Wednesday, May 31, 2017

There's Nothing Out There - 1991

The IMDb plot summary of this movie reads: "When a horror film buff tries to warn his friends of impending danger during March Break, they scoff at him, that is, until sinister things begin to happen."  Sound familiar?  Cause to me it sounds sort of like Scream.  Wes Craven is a genius obviously, but I do wonder what would've happened if this film had perhaps a tiny bit more talent behind it or any known name.

There's Nothing Out There (TNOT) plays out like a version of Scream that's about 45% sillier, and 100% more amateur.  This movie has, instead of ghostface killer, a weird mutant tadpole monster that I honestly don't think was ever explained.

It's the classic plotline as lampooned by The Cabin In The Woods.  Seven friends in an isolated cabin and one of them is a horror film aficionado.  They go through the typical bullshit as the wary horror film friend forewarns about the impending doom.  This was all well and good until there was an actual part where one of the characters is trying to escape the monster in the film, then suddenly a boom mic is visible.  The character sees it and actually grabs it and swings on it to escape the creature.  If that's not breaking the fourth wall, I don't know what is.

So it's incredibly self aware (at times) and it is basically a comedy in those ways wherein it glorifies it's "cleverness" and also it's "self awareness".  These things combined would not only make it a precursor to Scream, but the entire horror genre circa 2017.  I am trying to say that this is basically how a lot of horror films now are, especially low budget independent ones.  They are self aware as fuck, they have their intentions visible from scene one, and they make their characters and plot and everything secondary to that.

This film does follow that formula, hell one could say this film is the definition of that formula.  And I have to say, as impressive as that is, the novelty wore down.  The first 45 minutes I was pretty optimistic, and I wanted to like this and give it a great review.  In time, it wore out it's welcome and I was pretty bored.  The problem was that even with tits, monsters, originality, etc, this movie never felt like it was that interesting.  It just sort of kept going, and instead of being interested, I was bored and antsy.  That and I drank too much in the beginning so I was pretty drunk.

So I will admit that perhaps my short attention span was due to being drunk, but I doubt I missed out on much.  I'll give it 3 stars, and I'll scratch it off my list.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Strike Commando - 1987

Back to back with two of the most infamously bad directors.  Godfrey Ho represented China, and now Bruno Mattei represents Italy.  Bruno Mattei is known for the Z grade of action film which this film represents perfectly, and it also stars Reb Brown of Space Mutiny fame.  I've touched on Bruno Mattei with the fun Terminator and Aliens rip off Shocking Dark as well as the other type of film he's known for, sleazefest exploitation films like Women's Prison Massacre.

Strike Commando is sort of like your average run of the mill actioner that is set in the Vietnam war.  Reb Brown stars as the incredibly dull, completely undeveloped good guy who needs to find out the hidden link between Russia and Vietnam.  He is given permission to investigate this in his own method, which means no team and no pesky commanders.  But then once he gets captured, it means no help is coming either.

The capture scene and escape was reminiscent of The Deer Hunter, but the movie this really ripped off was Rambo part 2.  In part two, Rambo was sent to Vietnam by a bunch of uncaring diplomats that turned their back on him once he was out the door.  If Deer Hunter is first rate (which it is) and if Rambo 2 was second rate (sure, that works), then that puts Strike Commando probably in....6th rate.  Yeah, this movie was not "good" in any sense.

Doing about 5 minutes of research just now, I found something kind of odd.  Reb Brown was mostly an action film star, nothing weird about that.  However, it's funny cause all of his action movies are based around Vietnam.  Now, I know there's nothing really odd about that, he was the right age and all.  It's just funny to me that one actor would end up getting cast as a Vietnam-era soldier multiple times.  He must've felt at the end like he practically did go to Vietnam.  He probably spent more time on the sets of movies about Vietnam then some actual soldiers spent in Vietnam.

All side tracking aside, this movie was not good.  It was the sort of movie that makes you watch, you don't get side tracked as easily as some other films, however I kept wondering how much was left, and I kept noticing how second rate everything was.  Reb Brown makes a really uninteresting star also.  It's no wonder he never "took off" as a star.  Being Captain America in the 70's and acting in one movie with Gene Hackman are no doubt his career highlights, and I am not surprised in any way.

The film was made in the Philippians, and the scenery is nice.  It would look better on a high transfer DVD instead of Amazon Prime, but hey I take what I get.  According to the 2 minutes of research I just did, this is not available on DVD at all, which would not be surprising since it's public domain no doubt and I'm sure no one gives a shit about it in any way shape or form.

I give it a subpar film, Z grade in intention 2.5 stars.  It was actually not all that bad.  Good riff fodder probably.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Crocodile Fury - 1988

There's a natural allure to Godfrey Ho movies that I cannot explain, and that I sometimes wonder about the sanity of people everywhere because of.  I went out in SF last night, to our local Alamo Drafthouse theater, and caught this in a tiny theater, and I was one of 40 people there.  This is one of those infamous "dice and splice" movies that Ho is known for.  Take several scenes from movie A, and randomly cut in movie B, and act like it goes together.

Another point in the plus category for this movie is that it has literally zero information on IMDb.  The director and one actor is listed, and that is the extent of information they have about this, apparently.  I'm half inclined to go on there and list the "plot" but I like the blank, anonymous look of the page too much to alter it.

So, since you can't get it from IMDb, here it is in my words:  Maria is a crocodile.  Or, I should say, Maria can turn into a crocodile.  She is in a small village, casually killing dozens of people, when her lover Jack finds her and tells her she must stop.  How will they live together in the next life if she dirties her karma with dozens of killings?  Maria is one of several crocodile/human hybrids sent by witch master Monica.  Monica also has the traditional hopping vampire at her disposal, and it's up to Jack to stop her.

This movie was completely incomprehensible.  I don't mean that as an insult, nor do I mean it as an over-exaggeration.  Seriously, this movie made no fucking sense.  First of all, it's a Chinese movie with English dubbing and Greek subtitles.  The only known DVD version permanently has Greek subtitles, just in case, you know, you're Greek.  So it's another situation where, who knows if the original Chinese made sense (or the Greek subtitles, for that matter), but the English certainly doesn't.  It's pretty near impossible to follow the story lines, there are tons of names being thrown out, and honestly I didn't know who half the characters were.

Going into this, it's like watching the aftermath of a tornado.  Especially if it was a town you'd never been to that got hit by a tornado.  You wouldn't know what it was supposed to look like originally.  An entire water tower or something could've been ripped out of the place, and you wouldn't know cause you had never seen the water tower there.  Half of buildings would be missing, but you'd only be able to guess what it originally had looked like.  It's like looking at a half finished painting.  And especially, an abstract painting.  Something that was by definition random and at the discretion of the artist.

Let me see here.  I dunno.  I want to try and explain more about how exactly little sense this movie makes, but just thinking about it gives me a headache.  It's not terrible, it's just that it gets tedious watching something, even at only 85 minutes long, when you have no clue what's happening, why, and where it's all going.  There's like, a fight scene or two, there's crocodile puppets flying through the air, there's bad acting and dialogue, stuff happens, and then randomly the words The End, and you're wondering, "Wait it's over?!  What the fuck happened in that movie?!"

The ending was abrupt, and I was glad that I wasn't the only one in the theater to think this.  It feels like this movie could've kept going forever, not that I was enjoying it, but, just because there was never a semblance of plot and they just randomly decided to end it at one point.  So in the spirit of that,

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Oh, God! - 1977

This is perhaps my first and only review of a movie I watched based solely on the internet show On Cinema At The Cinema.  I watched season seven or whatever it was when Gregg Turkington did a bunch of location shooting for the film Oh, God!  I decided shortly thereafter that I should watch the movie, based solely upon the fact that Gregg likes the movie both in character and in person.

The movie is actually awesome despite it sort of being lampooned on On Cinema, and it has aged. This movie is one of those that's got a really interesting, inquisitive nature about the world and then dresses it up in comedy.  I completely love the idea of taking serious topics and turning them into comedy.  If we can't laugh at the nature of life, ourselves, our beliefs, and the world then what in the hell can we laugh at anyways?  This movie was not laugh out loud funny, but more of a quiet, bizarre comedy.

Jerry Landers is a completely normal guy, assistant manager at a local grocery store and a firm agnostic.  He one day gets a letter that says that God wants to meet him at a building at a specific time.  He reluctantly goes after extenuating circumstances, and meets George Burns as God.  God is a somewhat grouchy older man, who gives a lot of non-answers but makes a certain type of sense in an aloof, disconnected sort of way.  He also does prove himself to Jerry's satisfaction, and he tells Jerry that he must spread God's word, much like Jesus or Moses.

The best part of this movie though, for me, was to try and imagine myself in these circumstances.  It's funny, because I've been agnostic all my life, and I basically don't think about death, life after death, god, satan, the whole situation.  And I know there are people out there, right now, every day, who swear up and down, on lie detectors and the whole deal, that they have seen or spoke to god.  So what motivates these people, and I guess when it comes down to it, how do we know if someone has ever actually seen god.  More importantly, what would we do as individuals if we saw god, if god asked us to spread his word?  It was a fun question that was addressed in a refreshingly non-religious sort of way.

This movie was highly entertaining, and it's easy to see why sequels were made.  I think it's interesting in a bizarre way that it seems people who claim to see god are labeled as crazy, at least in my book.  I always wonder about what actually convinces these people they've seen him, and one can only guess and wonder.  It's a topic that I think people don't think about or talk about enough.

But still, this movie remains casually aloof from the whole thing.  It's not out to convert anyone, and it addresses the whole thing in such a way where all the question and answer sections are good enough to appease anyone, and to where some questions are wisely avoided.  Basically it says the reason for existence is what we make it, we believe what we want, and as long as we're good to each other we are following god's plan.  I think that's a nice message anyone could get behind.

John Denver as Jerry was a weird casting choice, but he works I guess.  George Burns is fantastic as God, and the rest of the cast is good.  It's a solidly entertaining flick that surprised me with how much I liked it.  4 stars.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Reptilicus - 1961

In case you've been living under a rock or you've been wondering where da fuck I been at, the new season on Mystery Science Theater 3000 launched on Netflix pretty recently.  I've been watching that in my spare time, and I also got into watching actual good movies too, lately, again.  I watched the movie The Fly from 1958, a definitely 5 star, 5 bag of popcorn treat that I loved.

But back to MST3K, I'm not going to go into the new episodes too much, but one movie they riffed which I'd also seen recently-ish was Reptilicus.  Reptilicus was the Danish answer to the recent hit Godzilla, a giant monster movie that was made to capitalize off of it's success.  This was quite the fun movie for me to see, as I'm always up for a giant monster and destruction of that sort.

From everything I can find, it doesn't look like this was ever in 3D, but there are several parts where giants monster goo comes flying at the screen, so that's kinda cool.  Sorry, sort of a random thought there.  I'm super fucking hung over today.  I didn't even drink that much.  I just had like a shot and a beer at night!  What the fuck.  I did drink all day, obviously, but towards the night I was sobering up and barely had any at all!  Fucking body.  Thanks a bunch.

Back to Reptilicus, this is one of those slow developing films.  In the beginning, a group of guys find a giant frozen reptile tail.  A scientist accidentally leaves the freezer door open and falls asleep, and the tail thaws out over night.  Then it starts regenerating, growing, and all that good stuff.  Soon enough, all of Denmark is up shit creek as a monster starts crushing buildings and spitting green acid goo all over the place.

This was the first episode of the revamped MST3K show, and as an episode it's pretty solid.  The movie is for sure one that could be riffed and enjoyed, it's pretty perfect for that sort of treatment.  As a movie aside from that experience, it's decent.  It's a bit clunky and forced, but it's good to see another take on the Godzilla idea, and the monster is pretty cool looking.  I'll also say that it doesn't feel quite as old as it is.  I guessed it was in the 70's when I was writing the title above.  So, that's pretty cool.

It's entertaining enough, nothing too memorable or awesome or anything.  A very average 3 stars.