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QUIET DAYS IN CLICHY (1970) **

Joey (Paul Valjean) is a writer living in Clichy who, along with his horny roommate Carl (Wayne Rodda), roams around the city picking up girls (mostly prostitutes) and bring them back to their place to fuck. One day Joey picks up a nice girl named Nys (Ulla Lemvigh-Muller), who isn’t like the skanks he normally goes for. Naturally, Joey falls for her. That still doesn't stop him from fucking dozens of other women though.

Quiet Days in Clichy was based on a novel by Henry Miller and it does an admirable job to keep Miller’s prose intact (at least early on) by projecting it as on screen text during the action. Like the screen adaptation of Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, the movie shows an affinity for the word “cunt” and uses it quite a lot. (“It has been a period when cunt was in the air.”) There’s even a scene where the C-Word is written all over still shots of Paris. (I bet that would make a heck of a postcard.)

The film starts off okay as the two horny roommates find and bed a bevy of women. Pretty soon it becomes apparent the flick isn’t going to offer the audience much more than that. It quickly devolves into scene after scene of random people fucking (including one near-hardcore scene), and none of it is exactly titillating.

Now, I'm all for a bunch of random fucking, but I have to be brutally honest when I say that the girls featured in the film just aren't very hot. In the interest of fairness, it must be said the guys are even uglier, which doesn’t help at all. (How they could land so many chicks remains to be seen.) To see them coupling every five minutes or so gets monotonous after a while. It also doesn’t help that the conclusion is as arbitrary as it is unsatisfying.

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GHETTO BLASTER (1990) **

Richard Hatch returns home from the Army to find his city is being overrun by a dangerous Latino gang known as “The Hammers”. Hatch’s father (R.G. Armstrong) is killed soon after by The Hammers when he refuses to pay them protection money. When it becomes apparent that cop Richard Jaeckel isn’t going to do anything, Hatch takes the law into his own hands and sets out to get revenge on The Hammers.

Ghetto Blaster is a fairly ordinary vigilante vs. gangbanger movie, but there are a handful of moments that stand out. The first bit is when the gang members not only burn an old man alive, but his cat too. That’s some pretty coldblooded shit right there. Another cool bit is when Hatch rigs a mousetrap lined with razor blades to slice up a gangbanger’s hand. Hatch also plants a bomb in a bad guy’s boombox, which causes it to blow up!

The best part though is when Hatch disguises himself as a clown to botch the gang’s drug deal. Not only that, but he makes his getaway on a motorcycle! I can’t say I remember the last time I saw an urban vigilante dressed as a clown riding a motorcycle in a movie, but there’s probably a reason why I’ve only seen it once.

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Other than those brief moments of random nuttiness, Ghetto Blaster is fairly routine. Even though it only runs 81 minutes, there are several lulls in between the good stuff. The dramatic scenes are perfunctory and Hatch makes for a bland leading man. You also have to put up with a lot of annoying transition scenes that employ rapid-fire editing set to the tune of some thoroughly awful hip hop music every five minutes or so. Because of the brief running time, I’m guessing they were only there to pad things out, but they get damned irritating after a while.

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FINAL SCORE (1986) ****

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When you think of the all-time great action heroes, some names automatically come to mind. John Rambo. John Matrix. Paul Kersey. Dalton. Well, you might want to go ahead and add Richard Brown to that list.

If you’ve never heard of Final Score, allow me to sing its praises. If you see only one thirty-year-old action film this year, it has to be this one. Not only is Final Score Chris Mitchum’s finest 86 minutes, it’s also probably the best Indonesian action movie ever made.

Mr. Hawk (Mike Abbott) is a slimy CEO who wants to create “Silicon Valley 2” in Indonesia. Of course, the only man standing in his way is Richard Brown (Chris Mitchum), an American businessman living in Indonesia with his family. He doesn’t cave in to Mr. Hawk’s threats, so he sends his goons to murder Brown’s son and gang rape his wife. When Brown returns home and finds his family dead, he wages a one-man war on Mr. Hawk.

What follows is one of the most insane vigilante quests for justice ever seen on the screen. Imagine Death Wish Meets Commando, but in Indonesia and that might give you a clue to what we’re talking about here. Director Arizal (he just needs one name, like Madonna) fills the screen with non-stop action, gunfights, explosions, car chases, and clever death scenes.

Seriously, there is no fat whatsoever on this puppy. The last seventy minutes of the film is nothing more than Mitchum entering a building by killing dozens of guards before blowing everything up. He then crosses a name off his kill list and moves on to the next guy. If the AFI made a list of movies in which the hero sneaks up behind a guard and kills them, this would be Number One.

Warehouses, houses, mansions, grass huts, cars, boats, jeeps, shacks, and helicopters all get blown to smithereens in the course of the running time. My favorite explosion might have been when Mitchum plants a bomb on a bad guy’s crotch. I bet you John Matrix wishes he thought of that one.

That just goes to show you what a badass Chris Mitchum is. He takes a page from all the others that have come before him and puts his own spin on it. Remember Chuck Norris’ motorcycle from The Delta Force that was equipped with rocket launchers? Well, Mitchum has those on his bike too. If you can believe it, he actually one-ups Chuck by having a machine gun mounted to the front of the bike for even more firepower. I know everyone is obsessed with how much of a badass Chuck Norris is, but I think Chris Mitchum could take him, at least in this movie anyway.

Like the best action heroes, he also has an awesome arsenal of one-liners. Lines like “Happy Birthday” and “Sit down and relax” might not seem very funny when I say them, but wait until you see Mitchum say them in their proper context in the movie. His deadpan delivery alone is good for a laugh.

If you love action as much as I do and you still haven’t seen this one yet, I implore you to drop whatever it is you’re doing and seek this one out.

AKA: Strike Commando.

Ty and Brett also have a rave review of the film over at Comeuppance Reviews: http://www.comeuppancereviews.com/2014/12/final-score-1986.html

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Before the main attraction, we are treated to a nifty trailer for Evil Eye starring John Saxon; then the movie begins.

A scientist finds an egg while on an expedition and lets his nephew and his friends have it. He takes it to school with him and it hatches in his desk. A baby dinosaur monster emerges from the egg and the kid names it “Beauty”. He hides Beauty in his room and continues to feed it. Eventually, the monster gets so big that the kids have to hide it in the community swimming pool. The kids tell their uncle about the creature and he agrees to help them take it back to its own country. Meanwhile, a couple of enterprising showmen get wind of the monster and plan to steal it and put it in their show.

The Monster of Highgate Ponds is nothing more than a low budget British kid’s movie. As far as these things go, it’s not bad at all really, all things considered. I can’t say I’ll want to watch it again anytime soon, but I’m glad I saw it (well, at least once).

The monster is easily the best thing about the movie. A variety of methods were used to bring it to life. Stop motion animation is employed during the scenes when it’s a little baby. Although it is crude and low-tech (sometimes it’s just a lifeless toy in long shots), it’s still rather charming. When it gets bigger, it becomes an obvious hand puppet, and when it reaches full size, it’s a cleverly hidden man-in-suit monster. (It even blows smoke through its nostrils.)

The scenes of the kids caring for the monster are not unlike E.T. Even the cute scenes of it hatching (it calls the little boy “mama”) are fun to watch because of the cheap effects. The scenes of the monster interacting with adults are less successful. Mostly, whenever someone encounters the monster, they run away in fast motion, which isn’t very funny. The stuff with the two bumbling villains is pretty worthless too.

Despite its flaws, The Monster of Highgate Pond is less than an hour long and moves along at an acceptable enough pace, so it’s hard to hate it or anything. Although it looks like a no-budget homegrown production, it was actually directed by Alberto Cavalcanti, who also directed the awesome Ventriloquist’s Dummy segment from Dead of Night. While there’s nothing here to suggest any of the atmospheric thrills he brought to that film, it’s harmless and enjoyable for the most part.

Next time on It Came from the Thrift Store: Death Ray!

FIRST FAMILY (1980) ** ½

Bob Newhart stars as the President who welcomes an ambassador from an African nation (Julius Harris from Live and Let Die) to The White House. When the ambassador offers the President a trip to his country, he initially refuses, but once he learns of its rich natural resources, he decides to go there with his wife (Madeline Kahn) and virginal daughter (Gilda Radner) in tow. Things get complicated when the President’s daughter is kidnapped and used in a native fertility ritual.

First Family was written and directed by Buck Henry. In addition to Newhart, Kahn, and Radner, it features Harvey Korman, Fred Willard, Rip Torn, and Richard Benjamin as members of Newhart’s staff. If that isn’t enough to make you want to see it, I don’t know what will. Sadly, it never really reaches its comic potential.

There are a handful of laughs here and there, but with this cast and Henry at the helm, it should’ve been a home run. Although it never really fires on all cylinders, it remains fitfully amusing and is truth be told, harmless fun. The bare bones for a great movie are there. You just wish Henry had bothered to add some satire into the mix instead of a lot of sitcom-level shenanigans.

Newhart basically just does a low key variation on his usual persona. That’s fine and all, but it would’ve been nice is he had a real character to play. Kahn is also funny as Newhart’s drunken wife, although she is underutilized. Gilda gets the most laughs as Newhart’s sex-starved daughter. Whenever she’s on screen, things perk up considerably.

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CYBER MONDAY MADNESS

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As some of you may have already known, my book, Double Vision: Hollywood vs. Hollywood has been included on Quint’s Holiday Gift Guide over at Ain’t It Cool News. Since I have been going to Ain’t It Cool for movie news and reviews ever since I knew how to use a computer, not to mention the fact that I am a big fan of Quint’s work, this is a huge honor for me. If you want to check out the coolness for yourself (just in time for Cyber Monday), you can use this link: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/76798

Double Vision: Hollywood vs. Hollywood is also on the Film Geek Gift Guide at Rupert Pupkin Speaks. This is another great honor. I have had the privilege to contribute to Rupert Pupkin Speaks on several occasions and if you’re looking for a website that celebrates and cultivates love for film, there are few finer. Here is a link to the Geek Gift Guide: http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2016/11/ruperts-film-geek-gift-guide-2016-part.html

As an additional note, I also contributed a review of Skateboard: The Movie to Exploitation Retrospect for their VHS Wednesday column. In all the holiday hubbub, I forgot to mention it. So if you want to check out my review, head on over to their site: http://eronline.blogspot.com/2016/11/vhs-wednesday-skateboard-1978-with-leif.html

Also, if you still haven’t picked up a copy of my latest book, Revenge of the Video Vacuum, you can do so here: http://www.amazon.com/Revenge-Video-Vacuum-Mitch-Lovell/dp/1519142331/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480222543&sr=1-1&keywords=mitch+lovell

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Happy Cyber Monday shopping!

NIGHT OF THE RUNNING MAN (1995) **

Andrew McCarthy stars as a goateed Maalox-drinking Vegas taxi driver who picks up a guy from a casino. He’s being chased by some thugs, and McCarthy doesn’t want to get involved, which leads to his fare being murdered soon after leaving his cab. After the incident, he discovers the guy left a briefcase full of money in the backseat and Andrew takes the loot and goes on the run. The money actually belongs to casino owner Wayne Newton, who hires hitman Scott Glenn to kill McCarthy and bring the money back. Meanwhile, Andrew tries to lay low in L.A., but winds up getting kidnapped and tortured by Glenn’s buddy (John Glover), who expects a cut of the money. Of course, Glenn wants the money for himself and is more than willing to dispose of anyone who gets in his way.

Night of the Running Man is a ho-hum cat-and-mouse thriller. Although it gets off to a good start, the pacing gets increasingly sluggish as it goes along. McCarthy’s sudden romance with a nurse in third act happens too late in the game for it to make much of an impact. If anything, this unnecessary plot development only succeeds in further bogging things down.

I guess I wouldn’t have been so disappointed in the film if it wasn’t directed by the great Mark L. (Commando) Lester. While it does have its moments (like when McCarthy’s feet are scalded in boiling water so he won’t run away), it lacks the piss and vinegar of his best work. The climax (which takes place in a dark basement) is also lackluster, and Glenn’s final comeuppance is much too abrupt to be truly satisfying.

McCarthy gives an OK performance as he unsuccessfully tries to shed his Brat Pack image. Despite the fact that he hides himself under long hair and a goatee, he at all times remains Andrew McCarthy… except with long hair and a goatee. He’s not bad or anything, but it would’ve helped if he had a better realized character to play.

Glenn fares much better as the soft-spoken ruthless killer. He gets a great scene where he blinds a mugger who is stupid enough to try to hold him up. When the dumbass screams that he can’t see, Glenn growls, “Buy a dog!” As great as his performance is, I could’ve done without seeing him participate in an elongated sex scene, complete with a gratuitous shot of Glenn’s butt. (Not to be outdone, McCarthy also gets an unnecessary sex scene, but at least we are spared the sight of his rump.)

Glover is fun to watch as Glenn’s slimy associate. They have some good scenes together, enough to make you wish that Glover had a bigger role. Of course, any time Wayne Newton appears on celluloid, it’s a cause for celebration. Like Glover, you wish he had more screen time, but since I’m sure they probably had to film his scenes quickly while he was on his downtime from doing his Vegas act, it’s easily forgiven.

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ARMY OF ONE (2016) **

Army of One is based on the improbable but true story of Gary Faulkner (Nicolas Cage), a man who traveled to Pakistan on a one-man mission to kill Osama Bin Laden armed with only a samurai sword because God (Russell Brand) told him to. In all actuality, he was probably having hallucinations caused by his dialysis treatments. Despite that, Gary goes all-in on his quest and receives marginal (but mostly indifferent) support from his friends.

Your enjoyment of the movie will solely hinge on your ability to stand Nicolas Cage’s performance. He’s so out-there that it’s hard to imagine anyone would be able to stand being around him for a few minutes, let alone having actual friends (or a romantic interest). I have to admit that even as a die-hard Cage fan, it was a bit of a chore to endure this one. At times, it almost feels like he’s doing a parody of a Nic Cage performance rather than an honest-to-goodness portrayal. With his long white hair and beard, he speaks with an annoying nasally voice that quickly gets on your nerves (it sounds like he’s on helium half the time).

Still, as a fan of the man, this performance is quite something to see. The heights of overacting (or depths, depending on your point of view) he attains is off the charts. It’s either Cage’s desperate cry for help to his agent or some sort of vanguard type of performance art. Either way, you won’t believe your fucking eyes.

Army of One is the first film that makes you ask, “Is there such a thing as too much Nic Cage?” The answer is sadly, yes. Sure, he went over the top in Deadfall and Vampire’s Kiss, but at least his shenanigans served the story and help elevate it into being something memorable. Take his performance away from those films and you still had some quirky charm there. Here, there’s no real foundation to warrant his tomfoolery. It’s just Cage acting crazy in search of a script.

I mean I could probably show you five second clips of his performance and you’d probably love it and beg for more. In isolated segments, I’m sure that Cage’s exuberant line readings of dialogue like, “This ain’t my first rodeo, hombre!” will have you laughing. I assure you though, watching it within the confines of a 90 minute film is a rather painful proposition. When someone asks him who should play him in a movie, and he responds with “Nic Cage”, you just have to groan.

The film was directed by Larry Charles (who also has a cameo). At least when he made those movies with Sacha Baron Cohen, he had a leading man who could milk a joke out of thin air with no real script. Here, Cage just mugs endlessly unchecked and unhinged. Some of this admittedly is funny, but most of it painful to sit through (the scene where Cage imagines Bin Laden on an episode of Cribs wouldn’t have cut the mustard on Mad TV).

The supporting cast is okay. Matthew Modine is around just long enough to remind you how much better he and Cage were in Birdy. The best performance comes from Rainn Wilson as a CIA agent who is investigating Faulkner’s sudden appearance in Pakistan. He isn’t given much to do, but I have to respect any guy who can casually name drop Michael Dudikoff and Timothy Dalton into casual conversation.

For more Nic Cage madness, check out my latest book, Revenge of the Video Vacuum in which I review such Cage films as Snake Eyes, Seeking Justice, Next, National Treasure, The Frozen Ground, and Rage. To pick up your copy, head on over to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Revenge-Video-Vacuum-Mitch-Lovell/dp/1519142331/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480222543&sr=1-1&keywords=mitch+lovell

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After sitting through Larry Buchanan’s The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, I was intrigued to see what he would do to the story of Bonnie and Clyde in The Other Side of Bonnie and Clyde. As it turns out, the film is more or less a standard documentary. It’s actually a lot like a true crime show you’d see nowadays on TV with talking head interviews interspersed with actors recreating the crimes. In that sense, the film is ahead of its time. In fact, it’s actually pretty good in most regards.

The film does a solid job at carrying out its intentions, which is mostly to de-romanticize Arthur Penn’s depiction of Bonnie and Clyde. Right away from their mug shots we can tell that the real-life Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker did NOT look nearly as good as Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. It also shows us some graphic morgue shots of their corpses (Bonnie is even topless). We also get to see actual footage of their “death car”, which is pretty cool.

Buchanan portrays Bonnie and Clyde as heartless thugs who were amoral and ruthless. He doesn’t want you to sympathize with them at all. Instead, he champions the lawman who eventually caught up with them, Frank Hamer as the hero.

The narration by none other than Burl Ives helps. He’s just got one of those voices you could listen to endlessly. Okay, maybe not endlessly, because the flick eventually runs on too long before all is said and done. I know, it’s only an hour long, but honestly, I was surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did for as long as I did. It’s only during the longwinded scene of a former member of the Barrow gang being given a polygraph test does the film really become dull. Even in spite of that, this is one of Buchanan’s better efforts.

AKA: Bonnie and Clyde: Myth or Madness?

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THE TRIAL OF LEE HARVEY OSWALD (1964) **

I love it when filmmakers tackle subject matter that is way outside of their talent range. Such is the case with director Larry (Mars Needs Women) Buchanan’s The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald. It’s the film that asks the tantalizing question: What would happen if Lee Harvey Oswald wasn’t killed by Jack Ruby and lived to stand trial for assassinating John F. Kennedy?

In a truly talented filmmaker’s hands, this would’ve been a home run. Heck, in a semi-competent director’s hands it could’ve been an OK episode of The Twilight Zone. Instead, it feels like a dull episode of Perry Mason.

The film starts out just fine. I especially liked the scenes where the judge and lawyers look directly at the audience because YOU are the juror in the trial. After about the third or fourth boring scene of the lawyers going back and forth questioning witnesses, you’ll probably find yourself nodding off. Luckily, every now and then Buchanan will toss in some shots of the spot where Kennedy was killed, accompanied by the sound of gunshots on the soundtrack. These scenes don’t really serve a dramatic purpose, but at least the gunshots help keep you from falling asleep. Still, I can’t completely hate the movie, even if it does drag on forever. One thing is for sure; it’s far from the worst thing Buchanan ever did.

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I first became aware of this flick when I saw a preview for it on a horror trailer compilation. Although it tells the basic story as the Cocteau or Disney versions, it’s actually more of a ’40s werewolf movie as the Prince turns into a werewolf at night and has to be locked in a dungeon. Not only that, but none other than Jack (The Wolf Man) Pierce does the make-up for the Beast!

Mark Damon stars as the prince who is cursed to turn into a beast at night. He’s about to be married to a young princess (Joyce Taylor) who is perplexed by his sudden disappearances and is curious as to why her door is always locked at night. When she finds out her husband-to-be is a beast, she is surprisingly understanding about the whole thing. The narrow-minded villagers on the other hand want the beast burned alive, so they form a lynch mob to tear the lovers apart. Will true love conquer hatred in the end? What do you think?

The beast transformation scenes look like they came out of an old Universal movie. The final product looks a lot like Pierce’s make-up for The Wolf Man, except for the fact that he’s sporting a big and poofy crop of ‘70s rock star hair. That’s about the best thing I can say about the flick.

This was an unsuccessful melding of fairy tale and horror film. It starts out well enough, but the doldrums start to roll in once they abandon the love story about halfway through. In theory, the horror-oriented scenes should’ve been the best part, but they are plagued with too many scenes of people wandering aimlessly around the catacombs of the beast’s castle. Oddly enough, the romantic fairy tales scenes are more engaging as Damon and Taylor have a modicum of chemistry together. The color cinematography is also pretty cheesy looking. At all times the flick looks like one of those ‘50s Hercules movies.

This was Pierce’s final film as a make-up technician and I can think of worse ways to go out. Sure, the make-up isn’t quite as good as the old Wolf Man make-up, but it’s a decent enough facsimile. It was also the last film of director Edward L. Cahn, the man responsible for such gems as The She-Creature and It! The Terror from Beyond Space. It’s far from his best work, but at least he was doing the whole fairy tale/horror mash-up long before the likes of Snow White: Tale of Terror or Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.

Next time, our Thrift Store find will be: The Monster of Highgate Ponds.

THE PENALTY (1920) ** ½

A young boy is hit by a car and his incompetent doctor accidentally amputates his legs. He grows up to be known as “Blizzard” (Lon Chaney), a villainous gangster who, despite his diminutive stature, rules the underworld with an iron fist. When Blizzard learns of the doctor’s whereabouts, he sets out on an elaborate plot to get revenge.

Lon Chaney wasn’t known as The Man of a Thousand Faces for nothing. With The Penalty, he really outdid himself, although his make-up revolved around his legs instead of his face. The contraption that Chaney devised to hide his legs is impressive and the results are flawless. When he first makes his appearance, you’re straining your eyes because you want to see the seams in his handiwork, but there are none. After a while, you totally buy him as a double-amputee.

His performance is equally great. I especially loved the scene where he plays piano and makes one of his lowly whores press the foot pedals for him. If only the movie was as good.

As it stands (no pun intended), The Penalty is a rather ho-hum gangster drama that really wilts whenever Chaney isn’t on screen. The way director Wallace Worsley (who also collaborated with Chaney on The Hunchback of Nortre Dame) paces the film is often sluggish. There are still some strong stretches here and there, but the whole thing (however unfairly) suffers from comparison to the similarly themed (and much better) The Unknown (which featured Chaney as a man with no arms who hatches an involved revenge scheme). I also didn’t like the awful musical score which at times sounds like a bad ‘90s industrial band. (I guess I could’ve turned the sound off. It is a silent movie after all.) At least we do get some brief nudity when a woman poses for a sculptress.

AKA: Satan.

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SOMEWHERE IN SONORA (1933) **

Although he is primarily known for producing Looney Tunes cartoons, Leon Schlesinger also produced a handful of John Wayne westerns for Warner Brothers in the early ‘30s. Overall, I prefer the westerns Wayne did with Lone Star better than the films he did for Schlesinger. While the Lone Star pictures had lower budgets, they had a scrappy charm about them that the Warner Brothers movies often lacked (although Haunted Gold was pretty darn good).

Wayne stars as a rodeo stagecoach racer who is falsely accused of sabotaging his competitor’s stagecoach and is jailed on suspicion. His boss helps him escape, and encourages him to get far away from town until the matter blows over. He mentions to Wayne that he’s worried about his son, who has gone across the border and joined up with a notorious gang called “The Brotherhood of Death”. To repay the favor, Wayne offers to find his son and bring him home.

Somewhere is Sonora is a pedestrian programmer. Although Wayne gives a solid performance, the script is weak and the 57 minute running time feels a lot longer. It hits all the notes you’d expect it to. Wayne gets into a bar fight, saves a pretty lady from a runaway stagecoach, and there’s a scene where his horse (named “Duke”) gets to play the hero. However, there’s nothing really all that memorable here to make it stand out from the countless other Wayne movies from the era. Wayne is also saddled with not one but two annoying comic relief sidekicks, which doesn’t help matters any.

Timothy Carey is a one-man operation in this wildly uneven cult item. He wrote, produced, directed and stars as an insurance salesman who tells everyone in the office to take the day off. His boss finds out about the mass walkout and fires him. Carey then becomes a rock n roll evangelist and changes his name to God. His followers riot and trash cars at his shows and he becomes an overnight sensation. He then leaves rock n’ roll behind to get into politics and spurns his family for fame, groupies, and more followers (who wear an armband with the letter “F” to show their support). Pretty soon, all the God stuff goes to his head and he sets out to prove that he is the only true God in the universe.

The World’s Greatest Sinner is profane, weird, and sometimes puzzling. The anything-goes tone is one of its charms though. Even while it’s spinning its wheels, it’s still compulsively watchable. The film coasts on Carey's electric performance. Although his character is a lout who does and says some pretty vile things, he’s always a treat to watch.

Carey was a vet of many Stanley Kubrick movies and I have to wonder if he sought advice from him when he made this as there are some truly spellbinding sequences. Truth be told, there are just as many clunky scenes too, but the fact that the film is so rough around the edges is sort of what makes it so appealing. It’s a unique curio, in spite of its many drawbacks. I mean, how can you resist any movie in which Frank Zappa does the music and Paul Frees voices a snake who also happens to be the Devil?

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CAFÉ SOCIETY (2016) **

Jesse Eisenberg stars as a meek New Yorker who heads to Hollywood and gets a job with his uncle (Steve Carell), who is a big shot agent to the stars. Eisenberg winds up falling in love with his uncle’s secretary (Kristen Stewart) and he proposes to her after a whirlwind courtship, unaware that she’s actually in love with his uncle. After that relationship blows up in his face, he returns to New York where he gets a job running a nightclub for his gangster brother (Corey Stoll). Years pass, and Eisenberg is happily married, but trouble brews when his uncle and his former flame come to New York for an extended visit.

Woody Allen’s output has been hit-and-miss of late. For every enjoyable film like Magic in the Moonlight, there’s inevitably a frustrating flick like Irrational Man. I guess we should just be thankful that the man is still cranking them out at the age of 80. I just wish this one was funnier.

As it is, it kind of falls into that middle ground of Allen’s films. It’s not really funny enough to be labeled a comedy and the dramatic stuff isn’t involving enough for it to work as a straight-up drama. The script is fairly weak too and it feels more like a first draft than the final shooting script. The punchlines are few and far between and lack any real zing to them. They almost feel like placeholders for actual jokes than the real McCoy.

The performances range from aloof to curiously flat. Steve Carell looks particularly out-of-sorts as the Hollywood mogul. It doesn’t help that most of his dialogue requires him to name drop dead movie stars and/or pine for Stewart. I can’t really blame him as he replaced Bruce Willis halfway through filming. Still, whenever you get bored, you can keep yourself amused by imagining how Bruce would’ve played things, although that provides only but so much amusement.

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DR. HECKYL AND MR. HYPE (1980) *

Charles B. Griffith wrote some of Roger Corman’s best movies in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Years later, he wrote and directed this for Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, and it’s one of the worst films Cannon ever made. If you’ve seen your fair share of Cannon pictures over the years, you’ll know that’s really saying something.

In the opening credits, it says “Screenplay by Charles B. Griffith, with apologies to Robert Louis Stevenson”. It’s almost as if Griffith was trying to let himself off the hook. If he really cared, he would’ve ended the movie with an apology to the audience.

Oliver Reed stars as the ugly Dr. Heckyl, a podiatrist who secretly pines for his beautiful patient (Sunny Johnson). He swipes a fat-burning formula from a colleague (Mel Welles, who also starred in Griffith’s Little Shop of Horrors), and tries to overdose on it, hoping that the fat-burning compound will waste him away to nothing. Instead, it turns him into the handsome (or as handsome as Oliver Reed can get) and horny Mr. Hype. He tries to get it on with nearly every woman he sees, but when they say something about his looks, he flies off the handle and kills them. Eventually, he sets his sights on Johnson, who is predictably more smitten with the kind (but ugly) Heckyl.

Like The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (which also featured Reed in a small part), Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype turns the tables on the usually accepted lore by having the Jekyll character be ugly and making Hyde appear handsome and suave. Too bad the make-up effects are terrible. I liked that they at least tried to make Reed look like the Frederic March version of Hyde. Unfortunately, the make-up is amateurish and crude and looks like it’s about a half a second away from falling off of Reed’s face. There’s no way anyone in their right mind would accept him as a human being, let alone a podiatrist. The transformation scenes are also terrible as they rely on annoying strobe light effects to (unsuccessfully) hide the edits.

The murder sequences aren’t very funny (or scary) either. In one scene, Hype sticks a woman’s toe inside a lamp and electrocutes her, which might’ve been funny if Griffith didn’t cut to the shot of her hair standing on end like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon. There’s also a murder with a lion skin rug (?!?) that is just too bizarre for words. There is one OK face-to-the-mirror gag, but it’s much too brief to be really effective.

All of this is as painful as it is unfunny. Griffith relies heavily on comic sound effects, fast-motion chase sequences, and fat jokes. All of these, if you can’t already tell, reek of desperation and aren’t funny at all. Reed hams it up to embarrassing proportions and doesn’t get any laughs.

Sunny Johnson is the only bright spot in this. She does a good job at playing the object of Reed’s affections and it’s a shame that she gives such a good performance in such a crappy movie. Dick Miller (another vet of Little Shop of Horrors) has a small role as a garbage man who talks to himself. You wish he had more to do, but it’s okay since Miller’s very appearance brightens the movie up. A young Tony Cox (making his screen debut) also pops up as Heckyl’s nunchuck-wielding cellmate who (groan) becomes normal sized when he drinks the potion.

DEMENTED (1980) **

Sallee Elyse stars as a woman who is gang-raped in a barn by several men wearing pantyhose on their head. After a time, she moves back into her house as her surgeon husband (played by porn star Harry Reems!) tries to convince her everything is okay. On her first night back, she thinks she sees a rapist in her mirror and faints. Reems calls for a doctor, who recommends that he stay with her. Of course, that’s cutting in on his time with his lover. He leaves his wife home alone so he can get some tail and she winds up being attacked by some teenagers wearing Halloween masks. Although they don’t rape her, the experience is enough to send her over the edge.

The next night, they come back and Elyse flips out. She lands a meat cleaver into one guy’s neck and castrates another with a wire before chopping him up. When her husband comes home to tell her he’s leaving her, he becomes meat cleaver fodder too.

Demented does something novel as it tries to examine the psychological ramifications of a sexual assault within the confines of a generic horror movie. Most films of this ilk would be more concerned with the murder and rape set pieces, but this one spends a lot of time lingering on the female’s fragile mental state after the attack. It has a lot to say about victim-blaming too as her husband, doctor, and even her sister try to convince her to move on with her life. Reems at one point says, “Don’t dwell on it!”

This could’ve been effective, but thanks to the amateurish performance by Elyse, that whole angle is about as shaky as a house of cards. Her awkward delivery of lines like, “I was raped! I didn’t get a frontal lobotomy!” and “Why don’t you just drop dead!” are often shrill and sometimes downright cringe-worthy. Elyse does do a good job on the scenes where she starts talking like Betty Boop and starts putting pancake make-up on her body to cover up her victim’s blood.

I applaud the filmmakers for aiming high by trying to chronicle the psychological aftereffects of the character’s rape instead of just indulging on the more exploitative angles. It’s just a shame that the acting is too inconsistent and the writing isn’t strong enough to make it all work. Speaking of writing, the flick was written by none other than The Incredible Melting Man himself, Alex Rebar! Frankly, he did a better job melting in that movie than he did writing this one. Still, I’ve got to take any opportunity I can get to bring up The Incredible Melting Man into casual conversation.

For the most part, Demented is slow-moving and unpleasant. When it drops the interesting, albeit unsuccessful journey of the victim coping with an attack and reverts back to being a standard horror flick, it’s still unsatisfying. Even though the meat cleaver scenes are decent, there’s a long-winded dinner sequence in which Elyse feeds one of her attackers steak (which may or may not be one of his friends) by candlelight that just goes on way too long and has a lame conclusion.

Reems is pretty good as the thoughtless husband. He’s selfish because his wife doesn’t want to be intimate anymore so he runs off and becomes a sugar daddy to an out-of-work actress. It’s too bad that the movie cheats us out of seeing his inevitable comeuppance.

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INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (2016) **

Back in 1996, audiences needed Independence Day. At that time, no one was really making big budget sci-fi spectacles. ID4 filled that void as director Roland Emmerich basically combined a ‘50s alien invasion movie with ‘70s disaster clichés and updated them with the latest special effects. The result was a box office smash that managed to make Will Smith a movie star along the way.

Twenty years goes by. Now that type of effects-heavy sci-fi spectacle is more commonplace. Star Wars, Star Trek, and Lord of the Rings movies fill multiplexes. After twenty years of waiting, we finally get another Independence Day. Since Emmerich hasn’t had a hit in a while, Independence Day needs us more than we need it. Sadly, it’s nothing that we really hadn’t already seen before.

The plot is virtually the same. Aliens attack us. We re-group and strike back. The only difference between the aliens in the first film is that A) Their ship is bigger than the one in the last movie and B) “The Queen” is bigger than the aliens in the original. I’m sure you’ll be disappointed to know that bigger doesn’t mean better.

If the film came out in say, 1999, I don’t think I would’ve felt cheated. After twenty years in the making, it just feels slight and uninspired.

I’m not saying that there wasn’t stuff I liked. I thought it was cool how the humans incorporated the leftover alien technology into their everyday life. I also liked some of the new characters. I thought Sela Ward did a good job as the President. As did Maika Monroe as Bill Pullman’s daughter; and William Fichtner brightens up just about every movie he’s in.

A lot of the human drama was just dumb. The exposition-heavy conflict between Liam Hemsworth’s hot shot pilot character and Will Smith’s son felt forced. I also got a laugh when he flew halfway around the world to save his mom, only to arrive just in time to see her die a horrible death. This was supposed to be the big dramatic part of the movie, but it’s so contrived (not to mention corny) that you just have to laugh.

The returning characters get the short end of the stick. Jeff Goldblum is around only to give ominous warnings and look grim while occasionally tossing out unfunny quips and one-liners. They try to give him a romantic leading lady to push his character forward, but nothing is ever really done with it. Bill Pullman is given the thankless role of the ex-President whose only purpose is to act crazy, have psychic flashes, and walk around with a cane (and then he… doesn’t?). Vivica A. Fox, as previously mentioned, gets a hilarious death scene, but previous to that only has about two or three minutes of screen time. Brent Spiner is kinda funny as the weirdo scientist, although I did think it was odd that he could be up and about after a twenty year coma. I did like seeing the late Robert Loggia in a cameo though.

The first film, despite its flaws had a great build-up. There was a real mystery to the aliens and that first scene where they opened up and attacked was memorable and exciting. With Resurgence, we already pretty much know what is going on, so there’s not much mystery or surprise. The only new addition to the aliens’ arsenal is that it can suck up entire cities in a vacuum. You know, if you’re a filmmaker tasked with following up a two decades late sci-fi film and you start ripping off Mega Maid from Spaceballs, maybe you need to pack it in and call it a day.

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NUCLEAR HURRICANE (2007) **

Jack Scalia works at a nuclear power plant that is almost completely controlled via computer. Before you can say “Open the pod bay doors, HAL”, the computer goes haywire and locks everyone out of the system. It sees the humans in the plant as a potential threat and tries to kills them. There’s also a massive hurricane looming, and if the plant has a meltdown, the winds could carry the radiation up and down the coast.

Directed by Fred Olen Ray, Nuclear Hurricane is a competent, albeit bland and unexciting disaster movie. Most of the dialogue scenes involve people talking on the phone about security clearances, access codes, and/or a lot of computer jargon. These scenes are marginally better than the hurricane sequences in which a female sheriff helps a pregnant woman in peril, but not by much.

The best part of the movie is seeing the stars of Buck Rogers, Erin Gray and Gil Gerard reunited. Their scenes work, not because they’re well-written or anything, but because it’s just cool to see them together again. They play the suits who represent the owners of the facility. I only wish they had been given more to do besides spend all of their screen time in an office making a conference call.

I’m a fan of Ray’s work, but Nuclear Hurricane is curiously devoid of the sleazy thrills he’s best known for. He tries to do the best he can with the ho-hum script he’s been given and keeps things moving as brisk as possible. Despite that, the doldrums still manage to set in and the climax is underwhelming to say the least. I did like the 2001 homage where the computer read Jack Scalia’s lips though.

If you enjoy the works of Fred Olen Ray as much as I do, then you might want to check out my latest book, Revenge of the Video Vacuum, which has an entire chapter devoted to his films. You can pick up your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Revenge-Video-Vacuum-Mitch-Lovell/dp/1519142331/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1478101629&sr=8-2&keywords=revenge+of+the+video+vacuum

AKA: Atomic Hurricane.

THE NEON DEMON (2016) **

Elle Fanning stars as Jesse, a newbie model trying to break into the business. After a photo shoot, she is befriended by a make-up artist named Ruby (Jena Malone). While all the models Jesse meets act catty and bitchy towards her, Ruby at least attempts to be kind. Eventually, Jesse learns the hard way that the models aren’t what they appear to be.

I’m not going to spoil the ending for you, although I feel like I really should, if only to spare you any undo disappointment. The Neon Demon is another Nicolas Winding Refn mood piece that is beautifully photographed, but ultimately goes nowhere. It was sold as a horror movie, but it spins its wheels for about an hour and forty minutes before anything remotely horrific happens. I will say this; those wheels are elegantly designed and nice to look at. Once the horror element finally rears its head, it’s curt and unsatisfying; definitely not worth all of the endless build-up that came before.

The Neon Demon is gorgeous on the surface, but empty where it counts most. I’m sure Refn would argue that’s the whole point. After all, what did you expect from a movie about models? However, Refn would rather play with the audience’s expectations and insult their intelligence instead of entertain them and give them genuine thrills.

There are moments here where you can almost see what could’ve been. Keanu Reeves does a great job as the potentially dangerous scumbag owner of a shady motel. Any scene in which he lurks about and/or vaguely threatens Fanning works. There is also a sequence involving a mountain lion that reminded me of the panther in Xtro. Despite these standout scenes, most of the time, it’s a vapid bore. Still, it’s a big improvement on Refn’s dreadful Only God Forgives.

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HACKSAW RIDGE (2016) *** ½

Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the first contentious objector to win a Medal of Honor. He enlists to become a medic in WWII, but due to his strong personal convictions refuses to touch a weapon. Doss is routinely punished by his drill sergeant (Vince Vaughn) and beaten by his fellow troops who want him to quit. After a near court martial, it is decided that he can enter the battlefield without a gun. During a hellish battle, Doss is able to save dozens of dying men (on both sides) using only his wits and faith to keep him alive.

This is the kind of story director Mel Gibson was born to tell. Is it as good as his other directorial efforts? Frankly, no. Still, there is enough bloody carnage here to show that Gibson hasn’t lost his touch when it comes to filming extreme violence.

The opening act of Doss dealing with his alcoholic father (Hugo Weaving) feels like something out of a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie. To make matters worse, Weaving goes way over the top and is almost laughable in some scenes. The basic training sequences are only slightly better. The problem is that Vince Vaughn is miscast as the hard ass drill instructor. (He’s not bad mind you, just miscast.) When he says his putdowns of the soldiers, you almost swear he’s about one second away from saying, “You’re money, baby!”

Garfield anchors these scenes and turns what otherwise would’ve been corny schmaltz into something you can invest yourself in. His character is not just a cut and dry goodie-two-shoes. There are layers to his beliefs that are slowly revealed as the film goes on and once he enters the battlefield, you’re rooting for him every step of the way.

It’s those battle sequences that make the film what it is. Hacksaw Ridge features some of the best war scenes ever captured on film. There are more scenes of guys being set on fire, blown apart, guts slopping to the ground, maggots feasting on corpses, rats feasting on corpses, and arms and legs being torn to shreds than you can shake a stick at. It’s some of Gibson’s best work. If only those early scenes had been a bit more consistent, it could’ve stood next to Apocalypto, Braveheart, and The Passion. As it is, it still remains one of the best war movies of the 21st century.

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THE FIFTH CORD (1975) **

A psycho is going around murdering people while leaving his calling card, a glove with the fingers cut out of it, at the scene of every crime. Franco Nero stars as a hard-drinking reporter who knows all of the victims in one way or another. Before long, he becomes the number one suspect and has to clear his name.

The Fifth Cord is a ho-hum giallo thriller. It isn’t necessarily bad or anything, but it fails to really distinguish itself from the glut of similar films out there. It lacks the garish outrageousness and audacity that are the hallmark of the best that the genre has to offer. At least the nudity is frequent enough to keep you watching.

Despite the fact that the kills are all rather bloodless, the film nevertheless has its moments. The opening killer’s POV sequence has a visually arresting quality to it as we see him lurking around and choosing his next potential victim. The finale in which he stalks a young boy is equally atmospheric. Sadly, the scenes in between don’t have the same kind of kick to them. The best thing about the movie is the snazzy Ennio Morricone score that, while far from his best, certainly adds an extra oomph to the proceedings.

Franco Nero does what he can to keep the film moving along. His performance is strong and he keeps you marginally invested, even when the sluggish plot is starting to spin its wheels. Silvia Monti is pretty good as the love interest, and she and Nero have a nice rapport with one another. Reliable genre vet Edmond (Pieces) Purdom also pops up in a decently-sized supporting role.

AKA: Evil Fingers.

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SHREDDER ORPHEUS (1990) **

The Euthanasia Broadcasting Network is showing mind-numbing television shows to turn the populace of a post-apocalyptic society into zombies. Orpheus is a skateboard-riding punk who sings in a rock band and lives in a shipping crate in the low-income “Grey Zone”. When his girlfriend gets kidnapped and taken to the television studio, he grabs his magical guitar (created by Jimi Hendrix, yeah, right) and his super skateboard and sets out to rescue her.

I appreciate what Shredder Orpheus was trying to do, but it just never did it in a satisfying way. There are some times when you get a feel for what they were going for, especially early on as the beginning plays like a mash-up of Videodrome, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, and Streets of Fire (with maybe a little bit of Street Trash thrown in there for good measure). Most of the time, it just plays like your average low budget post-apocalyptic action flick.

That’s not to say there aren’t some almost-but-not-quite-cool surrealistic touches. There’s a neat bit where Orpheus has to trudge his way through a hall of shredded documents that has almost a Monty Python quality to it. After about an hour of amiable hit-and-miss weirdness, the wheels finally come off in the last half hour. From then on, it just plods on and on and feels like an overlong MTV video, minus the coherence.

ROLLER BLADE (1986) ½ *

Okay, can we just agree that any film that features roller skates and the future is automatically going to be bad? I don’t know if Roller Blade is as bad as The Apple or Solarbabies, but it’s definitely one of the worst movies I’ve forced myself to stay awake through in some time.

I can’t really recall enough plot here to do a proper plot rundown, but I’ll try. A babe roller skating through a post-apocalyptic wasteland gets into a fight with some dudes. Then, she goes to some nuns wearing KKK hoods embroidered with Iron Crosses who heal her wounds with a switchblade while a smiley face was emblazoned over the screen. (Yeah, I didn’t get it either.) A ranger’s son (played by future movie director and son of Fred Olen Ray, Chris Olen Ray) is kidnapped in a grocery cart and he sets out to get him back.

It’s hard to tell what’s going on half the time because the movie’s attention span is so out of whack. It spends like ten minutes on inconsequential things (like the nuns sitting around) and hardly any time is spent on stuff that would actually constitute a plot. The look of the film is also jarring as it switches from grainy 16mm (the voices are badly dubbed in these sections) to slightly better film stock (although still shitty) seemingly at random.

Roller Blade is one of those movies in which it feels as if time has stood still while watching it. I swore the film had been on for at least an hour, but when I checked the timer, I was shocked that only twenty minutes had gone by. To add insult to injury, the box said it was 88 minutes, but it didn’t stop there. It just kept going until it hit 97 minutes and it just sort of fizzled out. Believe me, those extra nine minutes felt like an eternity.

As bad as Roller Blade may be (and trust me, it’s plenty bad), I can’t completely hate any movie in which Michelle Bauer gets naked in a hot tub with two hot babes. Seriously, the generous nudity is the only thing keeping this piece of shit from getting a No Stars review. Well, that, and the one priceless line of dialogue spoken by the ranger, who tells his son, “Tears will cause thy wheels to rust!”

Director Donald G. Jackson followed this up with several sequels, but he was at least responsible for one minor classic, Hell Comes to Frogtown, so he’s okay in my book.

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DOCTOR STRANGE (2016) ** ½

Egotistical Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is involved in a serious car wreck that cripples the use of his hands. Unable to work with his withered hands, he undergoes every surgery in the book to correct them. When that fails, he goes to Ka-Ka-Ka-Ka-Ka-Katmandu where he seeks the help of the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), who teaches him the mystical arts. Meanwhile, a villain (Mads Mikkelsen) is out to destroy the world and it’s up to Dr. Strange to use all the spells at his disposal (not to mention a cloak with a mind of its own) to save the planet.

I never let the fact that a lot of the Marvel movies nowadays are featuring B (and C) characters get me down. Usually, lesser characters are a blessing rather than a curse because you can do basically anything you want with them and not have every comic book nerd crying foul when you do something that might differ from the original comics. All you basically have to do is make a good flick and the rest takes care of itself.

It seems like they couldn’t quite pull that part off.

I have to say that Doctor Strange is my least favorite movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It doesn’t pop the way their best films do, and you don’t really care about the character of Strange the way you do about, say, Tony Stark. In fact, Strange feels like Tony Stark Lite. He’s an arrogant jerk who makes funny quips whose ego gets put in check before he begins on his quest to save the world. Unfortunately, Strange’s quips aren’t very funny.

Cumberbatch makes for an ideal Dr. Strange, but the role is so underwritten that he never really becomes a fully fleshed-out character. (You know things are bad when his cape has more personality than he does.) The fact that he learns all of his Earth-saving spells in so little time because of his photographic memory feels a little bit like cheating (or lazy screenwriting, take your pick).

I will say this about the character, as well as Cumberbatch’s performance. By the end of the movie (okay, after the movie, during the credits), he does finally come to life as Strange. When you finally see him playing alongside another Marvel Superhero (I won’t say who), the effect is rather joyous. It’s just a shame we had to sit through another ho-hum origin tale for him to get to that point.

The supporting characters are equally underwritten. It’s telling when you have actors like Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Mads Mikkelsen and none of them make much of an impression. Mikkelsen is particularly wasted as he portrays one of the most generic villains we’ve seen in one of these things. Also, Strange’s sidekick’s sudden defection late in the game is underdeveloped and doesn’t ring true. It feels like a first draft issue that never got properly fleshed out (either that, or it was a last minute addition to set up a sequel). Rachel McAdams is also left holding the bag as Strange’s love interest as her character never once becomes anything more than “The Girl”. As a DTV action fan, it gave me a lot of pleasure to see Scott (Ninja) Adkins as Mikkelsen’s henchman. I guess it goes without saying that his skills are underutilized, but he does get a cool fight scene with Strange that takes place in the “Astral Plane”, so that’s something.

I guess the biggest problem with the film is that for all the spell-casting, reality-bending, and inter-dimensional travel, the look of it all is rather uninspired. It just looks like a mash-up of Inception and The Matrix. I know there is nothing new under the sun, but you can jazz these things up a little bit.

I guess you have to blame director Scott Derrickson for that. His background is mostly in low budget horror films. I mean this is the guy who directed Hellraiser 5 we’re talking about here. How in the Hell did he ever get the keys to the Marvel station wagon? He doesn’t necessarily do a bad job; it just feels like he was in way over his head.

It seems like I’m just eviscerating Doctor Strange, but there are several sequences here in which you can see a better film struggling to break through. The scene where Strange goes beyond the time barrier is really trippy. Imagine the molecular scenes from Ant-Man melded with the monolith scenes of 2001 and that should give you an idea of how crazy things get. (I loved the part where he looked at his hands and his fingers started sprouting little hands.)

The finale in which the destruction of Hong Kong begins undoing itself is also well done. I also dug the final confrontation with the inter-dimensional being where Strange puts himself in a constant time loop. My favorite sequence though was when Strange is dying on the operating table and his spirit performs surgery on himself from the Astral Plane! It’s scenes like this that are just good enough to make you wish that the rest of the movie was better.

Marvel Cinematic Universe Scorecard:

Avengers: Age of Ultron: ****
The Incredible Hulk: ****
Iron Man: ****
Iron Man 3: ****
Captain America: Civil War: *** ½
Ant-Man: *** ½
Guardians of the Galaxy: *** ½
The Avengers: ***
Captain America: The First Avenger: ***
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: ***
Thor: ***
Thor: The Dark World: ***
Iron Man 2: ***
Doctor Strange: ** ½

2016 SUPERHERO SCORECARD:

X-Men: Apocalypse: ****
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice: ****
Deadpool: ****
Captain America: Civil War: *** ½
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows: ***
Doctor Strange: ** ½

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Karnstein (Mel Ferrer) lives in an old mansion where apparently long ago, his ancestors were vampires. He announces his engagement to Georgia (Elsa Martinelli), which makes his cousin Carmilla (Annette Vadim) jealous. To celebrate the engagement, Karnstein arranges to have a giant fireworks display. Of course, the fireworks get out of hand and there is an explosion, which disrupts the tomb. The voice of a centuries-old vampire lures Carmilla into the tomb and possesses her. Soon after, she’s strutting around wearing the vampire’s wedding dress and all of a sudden hates the sun. Not only that, but she inexplicably knows how to do old timey folk dances, can tell you odd historical facts, and forgets how to use a record player. She then starts putting the bite on the young servant girls and eventually sets her sights on Georgia.

Directed by Roger (And God Created Woman) Vadim, Blood and Roses is a classy take on a gothic vampire movie. It is quite often beautiful to look at and some of the dreamlike stretches are similar in some ways to the work of Mario Bava. Too bad it’s so slow moving and the rewards are few and far between.

Vadim does a good job at leaving Carmilla’s transformation ambiguous in the early going, and the nightmare sequences (which are done in black and white, with only the red images appearing in color) are really well done. It’s just a shame that the prudishness of the time prevents it from really cutting loose. The lesbian undertones are a bit too muted for their own good. I would’ve liked it if Vadim explored this a bit more, but he nips it in the bud almost immediately after he brings it up. Likewise, the blood is a bit lax too. It’s enough to wish that Vadim had waited about six or seven years to make it when the censors weren’t so damned fickle.

Hammer Films would later go on and do a much better version of the same story with their Karnstein trilogy, which consisted of The Vampire Lovers, Lust for a Vampire, and Twins of Evil.

The DVD print is a bit washed out and about on par with a VHS copy. It’s from a company called ObscuraRama. I’ve never heard of them and couldn’t find out any more about them online. That’s pretty much why I love going to the Thrift Store. You never know what you’re going to find.

AKA: Carmilla. AKA: To Die with Pleasure.

The next couple of Thrift Store films will also be ObscuraRama releases, starting with Beauty and the Beast (1962)!

The one and only Johnny Legend went all out for this third entry in the Sleazemania series. Of all the trailer compilations out there, the Sleazemania films give you the best bang for the buck. This one focuses on “Adults Only” movies and roadshow pictures ranging from the ‘30s to the ’60s. (Timothy Farrell shows up A LOT!) I’m a fan of these types of films, so maybe I was a bit more inclined to enjoy it than most. Even though the majority of the trailers are really old (and in black and white), don’t worry because they still offer up plenty of skin.

Throughout the hour-long running time we get trailers for Dance Hall Racket (starring Lenny Bruce!), I Married a Savage (featuring a sultry snake dance), Escort Girl, Love Moods (a striptease flick starring Lili St. Cyr), Child Bride, I Want a Baby, Test Tube Babies, Tijuana After Midnight, Racket Girls, Woman’s a Fool (an all-black musical), Many Ways to Sin, Unmarried Mothers (“I prefer my men, a la carte!), Babes and Hoodlums, This Little Girl Had Knockers (which is just an alternate title for Blaze Starr Goes Nudist, albeit a hilarious one), The Naked and the Wicked, The Depraved, The Demented, and The Damned (AKA: The Sex Perils of Paulette), Office Love-In, Dandy (in color), Honey, Motel Confidential, and Mondo Psycho. I hadn’t seen many of the trailers before, which is really saying something since I consider myself a connoisseur when it comes to these sorts of things.

The crown jewel trailer in this collection is for the obscure color sexploitation flick, Don’t Just Lay There. (“Rated B for BALLS!”) Man, I’ve got to track that flick down ASAP! We also get a few intermission ads (one in color with animated pirates), a brief segment where Santa Claus wishes us Happy New Year, and an in-theater car giveaway for “Jalopy Night”. It all adds up to one stellar compilation.

EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! (2016) ***

Everyone I talked to about this movie didn’t like it, but I dug it, especially in retrospect. I will say that it does get a bit dull in spots as it goes on, rambling from one long-winded conversation to the next. There was no reason for it to be two hours long either. I can tell that writer/director Richard Linklater loves his characters so much that he just couldn’t bear to yell “Cut” and allowed some of the scenes go on for far too long. It’s that kind of dedication that you appreciate afterwards; not so much while watching the film.

If you aren’t a fan of Linklater’s talk-filled indie films, this will not convert you. In fact, it feels like a mash-up of Dazed and Confused and his Bad News Bears remake as the whole running time is devoted to teenagers talking, getting high, going to parties, hazing each other, and playing baseball. If you’re the kind of person that doesn’t mind when a particular director indulges himself in all of his cinematic fetishes, then you might like it as much as I did.

My wife hated it. She left the room halfway through. I asked her why she didn’t like it. She said that none of the male characters were likeable. That’s a valid criticism. Linklater isn’t really out to endear the characters to the audience though. He’s merely presenting a slice of life to the audience as we get to watch a a young ballplayer find his place in the pecking order when he goes off to college to play baseball.

When my wife told me why she didn’t like the movie, I countered her with the following questions:

Did you grow up in the ‘80s? (OK, she did, so she had me there.)

Did you ever spend a lot of time alone with guys as they drink, try to hook up with girls, assert their alpha-male dominance upon the group, and play pranks on each other?

Did you ever spend a lot of time hanging out on a ball field with a bunch of teenager baseball players?

If you didn’t do any of those things, you probably won’t be able to tune in on Everybody Wants Some’s admittedly narrow frequency. Sure, it’s a bit long-winded, but there are moments in this film that instantly spoke to the inner teenager inside of me. I mean there is a scene in this movie in which two guys sit around and flick each other’s knuckles. For a lot of you, that won’t mean much. For me, playing “Knuckles” and taking batting practice pretty much summed up a good quarter of my life. I can’t say that the picture works 100% of the time. I can say that it showcases what is probably the first cinematic depiction of a game of “Knuckles”, and that and that alone is enough to warm the cockles of my heart.

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JACKTOWN (1962) ** ½

The funny opening starts with the birth of a baby and a narrator asking, “This is Frankie Stossel. A child of God. Was he born bad?” Frankie (Richard Meade) grows up to be a hoodlum who goes around robbing people. He gets caught with an underage girl and is sent to a massive prison known as “Jacktown” on statutory rape charges. In Jacktown, the prisoners can’t wait to chew Frankie up and spit him out. They threaten him, harass him, and spit in his food. Eventually, the warden takes pity on him and lets him do the gardening around the prison, away from the other inmates. Frankie strikes up a relationship with a pretty social worker named Margaret (Patty McCormack from The Bad Seed), who also happens to be the warden’s daughter. When one of the ringleaders of his torment gets out of solitary confinement, Frankie steals a car and escapes. To make matters worse, he inadvertently winds up kidnapping a kid who was asleep in the backseat! The only person he can turn to is Margaret, but will she be able to help him?

Jacktown is less than an hour long, but it feels a lot longer due to some plodding pacing. It’s at its best when Frankie is fighting for survival inside the prison walls. The scenes that take place outside the prison are a tad on the dull side (especially the scenes in McCormack’s apartment).

Director William Martin does a good job at portraying Frankie as an unfortunate soul who is stuck behind the eight ball of fate. Meade is a decent actor and makes him sympathetic, even if the character isn’t 100% innocent. The film is less effective when it tries to hammer home the realism of the situation. The narrator often sounds like Jack Webb on Dragnet (especially when he says “the names have been changed to protect the innocent”) and has a habit of making things sound corny. The way they work the real footage of a prison riot that happened in the actual prison in 1952 is a bit awkward too and was probably only there to pad the running time. Overall, it’s no Shawshank Redemption or anything, but for the most part, it’s an OK low budget prison flick.

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LOST, LONELY AND VICIOUS (1958) **

Johnny (Ken Clayton) is a struggling actor in Hollywood in the James Dean mold. He’s a hot-tempered guy who runs people off the road in his hot rod and likes to talk tough in front of his other struggling actors. Really, he’s just a mixed-up kid inside. He falls in love with a girl (Barbara Wilson) who works at a pharmacy and he confesses to her about having suicidal thoughts. A disagreement with another hotheaded actor, Walt (Richard Gilden) leads to a big brawl with wrenches. When Johnny almost kills him, be begins to rethink his ways.

Lost, Lonely and Vicious plays like a mash-up of your typical juvenile delinquent story and a cautionary tale of an actor’s life in Hollywood. You can tell this was probably sold to cash in on James Dean’s death (Clayton looks a lot like him), but it’s not really all that exploitative as Johnny only shares a few parallels with Dean. You almost wish it was more exploitative though because at least then it would’ve been memorable. The only scene that really works is the final fight when Clayton and Gilden duke it out while their fat friend just stands there munching on popcorn.

While Lost, Lonely and Vicious is an earnest and well-meaning melodrama filled with decent acting, it’s a mostly dull and talky affair. The human mind can only take so many scenes of people sitting at a booth in a malt shop and talking about psychological problems, hot rods, and casting directors. On the plus side, the film does give us a good glimpse at what Hollywood was like in the ‘50s (the opening scenes feature some excellent location work of Hollywood Boulevard). It’s just a shame that none of the characters ever become likeable and all of the drama is slight and underwhelming.

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