 people.  His last words before he jumps to his death: "God told me to."

Way back when I was initially adding movies to my lists based on nothing more that "oh it's directed by so-and-so" I watched and reviewed the movie Q directed by Larry Cohen.  That movie had been one I'd wanted to see a long time, and I added God Told Me To later because it was also directed by Larry Cohen, and sounded cool.  I just wanted to frame that in your mind, cause it's been over a year since I watched Q and yet this movie felt remarkably similar in setup.

I have to take a break here really quick because I just looked at the trivia for this movie on IMDb.  One thought that went through my head while I watched this one was, "This movie could be an awesome vehicle for a remake if they did it right."  It's not something I tend to think of a lot, because I fuckin hate remakes usually, but this movie has all the right ingredients.  Anyways, turns out that it was going to be remade at one point - by French director Gaspar Noe.  Holy fucking shit that would be the best goddamn movie ever.  Noe, who did Irreversible and Enter the Void, taking on a god themed horror mystery, would be a fucking godsend to me.

Okay, let's go to plot.  Police detective Peter is on the scene for the first part of the movie I described with the sniper.  He hears the man's words, and this is after he talked to the guy and confirmed he's just a normal dude like us who happened to kill a buncha people.  Then, Peter starts to encounter people all over who are committing murders and saying that god told them to do it.  Often, it is the last thing they'll say before they themselves die. Peter is the only one who seems to think this phrase of "God told me to" is a real connection, so he's left to investigate.

This movie legitimately made me think for once while I was watching it.  It's got a twist in it, one that I sorta saw coming, but then it twists another way to make me think I was wrong.  Right about when I was thinking of the plot holes that would exist if I was wrong, it all made sense with the ending.  Without being too specific, I hope you know what I mean.  It made me think one thing, then another, then yet another.  In other words, it is well done.

Most of the twists happen, most of the movie happens, through dialogue, as you may know if you are familiar with how movies generally worked in the 70's.  It's not a dialogue heavy movie per-say, but there a lot of important pieces in there, and you generally should pay attention.  So this is not the cult type, smoky or drinky type of movie.

The acting by Tony Lo Bianco as the lead man was really good.  He is a tough, determined cop and yet very accessible and the things he does make sense.  It's also a great, realistic and yet still a movie worthy idea.  Real life and fiction cross over here as people DO say and do these types of things.  Killers swear they were told by god to do it, they claim the devil is inside of them, etc etc.  Why not make a movie wherein maybe, just maybe, someone actually followed that as a lead and took those types of 'clues' to the next level?

For intriguing me and having a cool original idea, I give this movie 4 stars.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Trapped By Television - 1936

This movie was a quick winner of one of my most difficult ones to watch and understand.  I should first of all state that I thought it had a way different plot from the plot it had, and that I didn't watch it in one sitting.  And that I equally don't feel like writing reviews right now.  But Sci Fi Invasion boxset implores I do.

Trapped By Television is NOT the film in which people become trapped in a TV.  This is instead some boring drama about a sciency guy that invents some gizmo and then the different people that want at the thing for their own reasons.  He takes the gizmo to these other scientists and they understand it and wanna market it but in the meantime the evil doers also want to capture the invention and use it for their own nefarious purposes.  I love that word, nefarious.

It was pretty slow and hum-dum, but it won't kill you.  It felt very dated, and the whole plot setup was so straight forward it was actually hard to watch and take seriously.  That's why I say difficult in my opening line.  I kept expecting more, and then being sadly disappointed when nothing happened.  In a modern take on this, a whole shitload more would happen in the story.

I can't hate on it too much, but I also can't think of any reason why most people would watch it.  Features bad acting, a bad script, and a idea that's been done a lot, so....enjoy?

Mission Stardust - 1967

I watched the beginning of Mission Stardust twice, I will say, but the first time was a mix of drunk and tired and I hardly remembered jack shit.  This is of course, since it's the only way to get me to write, going back to the Sci Fi Invasion boxset.  I write this down because later when I try to accumulate all these, I'll just search for that word and that'll help me sort them out.

Mission Stardust is your very average by-the-books alien sci fi movie, with a stiff astronaut and a would-be strong female character.  It felt Corman-esque in some ways, though IMDb doesn't mention him.

Slab of beefcake Perry Rhodan and a couple of other astronauts are on the moon, and they discover that a alien race has landed there.  They are led by beautiful and cunning Thora.  Their race is on the brink of extinction due to lack of genetic material, and thus Perry thinks he can probably bone a hot alien girl.  Thora is typically catty about being pursued in this way, and remarks constantly about how much better than him she is.  That might be kinda cool in bed, now that I think about it.

There is a long sequence where all the aliens and astronauts some to Earth, and the aliens demonstrate their power in an almost slapstick sequence of events.  There is a military unit (apparently the military has all of 8 guys in it) that interacts with the aliens a few times, as the aliens demonstrate their invisible force wall and then later their anti gravity gun thing.

In short, this movie was pretty dull and low-level entertainment, but it might provide a chuckle or maybe some vague sort of entertainment if you're high as a kite.  I don't wanna give it too much or too little credit, suffice to say it's extremely average, and leave it at that.