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Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved watching movie trailers. In a lot of cases, the trailers are even better than the movies themselves. When I go to the movies, I even get there extra early because I don’t want to miss a single preview.

Over the years, I have grabbed up just about every single movie trailer compilation I can get my hands on. Because of that, I would like to think of myself as a connoisseur of movie trailer compilations. For years, the 42nd Street Forever compilations held the mantle for being the most consistent movie trailer series, but they unfortunately are no longer in the movie trailer game.

Earlier this year, the fine folks at Garagehouse Pictures released Trailer Trauma, and it was one of the best comps ever made. That was quickly followed by part 2, which was even better. Now, at the tail end of 2016, they released Trailer Trauma 3: 80s Horrorthon. No company; and I mean no company has done more for the art of movie trailer compilations than Garagehouse.

It is an art, by the way. You can’t just slap a bunch of trailers together and call it a compilation. There has to be a common theme there to latch onto. The theme for this one is general, broad, and far-reaching: ‘80s Horror. When you close your eyes and think “’80s Horror”, you think of everything from low budget slasher films to major horror franchises. You think of works from acclaimed directors and untalented nobodies. You think sequels, remakes, and rip-offs. All of them are represented here.

I usually get on movie trailer compilations for going on too long and not knowing when to quit. Usually, two hours is too long, especially if they can’t sustain a consistent rhythm of entertaining and outrageous trailers.

Trailer Trauma 3 clocks in at 7 ½ hours.

Yes, you read that right. 7 ½ hours of ‘80s horror trailers on two discs. I spread it out over a course of two nights and never once did I feel bored or sluggish. The reason why was because the trailers just keep coming. Just when you think they can’t get any better, another classic trailer comes along and wows you, dazzles you, or just plain scares you.

Yes, some of the trailers are scarier than the actual movies themselves.

This is without a doubt the single greatest trailer compilation of all time. As someone who has sat through hundreds of these things, I can attest that there you will never find a horror movie trailer compilation to match it. There are over 250 trailers here. 99% of them are amazing. You can literally count the bad ones on both hands.

The reason why it works so well: EVERYTHING IS SHOWN IN CHRONOLOGICAL AND ALPHABETICAL ORDER! I’ve never been properly diagnosed, but I’m pretty sure I have OCD. Because of its strict adherence to structure, there’s a fascination to Trailer Trauma 3 that no other compilations have (at least for me). You can actually see the trends rise and fall over time. You can see the tail end of the Jaws rip-offs giving way to killer rat movies. You can see the major horror franchises grow in number year by year. Jason giving way to Freddy… Freddy opening the door for Chucky…

You can see your favorite actors subtly age over time. Watch as Jamie Lee Curtis cranks out picture after picture before vanishing from the genre completely. See George Kennedy appear in more and more dreck. See David Warner continually cashing a paycheck.

You can also see the landscape of horror slowly change. You can see the direct-to-video films slowly merging in with the major theatrical releases. You can see New World becoming Concord. You see 3-D’s rise and almost immediate fall.

The most thrilling aspect is seeing just how on the ball guys like Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, Stephen King, David Cronenberg, and John Carpenter were. They were churning pictures out year after year; and many of them in the prime of their career. Seeing their films (if only in brief glimpses) in their proper chronological context gives you a real appreciation for them.

Most of the trailers are for well-known films, which is fine. When you do get a real obscure one in the mix it only adds to the fun. Several times, I’d see a trailer for a movie I never saw, but can vividly recall its video box. Goddamn it, how come I never rented Eyes of Fire?

What’s really cool is that a lot of times, especially for the major franchise sequels, the final trailer isn’t shown. Instead, we are given a shorter teaser trailer. Often, they don’t include any footage from the actual film, or in some cases are composed of only footage shot expressly for the trailer itself. While some may not like that aspect, I for one loved it because it captures an anticipation for the movie that will never again be regained.

Take for instance the Nightmare on Elm Street 4 trailer. It just shows a little girl gluing a house together with popsicle sticks before Freddy’s glove bursts out of it. Would you rather see footage from a flick you’ve already seen a dozen times or would you rather see this trailer as its own creepy mini-movie? Or the Jaws 3-D trailer. It slowly has roman numerals appearing over a calm sea before a shark fin hurtles towards the audience while the narrator says, “This time the terror doesn’t stop at the screen!” I have fond memories of watching this trailer as a kid and I can tell you, it’s scarier than anything in the actual film (which I still love by the way).

God, just the trailer narrator’s voices alone are worth the price of admission. No one narrates trailers like the guys in the ‘80s. Sometimes, their voices were scarier than the films themselves.

Seriously, if you only buy one trailer compilation this year, make it Trailer Trauma 3: 80s Horrorthon. If you only buy one Blu-Ray this year, make it Trailer Trauma 3: 80s Horrorthon. If you are a fan of ‘80s horror and horror movie trailer compilations, it is the cinematic equivalent of dying and going to Heaven.

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Produced by Hanna-Barbera, Legends of the Superheroes were two hour-long television specials that acted as something of a companion piece to the animated Super Friends show. Since Christopher Reeve was starring on the big screen as Superman and Lynda Carter was on TV as Wonder Woman, their characters are notably absent. At least we have Adam West and Burt Ward reprising their roles as Batman and Robin. If there’s any reason to check out this mess (and frankly, it is a mess), it’s to see them donning their tights once again. We also get to see Frank Gorshin as the Riddler and (briefly) the Batmobile too.

The first episode is “The Challenge” (* ½) and it’s something of a chore to sit through. Batman and Robin, along with Flash, Green Lantern, Black Canary, Hawkman, and Huntress team up to stop a group of super villains from setting off a doomsday device. While the villains hang out on a cheap set, our heroes run around different locations (mostly a gas station where Night Court’s Marsha Warfield cracks jokes about their costumes) and make fools of themselves.

This episode is just painful to watch. If it wasn’t for Adam West and Burt Ward, I’m not sure I could’ve made it all the way through. Sure, who wouldn’t love seeing West and Ward as Batman and Robin again? West still has the charm that made him a legend and Ward looks like he’s having fun, although it’s obvious that he’s more than a little long in the tooth to play Robin. The lone funny scene revolves around the Batmobile breaking down and Batman being forced to buy a used car. Naturally, Batman is more concerned with safety than price, which causes Robin to say, “Holy Ralph Nader!”

While it’s cool seeing West and Ward together once again, I was irritated by the fact that Batman’s cowl looked weird (it’s way too big) and the Batmobile looked like it was covered in cheap primer. At least their scenes are watchable. Everything else is rather unbearable as the annoying laugh track punctuates every single unfunny joke.

The villains are all pretty dire. Sure, Charlie Callas LOOKS the part as Sinestro. However, when he starts doing his usual shtick, it just takes you right out of it. I’m not even going to bring up the scene where he dresses up in drag as an old gypsy woman to throw Green Lantern off his trail. It’s just too painful.

The humor is all juvenile, bordering on infantile. I mean there’s actually a scene in which a villain sets up a lemonade stand to stall the heroes. There’s a difference between “comic book” and “cartoon” and these bozos didn’t know it.

The whole thing looks fucking cheap. It looks like a Sid and Marty Krofft show or something with costumes taken right out of the Salvation Army’s Halloween selection. It’s shot on tape too, so the scenes of the heroes walking around various outdoor locations look REALLY awful.

For DC fans, this will be the ultimate curiosity piece. The presence of West and Ward alone make it worth a look. Everything else just reeks.

When the episode was over, I was kinda glad. I went to turn it off. Then, another episode came on. I didn’t think my mental state could take any more punishment, but I toughed it out.

Thankfully, the second episode is “The Roast” (** ½ ) is a big improvement. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a Friars Club-style roast of the superheroes, hosted by Ed McMahon. It’s a good idea too since the set already looks like a cheesy Vegas stage show to begin with.

McMahon does get a few laughs as he introduces the various super villains and lesser-known superheroes to come on stage and poke fun at the heroes. The most un-PC character is “Ghetto Man”, a black superhero. At first, you might think this is pretty offensive, but it is kinda funny because he takes them to task for not including any black superheroes on the team. (“I don’t see any brothers!”)

Charlie Callas is actually a good fit here because he was a veteran of many roasts. He gets some laughs too. (“He’s so ugly that if it wasn’t for Parkay margarine no one would talk to him!”) Another roast vet, Ruth Buzzi is also on hand playing probably the funniest character, Aunt Minerva, who shows up looking for a husband. When she learns The Flash is “the world’s fastest man”, she says, “Pass”.

Not all of this is funny. The scene of Solomon Grundy (Mickey Morton) beating up McMahon every time he mentions a swamp goes on far too long. The bit where Robin tries to tell Batman he totaled the Batmobile by playing charades is as bad as anything in the previous episode. The final musical number will make your eyes roll too. Still, it’s a vast improvement over the first episode, but the producers were smart to cut their losses when they did.

As far as bad ‘70s TV specials go, Legends of the Superheroes is so bad that it makes The Star Wars Holiday Special look like Roots.

Next time on It Came from the Thrift Store: Mars Needs Women!

PRETTY PEACHES (1978) ***

Peaches (Desiree Cousteau) is a cute, bubbly, and naïve young woman who comes to see her father (John Leslie) get remarried. She feels awkward hanging out with her new stepmother, so she gets drunk and winds up crashing her Jeep in the woods. Two guys find her lying on the ground unconscious and when she wakes up, Peaches has no memory of who she is. The guys decide to “help” Peaches, but when they learn her family is rich, they try to get some money out of her father.

As played by Desiree Cousteau, Peaches is a cherubic cutie who is often very funny; not to mention sexy. In another lifetime, Cousteau could’ve been a comedienne in a screwball romantic comedy from the ‘40s. Because of her game attitude and overall innocence, the sex scenes are often quite sexy, even if some of them are potentially disturbing.

I mean there’s one scene in which Joey Silvera balls her while she’s unconscious. Sure, to you and me that’s rape, but when compared to a lot of porn, the innocence and good-naturedness in which Cousteau throws herself into these situations is pretty funny. While I know that sounds odd, you have to accept that this was a different time. You could’ve only made a movie like this in the ‘70s.

There is also a rather crazy forced enema scene. Unlike the scenes in something like Water Power, this one is played for laughs. I mean how can you not laugh while Cousteau is getting an enema while a sign that says “Conserve Water” looms large in the background?

Then there’s the scene where Cousteau auditions to be a nude dancer and winds up getting ganged raped by a group of horny women with strap-ons in front of a paying audience. This scene escalates rapidly and while I can’t exactly say it’s hot, the way Cousteau gamely goes along with it is admirable. Again, even though in the real world, all of this would be non-consensual, but her pouty, “Fool me once… shame on me…” attitude is good for a laugh.

Director Alex de Renzy has a way of diffusing the rampant kinkiness with moments of humor. Other directors would’ve wallowed in the filth, but thanks to his handling of the sex scenes and Cousteau’s irresistible charm, it somehow seems light and fluffy. It’s a real tightrope act to be sure, and de Renzy and Cousteau pull it off. I mean how many movies do you know of end with an amnesiac regaining her memory at a swinger party in a bed filled with baby oil with her father in attendance? Folks, they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

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SLOANE (1985) * ½

“Jerk.”

“Egotistical bastard.”

“Selfish little prick.”

“Horse’s ass.”

These are just a few of the names our hero, Sloane is called throughout the movie, and rightfully so. I can’t remember the last time an action flick featured such a despicable character for a leading man. There’s a fine line between stoic macho behavior and a sociopathic degenerate. Sloane crosses over that line several times throughout the film. Sloane is the kind of guy whose idea of consoling a woman after she was nearly raped is to flippantly ask, “Throwing a party?”

Yeah, you probably wouldn’t want to spend 94 minutes with him either. Since I did and lived to tell the tale, I guess I should say that Sloane (the movie and the man) isn’t ALL bad. It’s just hard to root for an egotistical bastard like Sloane.

Sloane is a karate instructor who lives on a houseboat in L.A. When his ex-wife gets kidnapped in the Philippines, he teams up with her husband’s sister to get her back. They bicker A LOT before finally rescuing Sloane’s ex.

In addition to the main character’s general unpleasantness, the film itself is often mean-spirited and crude. This is one of those movies that whenever a bad guy attacks a woman, he immediately rips her blouse open. If the violence was cartoonish and over the top, I might’ve gave it a pass. As it stands, the action is mind-numbingly dull and I found myself nodding off by the end.

Despite that, there is at least one moment that is pretty badass. During a car chase, the bad guys throw a cobra into Sloane’s car. What does he do? Bite its head off and throw it back at them! Now I’ve seen plenty of heroes get into car chases and I’ve seen heroes bite the heads off snakes, but I’ve never seen a hero bite the head off a snake DURING a car chase. So there’s that. Besides, I find it hard to give One Star to any flick that ends with a random ass chase involving cannibal pygmies.

Naturally, Sloane gets the best line of the movie when he tells his leading lady, “You have as much sense as a brontosaurus!”

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MECHANIC: RESURRECTION (2016) ** ½

After faking his death at the end of The Mechanic, Jason Statham has been busy living a quiet life in Rio de Janeiro on a houseboat. Someone tries to coerce him into pulling off an assassination, and he has to beat the ever-living snot out of them. He then heads off to Thailand where he hangs out with Michelle Yeoh and tries to lay low for a while. Naturally, he winds up helping Jessica Alba, who is also being blackmailed by the same villain. When she is kidnapped, he agrees to perform three seemingly impossible assassinations (they all have to look like accidents) for the bad guy in order to get her back.

Statham looks comfortable enough while lounging around on a houseboat and occasionally busting heads. In fact, the opening scenes are almost like Statham's audition tape to play Travis McGee in an adaptation of The Deep Blue Good-By. The opening sequence itself is badass. The fight scene in the restaurant is great as Statham beats the crap out of people in a bar using a table and shoves one guy’s face into a flaming grill. When he is cornered, he escapes by jumping onto a hang glider that just so happened to be passing by.

This entire sequence is worthy of a Bond movie. After that, things get a bit slow. Since the slow stretches of the film revolve around Jessica Alba in a bikini, I’d say there are worse ways to waste your time.

The middle act involves Statham carrying out the three assassinations. The first one finds him staging a prison break using chewing gun bombs, exploding cigarettes, and shark repellent. (No matter how uneven the film gets, you have to respect it for stealing from Batman: The Movie.) The second assassination is reminiscent of Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol as Statham scales a giant glass skyscraper to kill a man in his swimming pool. This sequence is goofy, mostly because the swimming pool is so unsafe to begin with. (It juts out hilariously far from the penthouse with seemingly no support.) It’s kind of easy to kill that guy because that pool was already an accident waiting to happen. The last sequence involves Statham breaking into an eccentric arms dealer’s elaborate panic room. Since the eccentric arms dealer is played by Tommy Lee Jones at his all-time weirdest, it’s hard to hate.

In the end, Statham confronts the villain on his yacht. I can’t say it’s great, but it yields a couple of nifty action moments. Statham uses a guy as a human shield, tosses another into a hot tub and gives him a hand grenade as a personal floatation device, and duels with the anchor-wielding villain.

The first Mechanic (OK, the Mechanic remake, if you want to get technical, since Charles Bronson was in the original) wasn’t exactly memorable, but it was an entertaining Jason Statham vehicle. This one is a step down, but not by much. It’s far from his worst; it’s just that it never quite gets into a rhythm. It sometimes flirts with the outrageousness of a Transporter movie and then pulls back almost immediately into a blander, more generic type of actioner. I have a feeling that if the filmmakers fully embraced the goofiness and really went for broke (i.e. doubled-down on shark repellent); it might’ve been a classic.

The Rolling Stones are for my money the greatest band of all time. Because they have been together for so long, their only real competition is themselves. Since there have been many terrific documentaries and concert films made about them over the years, this one (about their recent tour through Latin America) feels a bit slight in comparison. However, there are still enough interesting tidbits here that make it worth checking out.

If you’re watching the film to hear their music, you might be disappointed. Not many songs are played in their entirety, but we do get to see full versions of “Start Me Up”, “Out of Control”, and “Satisfaction”. The best musical moment finds Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sitting backstage and reminiscing about the evolution of “Honky Tonk Women” before doing an impromptu rendition of it. Just seeing the two of them together, alone and away from the spotlight and playing is quite a special moment.

I think the coolest thing about the film is the segment devoted to Argentina. Like many countries in South America, the government of Argentina cracked down on rock music in the ‘60s and ‘70s and banned it. Despite that, a bunch of rock fans made their own tribe (known as “Rolingas”), and modeled their life around the Stones. They tattooed themselves with the band's logo, wore their T-shirts, and played their music in rebellion to the government. If anything speaks to the band’s influence in that part of the world, it’s this segment.

There are also smaller glimpses of band’s impact on the region. We see a local samba group playing “Sympathy of the Devil” and a Mexican Mariachi band playing “Happy”. The scenes of the band running into cultural difference are amusing as well (like in Peru, where the local cuisine is guinea pigs). There are also the expected bits of the band being themselves. It’s funny seeing Keith running around the empty stadium using a magic stick to ward off an eminent rain shower. (It doesn’t work.)

Throughout all of this, the band’s management tries to organize their historical Cuban concert. The film deals with their team’s various setbacks as they try to grapple with the logistics of putting on the show and working out the timing (they have to reschedule when Obama announces his visit). That concert is a subject of another documentary, Havana Moon, which I hope to check out very soon.

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ASSAULT! JACK THE RIPPER (1976) ** ½

A surly waitress asks a meek cook for a ride home in a rainstorm. During the downpour, they accidentally kill a crazy hitchhiker with his car. The waitress helps him dispose of the body in a nearby junkyard and when they arrive home, they have hot, passionate sex together. After a time, they realize they can no longer have sex unless they kill a woman right before, so they go out and search for more female victims.

Assault! Jack the Ripper starts off like a variation on Crash before abruptly switching gears and becoming a serial killer couple movie. Early on, we get a great WTF scene with the nutty hitchhiker in which she smears wedding cake all over her naked body and tries to attack the couple with a razor blade. This is exactly the sort of bizarre sequence that will make any jaded exploitation movie fan sit up and take notice.

Once our “hero” settles on a particular method of disposing of his victims (by stabbing women in their genitalia), the film becomes decidedly less fun. Sure, there is a wild scene that takes place in a graveyard (and includes a deadly 69), but the death scenes quickly become repetitive (which, I guess is to be expected from a serial killer, but still). At least the running time is a mercifully short seventy-one minutes. That way the film never quite wears out its welcome, although it comes perilously close to doing so in the final reel.

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HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT (2015) ***

In the ‘60s, French New Wave filmmaker Francois Truffaut extensively interviewed Alfred Hitchcock and wrote the definitive book on The Master. The book went on to become a valuable text for up-and-coming filmmakers, many of which are interviewed (among them, Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and David Fincher). This documentary focuses on the lasting effect that the book had on its readers and chronicles (using archive photos and audio tape) the actual interview.

Scorsese pretty much dominates the second half of the movie when he’s discussing Vertigo and Psycho. This is actually the most entertaining stretch of the picture. I think we would’ve been better off with a feature length Scorsese interview on Hitchcock. Regardless, it’s still worth a look for fans of Hitchcock and (to a slightly lesser extent) Truffaut.

At a mere eighty minutes, the film seems a bit rushed and its focus gets sidetracked at times. The filmmakers spend a lot of time discussing Hitchcock’s movies, but offers few insights about what went on in that small office between Hitchcock and Truffaut. Sure, we get to hear the audio excerpts from the original interview, but these glimpses are more tantalizing than satisfying, and you walk away wanting more.

The big takeaway from the film is that even though both Hitchcock and Truffaut were as different as night and day, they still had a common ground: Their love of movies. Even though they had to overcome a language barrier during their interview, they both spoke the language of cinema. That’s a message any movie lover can embrace.

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GOD FORGIVES… I DON’T (1969) ***

A train pulls into the station with its shipment of gold stolen and all the passengers dead. Gunfighter Cat Stevens (Terence Hill) and his buddy Hutch (Bud Spencer) know that only one man could’ve pulled off such a caper, the dastardly Bill San Antonio (Frank Wolff). Problem is Stevens already killed him. They eventually learn that Bill has faked his death and is sitting on the loot he stole from the train. The pair then teams up to get the gold back.

God Forgives… I Don’t was the first pairing of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. While their Trinity movies are better known, I prefer this one because it’s not nearly as jokey. Sure, there is some humor here, but it’s nowhere near as broad as the Trinity pictures.

Hill is a total badass in this. He has a number of good scenes, like when he turns the tables on a couple of card sharks. Heck, just the nonchalant way he slides down a rocky cliff is pretty cool. He and Spencer have a lot of chemistry and it’s easy to see why they were cast in so many movies together. Frank (The Wasp Woman) Wolff is also quite amusing as the fey villain.

Director Giuseppe Colizzi handles the action crisply enough. He works in enough of the Spaghetti Western motifs (like when the heroes get beaten and tortured, only to later come back stronger than ever) that endear themselves to fans across the world. He gets the picture off to a crackling start with a number of clever vignettes (including a montage of Hill blowing away several henchmen) and flashbacks (including a gunfight in a burning house). The pacing stalls however once the narrative becomes more straightforward and routine. When Spencer shows up, the film gains a little traction and it’s fun watching him and Hill play off one another.

Colizzi reteamed with Hill and Spencer for two sequels, Ace High and Boot Hill.

AKA: Blood River. AKA: He Never Forgives. AKA: God Forgives.

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There are a lot of words to describe Frank Zappa. Genius. Madman. Anarchist. None of those labels really do him justice. He was a man of enormous talent, and as this documentary points out; many contradictions.

I can't say I've ever been a big fan of his music, but I certainly admire the weird, offbeat way he approached it. (I actually think I like his ‘80s output more than I like the old Mothers of Invention stuff.) One fan in this film calls his work “Anti-Music” and that’s pretty much the definitive term for it. Although I like the fact that he pushed the idea of what music could be, I can honestly say that it’s not something I could really listen to over and over again.

Zappa was always a fascinating person, especially when he was being interviewed. The strength of the documentary is that much of it is just Zappa talking. Those looking to hear a lot of his music will get a taste of it, although the best stuff isn’t always used. The pacing of the movie is a bit dull as its interview/concert footage/interview rhythm gets a bit monotonous. On the plus side, it does get better as it goes along, especially once Zappa defends his work on Capitol Hill in front of a bunch of politicians who want to censor his music.

Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words probably won't win him any new fans. The die-hards will probably walk away pleased though. It’s not bad or anything. It’s just lacking the anarchistic spirit that made the man a legend.

AKA: Frank Zappa.

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES (2016) **

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is exactly what you think it is. It’s an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, with zombies in the mix. I just wish the filmmakers attacked the project with a little bit more flair as the whole thing feels a bit too proper to be good fun.

The film has its moments to be sure. However, they are more clever than laugh-out-loud funny. I liked the scenes of women being fitted into girdles for costume balls and being forced to make room for their swords underneath their bodices. It’s also amusing how the class snobbery works. The upper class women look down on the heroic Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) because she got her zombie-killing training in China. (All the best ladies train in Japan, don’t you know?)

I just wish the zombie-killing sprees were fun. They lack blood and guts, and are over much too quickly before you can fully appreciate them. Director Burr Steers delivers on the atmosphere as the candlelit ballrooms are quite creepy. It’s just a shame he never really lets loose.

The two leads are engaging enough. Sam Riley is a lot of fun as the stubborn Darcy, who is in this version, a revered zombie slayer. He has a lot of chemistry with James and their bickering is rather fun to watch. In fact, the best scene of the movie doesn’t even have any zombies in it. It comes when Darcy asks for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage. When she refuses, a swordfight breaks out between the two of them.

If the rest of the film had the same sense of fun about it, it could’ve worked. Most of the time, the tone is off just enough that even the seemingly can’t-miss scenes fall flat. Every now and then, Steers and company hit the right note and you can see what they were going for. That alone is worth a grin and a smile, but not enough to sustain an entire feature.

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GONE GIRL (2014) ***

Nick (Ben Affleck) seems like your typically unhappy married man whose life is put under a microscope when his seemingly perfect wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing. Pretty soon, townsfolk, the police, and (thanks to a Nancy Grace-inspired newscaster) the nation thinks he’s a murderer. His wife loves mysteries, and as part of an anniversary present to Nick she had set up clues to her whereabouts. He dutifully follows the clues, hoping to find answers, but is she the one pulling the strings?

Director David Fincher is in the same mode he was in when he made The Game. Both films involve twisty plots and leading men who are sent on demented scavenger hunts in order to “learn a lesson”. Unlike that flick, Gone Girl’s twists hold up to closer scrutiny. It is also missing a shaggy dog ending that undermined The Game’s effectiveness. Instead, the ending (which I would not dream of spoiling) is rather downbeat, depressing, and even a bit tragic.

Not all of this works. Some of the plot twists are obvious, and the film runs on about a half hour longer that it really should’ve. The thing that keeps you engaged is the way that Fincher and screenwriter/author Gillian Flynn plays with the audience’s sympathies. One moment, we despise Nick for what (we think) happened. Once more of the story is revealed, he becomes more and more of an unlikely hero.

Affleck is ideal for this sort of thing. He tries to keep a stiff upper lip, even when he’s being accused of heinous deeds. I especially liked how he tried to maintain his composure throughout the nightmarish situation. However, the people around him perceive his composure as cold-bloodedness, which makes them more afraid of him.

Pike is great too. I don’t want to spoil anything, but she really goes all-out on this one. She plays up all the different aspects of her character extremely well. Her scenes with Neil Patrick Harris (who plays her creepy ex) in particular are unsettling. The gusto in which she throws herself into these scenes is quite admirable.

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Killer Biker Chicks opens with the dictionary definition of “b-movies”. As if it’s trying to let itself off the hook for containing bad editing, acting, and dialogue. This is one of those wrongheaded throwback pictures that came out in the wake of Grindhouse. These kinds of films only work when filmmakers use the old motifs of Grindhouse cinema to create something retro and cool. Instead, these hacks set out to make a bad movie on purpose, using the fact that most biker flicks are already pretty terrible to begin with as a built-in excuse to suck.

There’s so much wrong with Killer Biker Chicks, so I’ll just hit the highlights (or lowlights as the case may be). The editing is horrible. It cuts to black or slowly fades out after EVERY SINGLE SCENE. They also use EVERY SINGLE FILTER on the camera, which results in a slipshod look. It goes from black and white, to red tint, to video, to negative, usually without rhyme or reason. They really needed to pick a style and stick with it.

The sound is awful too. The audio is extremely loud in one scene and inaudible in the next. In fact, the sound gets so bad that at some points, they have to resort to using subtitles, just so you won’t miss the dialogue (which is moronic, offensive, and just plain unfunny).

The cast is also pathetic. There were only two names in the cast that I recognized. Trent Haaga is a veteran of many Troma movies, but his Troma output looks like Criterion Collection material next to this flick. It was also nice to see the late exploitation legend Ted V. Mikels pop up early on as the owner of a strip club. I wish the filmmakers didn’t give him so much dialogue because he flubs many of his lines. (He does get to name drop The Astro-Zombies in there though.) The Killer Biker Chicks get naked a lot, but that’s about where their talent ends.

What’s probably the most infuriating thing about the film is that the Killer Biker Chicks don’t even get much screen time in their own movie. A pair of comic relief (and I use that term very loosely) cops dominate the screen as they spend most of their time abusing their power while they rape and steal from average citizens. Their banter is painfully unfunny too.

With a budget this low, I was surprised to hear songs like “It’s Raining Men”, “Mama Told Me Not to Come”, and “Born to Be Wild” on the soundtrack. Maybe they blew their budget on the soundtrack clearances. Heck, the whole thing is so slapdash it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t pay for the rights to use the songs.

All of this goes on and on for 99 excruciating minutes. The film’s only merit is the rampant T & A. Other than that, I have to say that this is easily one of the worst biker movies I've ever sat through.

Next time on It Came from the Thrift Store: Legends of the Superheroes!

PUPS (2000) ** ½

A teenager (Cameron Van Hoy) and his girlfriend (Mischa Barton) find a gun in his mother’s closet and on their way to school, decide to rob a bank. They take hostages, issue threats, and soon, the FBI and their lead negotiator (Burt Reynolds) try and put a lid on the situation. The kids are mostly making it up as they go along; taking their cues from old movies they’ve seen on TV. When they realize they’ll practically get anything they want, the kids demand to be put on MTV and soon enough, Kurt Loder (playing himself) shows up to interview them.

Pups is like a teenage Dog Day Afternoon. Since the teens in question are closer to twelve than twenty, it makes the hostage scenes rather unpredictable. They’re more like children playing cops and robbers than real thieves. That makes the potential for tragedy even greater, but offers the movie a surprising amount of levity and charm too.

The film was written and directed by a guy named “Ash”, AKA: Ash Baron-Cohen, cousin of Sacha. His screenplay doesn’t offer any insights on our nation’s youth, but he doesn’t really need to. He just presents an oddball scenario and lets it loose.

I will say that Ash probably plays his cards too soon. When it comes time for the final negotiation, the movie is already running on fumes. The finale, while inevitable, doesn’t quite pack the intended punch unfortunately.

Still, it almost works. The film is filled with some memorable moments and the interaction between the kids and the hostages is often funny. I liked the wheelchair-bound vet character. While the other hostages try to remain calm, he wheels himself around the bank and goads the kids into taking full advantage of the situation. This is also the only bank heist movie I can think of in which the robbery is stalled when one of the robbers get their first period.

Burt is quite good as the agent in charge of the situation. He gets a few laughs as he struggles to maintain his cool while putting up with the robbers’ childish demands. Loder is also pretty funny playing a dickish exaggerated version of himself. The movie belongs to Van Hoy though. I can’t say you’re rooting for his repugnant character or anything, but he definitely has charisma and holds your attention throughout.

AKA: Fucked Up.

For more Burt Reynolds reviews, check out my latest book, Revenge of the Video Vacuum, for an entire chapter devoted to Burt’s films: http://www.amazon.com/Revenge-Video-Vacuum-Mitch-Lovell/dp/1519142331/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1484231605&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=mitch+lovell

CRY WOLF (2005) **

Produced by Doug (Swingers) Liman, this horror flick is kinda like Cruel Intentions meets a slasher movie with a little bit of The Usual Suspects thrown in there for good measure. None of it quite works I’m afraid, although it certainly has its moments.

A circle of snobby friends grow weary of playing lying games at a fancy prep school. They decide to take things to the next level when a student is found murdered near the campus. They perpetuate a serial killer hoax by sending a mass email throughout the school. On Halloween night, a real killer wearing an orange ski mask begins picking off the friends one by one.

It’s easy to spot the twist ending. (Obviously, spoilers are imminent.) The kill scenes are filmed in a grungy snuff movie style that is far removed from the sleek look that Jeff Wadlow (who would go on to direct Kick-Ass 2) gives the rest of the film. We quickly realize that it’s just what our hero sees in his head when he’s heard his friends have been killed. Eventually, the whole thing is revealed to be nothing more than an elaborate prank that winds up backfiring when someone really dies. (This is the second horror movie I’ve seen this week with the same twist, the other being Graduation Day.)

One thing I appreciated about the movie was the time it was made. It was in that weird in-between era where instant messaging could be a major plot point. Of course, no one uses that now, but what is cool about the film is that it also features what I believe to be the first scene in which a girl is stalked by someone while she takes a selfie. When she sends it to her boyfriend, he sees there’s a killer behind her and rushes to try to save her. So because of that, the flick simultaneously feels dated and a bit ahead of its time.

The rest, I’m afraid, is pretty routine. The twist ending means that there are actually precious few murders, which is disappointing. It also explains the weak PG-13 rating.

The cast is a mixed bag. The leading man is a dullard, but Lindy Booth, who plays the sexy redheaded ringleader of the group, is quite good. However, I was appalled at just how wasted Gary Cole was. Here is a guy who is always fun to watch and what does he get to do? Appear oh so briefly and talk in a silly British accent! Still, any movie in which Jon Bon Jovi (fresh off the success of Vampires: Los Muertos) plays a lecherous professor has to be worth a watch, don’t you think?

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Even though I have a soft spot in my heart for teen comedies from Crown International Pictures, this one was rough going almost from the start. Nearly all the male characters are unlikeable creeps and have weird, hard-to-place accents. Some of them speak with English accents, others sound vaguely Canadian, and a few appear to be pronouncing their dialogue phonetically. (A quick check to IMDB confirms it was a Canadian production after all.)

A nerd bets his friend he can deflower prettiest girl in school. He actually (Spoiler Warning for anyone who’s never seen a teen sex comedy) falls in love with her and doesn’t think he can go through with the bet. He also has odd James Bond-inspired fantasies where he's running around dressed in a tux and trying to shoot the guy he made the bet with. Isn’t it always grand to have a hero with delusions of murder?

The whole thing feels like it takes place on another planet (or in this case, Canada) where the rules of comedy function differently. Like the scene where our hero meets his girlfriend’s mother and pretends to be The Elephant Man by hiding his face behind a flower arrangement (and later, a welder’s mask). Is pretending to be hideously deformed an acceptable way to ingratiate yourself to your girlfriend’s parents in Canada?

The movie ends when the nerd challenges his buddy to a game of chicken, which happens to be without a doubt the worst game of chicken ever captured on film. It looks like both cars are only going about ten miles an hour when they’re driving toward each other. What’s worse is that neither of them crash! Then again, if they did, there wouldn’t be much damage since they were both about forty miles-per-hour below the speed limit.

Stacy Christensen, who plays our hero’s object of lust, is the only bright spot here. She also happens to be the sole likeable character in the movie. Everyone else deserves their subsequent plunge into obscurity.

AKA: The Virgin Queen.

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I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND (1978) * ½

I’ve never been much for The Beatles. I have always been a Stones fan myself. Maybe that’s why this comedy, about a bunch of girls trying to sneak into The Beatles’ hotel room before they make their debut on The Ed Sullivan Show fell flat for me. (They should’ve made a movie about a bunch of groupies headed to Altamont.)

I wanted to like the film and gave it more than its fair share of chances. It just got more and more annoying as it went on. Everything about it was just shrill and irritating.

First off, it’s hard to root for your characters when they are so thoroughly unlikeable. They lie, cheat, steal, blackmail, and trespass just to get a glimpse of The Fab Four. What make makes the whole thing more obnoxious is that, in the end, they are eventually rewarded for their efforts of stalking the ever-loving shit out of the band and actually get to see The Beatles.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who co-wrote the film with his buddy Bob Gale. The plot is paper thin, their comedic timing is sloppy, and the narrative is aimless. Zemeckis’ work with actors isn’t very good either. I mean, what can you say about a movie when Eddie Deezen plays the most likeable character? Thankfully, they got a lot better with their next picture, Used Cars.

Seven years after this movie, Zemeckis and Gale made Back to the Future, and the rest was history. However, the only kick I got out of watching I Wanna Hold Your Hand was because of its similarities with Back to the Future. Both films take place in the past, have endings that involve a guy climbing a tower in a lightning storm, and feature a character who says, “Get your damn hands off her!” Like Back to the Future, it was also produced by Steven Spielberg, who must have had a psychic vision to predict Zemeckis would’ve been a great filmmaker based on the evidence presented here.

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THE WICKED WITHIN (2015) **

William Friedkin is a visionary director. When he made The Exorcist in 1973, it was a major accomplishment in horror filmmaking. Despite his visionary status, I don’t think he could’ve foreseen that people would still be copying it four decades later. While The Wicked Within is far from the worst Exorcist rip-off I’ve sat through, it never ever comes close to creating genuine chills, mostly because it lacks the piss and vinegar that makes possession horror movies work.

Sienna Guillory attends a party to help her grieving sister get over the death of her young daughter. Before long, Sienna begins acting weird and showing the classic signs of demon possession. The family hires a psychic, and then an exorcist to help her, but neither of them is a match for the demon hiding inside of Sienna. Once the demon has everyone’s attention, it revels in revealing shocking secrets from their past to tear the family unit apart.

The Wicked Within, with a few edits, could easily play on The Lifetime Channel. It is a low key and undercooked possession flick that is more concerned with family drama than outright terror. The film also suffers from a really cheap look. The budget was obviously low and the lack of location work (most of the film is set inside a house) helps to highlight that fact.

The film steals wholesale from The Exorcist. Now I know my motto is usually, “If you have to steal from somebody, steal from the best”, but director Jay Alaimo delivers the shocks in pedestrian fashion. Although there is a masturbation scene here, it does not involve a crucifix, which takes the sacrilege right out of it. Like Linda Blair, Guillory also pukes a lot. Alas, there is no pea soup to be found.

The similarities don’t end there. Sienna also talks in a raspy voice, says foulmouthed things to her family members, and throws people across the room. When it comes time for her head to spin around (courtesy of some weak CGI), Sienna even comments on how derivative it all is.

It doesn’t stop there. The flick steals from other genres too. Since there’s a psychic hanging around, that means we also have to sit through a dull séance scene. We are also subject to an invisible rape scene as well, but it’s no match for the one in The Entity.

Sienna Guillory’s performance is the only “wicked” thing about the film. She really goes for it, contorting her body, ranting, raving, drooling, and cursing like a sailor. She easily steals the movie, which is quite a feat when you consider she spends most of her time duct-taped to a chair.

Sonja Kinski (daughter of Nastassja) delivers a strong performance as a sensitive family member who figures into the (OK) twist ending. Eric Roberts (who looks like he shot his scenes in a single day) also turns up as a psychiatrist who hears the story in flashbacks. Patrick Muldoon has a blind-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo too.

It’s the grandmother who gets the best line of the movie when she calls the psychic: “A carny weirdo!”

AKA: Possessed.

SEXTETTE (1978) **

Mae West plays a movie star who just got married to a British lord (Timothy Dalton). They spend their honeymoon at a posh London hotel where several foreign diplomats are staying. Her manager (Dom DeLuise) is secretly working with the American government to prevent global chaos from breaking out with the Russians. The only thing that can save the world is if Mae gets it on with one of the Russian diplomats (Tony Curtis), who also happens to be her ex-husband. More trouble brews when yet another ex-husband (George Hamilton), long thought dead, shows up to reclaim his wife.

Mae spends a lot of the movie parading around in extravagant gowns and making tired one-liners. The filmmakers use lots of make-up and foggy camera lenses to make Mae appear younger, but that only helps to accentuate her age. (Even her close-ups aren’t really close up.) When she walks, she seems to be holding her hip in pain, so a lot of the time, she just lounges around on a bed or a couch quipping.

I know she is a world renowned sex symbol, but that was in the past. I’m not saying she can’t still be a sex symbol at age eighty-five. It’s just that I had a hard time buying it.

It’s hard to tell who Sextette was made for. I don’t know how many people were clamoring to see an eighty-five year old doing the same shtick she did at thirty. I’m guessing Mae West, who hadn’t had a starring vehicle in over thirty years, knew her time was coming to an end and wanted to go out with a bang. It’s more of a bust, frankly. Still, you can’t take your eyes off of it. I mean, how many films boast having Mae West and Timothy Dalton singing a duet of Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together”? As a bad movie fan, I live for shit like this. It’s just too bad that the scenes of West making double entendres about bodily fluids are more creepy than funny.

The all-star cast is fun to watch. You’re never sure just who’s going to show up next, so in that sense, it’s compulsively watchable. DeLuise gets a few laughs as West’s harried manager. Regis Philbin and George Raft appear as themselves and rock icons Alice Cooper, Ringo Starr and Keith Moon also show up, although only Alice performs.

Dalton escapes with his dignity intact and cuts a dashing figure in the scene where he scales a ledge to retrieve an incriminating cassette tape. It’s later revealed that his character was a British agent and someone says, “He’s bigger than 007!” (To which West replies, “I don’t know, I never measured him.”) The Bond producers must’ve saw this because nine years later, he’d wind up playing James Bond, so at least something good came of this mess.

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HOT SHOTS (1956) ** ½

Sach (Huntz Hall), Duke (Stanley Clements), and (what’s left of) The Bowery Boys catch a mouthy kid trying to steal their car. As it turns out, he’s a pampered TV star who wants to quit his show and live like a normal kid. Since he takes a shine to Sach and Duke, the head of the studio gives them jobs to help placate his temperamental star. The kid’s uncle (who talks like either he’s had too much Novocain or is trying to impersonate Gregory Peck) has been milking his bank account dry and plans to kidnap him for an even bigger payday. It’s then up to Sach and Duke to rescue him.

Hot Shots, the second Bowery Boys movie without Leo Gorcey, isn’t bad. The fine direction by Jean Yarbrough (who directed many Abbott and Costello movies) and the sturdy script help to keep things moving along at a steady clip. Hall’s constant mugging is good for a few laughs, and Clements seems to be settling into his straight man role nicely. The best part (for me) was seeing the sexy Joi (Hillbillys in a Haunted House) Lansing as the boy’s buxom secretary, who also happens to be in on the kidnapping. There’s a great moment when Hall turns on the air conditioning in his office and it blows her skirt up.

All of this is good fun for a while, but the film eventually runs out of steam. The sight gags and slapstick in the third act (which includes an extended sequence involving a fire escape) grow increasingly dire and aren’t very funny. Still, there are enough one-liners and quips to keep you chuckling. My favorite line was when Hall asked someone if they wanted cream in their coffee. When they insist on taking it black, he says, “Now where am I going to find black cream?”

GRADUATION DAY (2015) * ½

Let’s get this out of the way before we do anything else. Graduation Day isn’t a remake of the ‘80s horror movie. It’s actually another useless Found Footage flick. That means that we have to deal with a LOT of shaky-cam nonsense. The good news is that it’s mercifully short (74 minutes) and contains a neat April Fool’s Day inspired twist ending. That isn’t enough to save it, but it’s certainly far from the worst Found Footage horror film I’ve seen.

Drunken teenagers decide to leave a house party and go to the beach for some cliff diving. A girl says she can't swim, so one of the dumbasses throws her off the cliff. When she drowns, the teens conspire to cover the whole thing up. Nine months later, on graduation day, the teens receive a DVD from a mysterious blackmailer containing footage of them disposing of the body. They proceed to argue endlessly about what to do and eventually, a killer (dressed in a cap and gown) begins to kill them off one by one.

So, basically, it’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, except that everyone films themselves with cameras the whole time.

The bare bones of an okay story are here, it’s just that the shaky-cam shit gets old quick. It also doesn't help that all the characters are annoying jocks who call women “bitches” and men “pussies”. Because of that, it’s hard to care about what happens to any of them. Their taste in music is terrible too, which makes the party sequences a chore to get through.

Even though I like the ending on principle, there are a lot of gaping holes in the logic. (Warning: Spoilers to follow.) First off, the scene where our hero sneaks into school to retrieve the condemning footage from his locker is dumb. I mean, he’s already graduated and out of school. Why would he keep footage of a murder in his locker? Wouldn’t a janitor or somebody find it?

Throughout the movie, there are scenes where people Face Time our hero while they’re being stalked by the killer. At first, the idea of someone who films themselves while being chased by a killer instead of calling the cops is stupid. Once you realize everyone is playing an elaborate prank on him, it makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is the fact that a teenager would waste an entire year of her life by going into hiding and faking her death just to jump up months later and say, “Ooooh, I got you good!”

Another thing that doesn’t make sense: It’s a Found Footage movie, but there are still random slow motion shots when hot girls walk by. Actually, there is lots of slow motion throughout the film. The only reason I can see for this is that they had to pad out the running time to get it up to 74 minutes.

As bad as much of the flick is, I will admit there is at least one good scene in which the teens conspire to cover up the body. The reason it works is because it feels exactly like something a privileged kid would do to keep from getting into trouble. You can definitely see how horseplay could escalate to accidental death, and eventually a coldblooded cover-up. That, along with the decent ending, isn’t enough to make it all worthwhile, but it keeps it from being a total waste.

For more Found Footage reviews, check out my latest book, Revenge of the Video Vacuum, on sale now at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Revenge-Video-Vacuum-Mitch-Lovell/dp/1519142331/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1483712787&sr=1-3

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MONDO SLEAZO (2010) ****

As you all know, I have a soft spot in my heart for trailer compilations. In my humble opinion, the sleazier they are; the better. If we follow that criterion, Mondo Sleazo is one of the best ones out there. It perfectly bridges the gap between the old school thrills of the Sleazemania movies and the drive-in sensibilities of the 42nd Street Forever series and crams in a lot of sleazy entertainment into a two hour running time.

What I like about this collection is that it gives you a broad spectrum of sleaze. There is smut from the ‘30s, including drug scare films (Marihuana, Reefer Madness, and The Cocaine Fiends) and adults only exploitation pictures (Child Bride and Forbidden Adventure). We also get juvenile delinquent (High School Hellcats and Reform School Girls) and monster movies (The Giant Claw, Bride of the Gorilla, Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla, and The Brain Eaters) from the ‘50s. The ‘60s are represented mostly by nudies (The Naked Venus, Nude on the Moon, and Mundo Depravados) and there are a lot of softcore sex flicks (Can I Do It… ‘Til I Need Glasses?, Sugar Cookies, and Fantasm) and horror movies (Caged Virgins AKA: Requiem for a Vampire, The Sinful Dwarf, The Werewolf vs. the Vampire Women, and Werewolves on Wheels) from the ‘70s.

Mondo Sleazo is quite comprehensive as it contains trailers for such classics as Two Thousand Maniacs, Switchblade Sisters, They Call Her One Eye, The Big Doll House, Disco Godfather, Women in Revolt, Bloodsucking Freaks, Glen or Glenda, and Let My Puppets Come (the world’s first puppet porno). Exploitation fan favorites such as Al Adamson (Girls for Rent AKA: I Spit on Your Corpse, Satan’s Sadists, and Blazing Stewardesses) and Doris Wishman (Another Day Another Man and Deadly Weapons) are featured prominently too. As a bonus, the DVD also has a few Eurosex trailers, including Cool It Carol, Miranda, One Swedish Summer, Salon Kitty, Sister Emanuelle, and The 3 Dimensions of Greta as a special feature.

The three longest trailers are the best ones. The trailer for Dwain Esper’s immortal Maniac is a sight to behold. The lengthy trailer for The Smut Peddler is always welcome in any compilation as its one of the most memorable trailers of that era. Unlike those two trailers, I had never seen the preview for Invitation to Ruin prior to this compilation. It made my jaw drop multiple times, which means I’ve got to put that flick on my “Must Watch” list right away.

Which leads me to the reason why everyone should run out and pick this sucker up: There are trailers here that you just won’t find anywhere else. There are trailers here for movies that I had not seen before, but never even heard of. The trailer for Street Girls is amazing (the repeated sound effect of a cash register ringing every time the hooker gets paid is hilarious) and Hot Girls for Men Only, Garden of Eden, A Taste of Flesh, Strange Rampage, The Tower of Screaming Virgins, The Reluctant Sadist, The Sex O’Clock News, The Street is My Beat, The Shameless Sex, Guess Who’s Coming?, The Sexperts and The Love-Thrill Murders look as though they’re all packed to the gills with sleazy goodness.

Another reason why Mondo Sleazo gets such high marks is that it includes a trailer that is mostly just a guy sitting at a desk explaining a movie’s gimmick. In this case, it’s A Date with Death, which uses subliminal messages as its gimmick. Another sign you’re dealing with greatness is that it contains a random foreign language trailer in which you have no idea what’s going on. Of course, we’re talking about The Flying Killer, which looks to be a Kung Fu movie starring a female version of Tarzan. It looks incredible.

The best thing I can say about Mondo Sleazo is that I immediately want to run out and watch nearly all of the movies I’ve never heard of before. Now I’m sure the trailers give away the best parts (naturally), but some of them are destined to be stone cold classics. If you love movie trailer compilations as much as I do, you definitely want to check it out.

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INTO THE GRIZZLY MAZE (2015) ** ½

James Marsden stars as an ex-con who returns home under mysterious circumstances. He gets into a run-in with the law and his deputy brother (Thomas Jane) gets him out of trouble. Meanwhile, there’s been a rash of grizzly bear attacks in the nearby woods. Since Jane’s wildlife photographer wife (Piper Perabo) is out there taking pictures, he and Marsden go out looking for her. The sheriff (Scott Glenn) also calls on the services of a wily hunter (Billy Bob Thornton) to take the bear down.

As a fan of killer grizzly bear movies, I have to say that this isn’t a bad one. It could've been better though. The first sign of trouble is seeing the word “Maze” in the title, which implies there’s going to be a lot of scenes of people wandering around in the woods. There is. Too much in fact.

You also have to put up with a lot of exposition-heavy drama between the two brothers. Right from the get-go, we know that Marsden has a big burning secret he's just dying to tell everyone. Of course, he waits until the very last reel before facing off with the bear before finally spilling the beans.

The cast is great and makes you wish they had a sturdier script to work with. Marsden and Jane deliver solid performances despite the needlessly melodrama backstory their characters are given. Thornton gives an entertaining performance. He resists the temptation to make his character a villain, allowing himself to play a nerdy, tweaked version of the standard great white hunter. Glenn also has a few good moments as the sheriff with motivations of his own. Bart the Bear (who gets billing over Thornton, if you can believe it) also gives a top notch performance and looks quite menacing as the killer grizzly.

The scenes with the crazy bear eating poachers and lumberjacks have a kick to them. Director David (Saw 5) Hackl films all the throat slashing, severed hands, face tearing, and face biting with panache. Unfortunately, he allows the pacing to get awfully sluggish in the middle section of the film. All the lollygagging in the second act brings the movie to a halt. It struggles to find its footing again, and once it does, it’s too little, too late.

The shitty-looking CGI fire effects notwithstanding, the third act actually has its share of suspenseful moments. My favorite bit comes when the deaf Perabo gets separated from the group and gets lost in a dense fog. The flick really needed a few more sequences of this caliber to really put it up there with something like Grizzly though. Still, if you find yourself in need of a Killer Grizzly Bear Movie fix, this’ll do in a pinch.

AKA: Grizzly. AKA: Last Frontier. AKA: Red Machine: Hunt or Be Hunted.

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TABOO (1980) ***

Kay Parker’s husband leaves her because she doesn’t like to do it with the lights on.

I’m not sure that’s grounds for divorce in real life, but it’s a porno, so it makes perfect sense. I mean, to be perfectly fair, his wife is Kay Parker. He should at least get to look at her while they’re doing it.

Anyway, Kay feels down on herself, but her son (Mike Ranger) tells her, “I have the best looking mom in town!” She goes and cries on the shoulder of her friend who tells her, “Men. As soon as they get it up, they let you down!” Meanwhile, her son is busy banging two girls while they’re supposed to be studying history. He later spies on his mom showering and putting lotion on her tits, and he gets the hots for her. When a blind date takes Kay to an orgy, she is appalled, but secretly turned on. She gets so hot that when she comes home, she gives her son a blow job. Disgusted with herself, she tries to push him away, although she still lets him bang her again. Eventually, she starts dating another man, which drives a wedge between her and her son.

Kay Parker sometimes speaks in a British accent for no good reason in this movie. Other times, she speaks normally. Then there’s other times when she switches back and forth between accents within the same sentence. They didn’t hire her for acting though. They hired her because she’s hot. She is quite sexy in her sex scenes and the first time between her and Ranger, despite the icky incest angle, is rather hot.

I’ve always said the true test of a woman’s sexiness is if she can be just as sexy putting her clothes on as she is taking them off. I mean anyone can be sexy when they take their clothes off. It takes real talent to be sexy when you’re getting dressed. Kay passes that test with flying colors.

The theme of incest may not be sexy to you and me, but director Kirdy Stevens and the performers make it sexy for the characters. Because they’re turned on, it makes it okay for us to be turned on. The film is pretty funny too. I liked the scene where Kay goes to her best friend for advice and she basically just masturbates while hearing all of the sordid details. I also got a chuckle during the three-way scene with the Asian woman that was accompanied by Oriental music on the soundtrack.

Taboo was a landmark adult film. It was an enormous success and went on to spawn twenty-two sequels. As dirty movies, I can’t quite say it’s a classic or anything as it contains just as many ho-hum scenes as it does hot scenes. Thanks to the sexiness of Kay Parker, it’s definitely worth watching.

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FullSizeR

The original Silent Night, Bloody Night is in the public domain, so I guess just about anyone can make their own low budget, shot on video Part 2 if they wanted. Although actually, there’s already a sequel/remake, 2013’s Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming. So should this really count as Part 3? This is more confusing than the time House 4 got released and everyone wondered what the hell happened to House 3.

Two bickering siblings drive out of their way to put flowers on their brother’s grave. They stay at a bed and breakfast where they learn of Santa Claus’ evil brother, Black Peter. Eventually, people start getting murdered by Black Peter while our heroine learns a secret from her past.

I give the filmmakers credit. Very often I watch a shitty horror movie and say, “I bet I could make a better horror movie than that!” These guys actually went out and did it. Sure, the bar was set awfully low as Silent Night, Bloody Night is one of the worst holiday horror flicks of all time. Sure, this sequel isn’t good, but it’s better than the original and contains at least one or two clever moments before it all turns to shit.

The original was terrible to begin with, so there's no place to go but up. Sensing that, the filmmakers ignore the precedent set by the original and veer into Silent Night, Deadly Night territory for a while with a subplot about a Killer Santa. The filmmakers were also probably inspired by Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 as about a third of the running time is devoted to showing footage from the first movie as flashbacks.

This is basically where everything turns to shit. Sure, I get it. The original is in the public domain, so you can do whatever the hell you want with the footage. However, instead of just using brief snippets as flashbacks, the filmmakers use whole chunks of the first movie to pad out the running time. It’s okay when you’re showing a gory scene or something, but when you resort to showing entire sequences (which were boring as hell the first time around), it just drags everything down.

Again, there is some okay stuff here. I liked the funny pre-title sequence that lovingly recreates the opening of Night of the Living Dead (another public domain movie), but with a drunk Santa Claus instead of a zombie. I also enjoyed seeing Jennifer Runyon, the sexy college co-ed from Ghostbusters, returning to the screen for her first role in twenty-two years as the owner of the bed and breakfast. There was also at least one memorable death scene where a woman gets killed by a snow shovel, falls to the ground, convulses, and accidentally makes a snow angel in the process.

That’s about where the fun ends though. Most of the gore scenes are ruined by some awful special effects (there’s a severed hand that looks like it came out of Spencer’s Gifts). Even worse, some of the kills happen off screen. I guess that is to be expected in horror movies, but I have to call foul when the killer himself gets killed off screen (accompanied by an eye-rolling pun).

Next time on It Came from the Thrift Store: Killer Biker Chicks!

MIAMI VICE (2006) **

It’s unusual for a movie based on an old TV show to be directed by someone who created the original show. Because it’s Michael Mann at the helm and not some Hollywood hack, we go into Miami Vice with a certain level of expectations. Those expectations are raised with the casting of Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx in the roles of Crockett and Tubbs. The bare bones for a great film are here. Unfortunately, all that Mann delivers is an empty skeleton.

Crockett and Tubbs get word that a confidential informant botched a drug deal. In order to get to the bottom of things, they infiltrate an organization led by a slimy drug dealer and set up a sting. Complications ensue when Crockett falls in love with one of the women he’s trying to bust.

If you come in expecting colorful sport coats and flashy cars that were hallmarks of the original series, you’re gonna be sorely disappointed. This is one colorless, gritty, and dark movie. I don’t mean gritty and dark as in tough and ominous. I mean that a lot of it is just plain hard to see. A lot of that has to do with Mann’s digital cinematography. His use of available light in the indoor sequences makes some of the action hard to make out. It also doesn’t help that he relies on a lot of handheld shaky-cam nonsense for many of the fights, chases, and shootouts.

This might have been an intentional tactic on Mann’s part to help differentiate the movie from the show. I get that, to a certain extent, but what are you left with when you take away everything that made Miami Vice… well… Miami Vice? Not very much, I’m afraid.

You know, I miss the “old” Michael Mann. The guy who made thrillers like Thief and Manhunter that actually had some style and cool use of color. He seems to have eschewed his early sensibilities in favor of this more “realistic” approach. As in, it looks like something just about anyone could’ve cobbled together.

I guess the most shocking thing about the film is that Mann never once tries to engage the audience. We never learn much about either Crockett or Tubbs, so it’s hard to root for them. They’re such ciphers that when something potentially tragic is about to happen to them, we wind up caring very little.

In keeping with the muted color palette of the movie, the actors tone their personalities down until they blend in with the background. I know they’re supposed to be undercover and all, but geez. You’d expect guys like Farrell and Foxx to show some semblance of a pulse. I don’t know who talked Farrell into wearing that handlebar moustache and mullet either. He looks more like Walker Texas Ranger than Sonny Crockett.

I’m not saying that it’s a total wash. Despite Mann’s use of digital cinematography, there’s at least one sequence in which it actually heightens the sense of danger. That’s the scene in which Tubbs’ girlfriend is strapped to a bomb by some Aryan Brotherhood goons. It's expertly assembled, as is the final shootout. While it is a long time coming, it contains flashes of violence that only someone like Mann could orchestrate. Again, if we really cared about the characters, it would’ve been gripping stuff, instead of just a few well-executed action sequences.

The original show was a product of its time. It was flashy and cool while this one is dark and grim. The show’s datedness helps to make it function as a time capsule as the years go on. This one, on the other hand will probably wind up being mostly forgotten.

HOOTENANNY A GO-GO (1965) **

A rich guy falls in love with a folk singer who sings in a coffee house in Miami. In order to be near her, he buys the place. (He even grows a goatee to try to fit in.) Their relationship is threatened when he thinks she posed nude for a scandalous painting and begins acting like a pompous jackass.

Hootenanny a Go-Go is packed with more folk music than you can shake a stick at. I’d say the movie is comprised of 80% folk music and 20% plot. I'm not so sure that's a good thing. Sure, the plot itself isn't great, but the sheer volume of folk numbers is numbing. Some of the songs aren't bad really. It's just they come at you in a constant barrage that it becomes hard to take after a while.

The film is notable for being Joan Rivers’ first movie. She appears as part of a comedy folk trio called Jim, Jake, and Joan. They do a current events shtick that mocks the big news stories of the day. They aren’t great or anything, but it’s clear that Joan is a star in the making, even given her brief screen time.

I can’t quite recommend Hootenanny a Go-Go, but it does have a time capsule quality to it that makes it worth watching. If you wanted to know what coffee houses looked like in Miami in the mid-‘60s, I’d say this is about as good as any place to start. The film also has some really bizarre moments that are sure to make your jaw drop. There’s a Cappuccino machine with a life of its own and weird dream sequence in which our hero, dressed as a dog, follows his dream girl around on all fours while she does a ballet dance. The movie really needed two or three more of these odd asides to make it a camp classic, but it’s just nutty enough to be semi-enjoyable.

AKA: Once Upon a Coffee House.

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THE LOCH NESS HORROR (1981) * ½

Larry Buchanan split his time making historical exploitation biopics and cheap monster movies. I’ve sat through enough of each of them to know that despite his lack of talent, the biopics are usually a lot more fun because there is a passion and drive behind them. Movies like Buchanan’s Zontar: The Thing from Venus and The Loch Ness Horror are harmless B monster flicks that are for the most part, indifferently assembled and lacking the charm of his so-called historical epics.

An American scientist (Buchanan’s son, Barry) goes to Loch Ness to study Nessie alongside a famed scientist (Doc Livingston) and falls in love with his feisty granddaughter (Miki McKenzie). Meanwhile, a rival scientist (Stuart Lancaster from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) is also looking for Nessie. After his two assistants get eaten by the monster, he finds its egg and tries to skip town with it. Naturally, Nessie comes after him.

The Loch Ness Horror might be the closest to a real movie Buchanan ever made. Too bad it sucks. The monster is awful, but entertaining. Whenever she eats someone, they have to help her by sticking their head into its mouth. Although the monster might’ve looked good if it was kept in the shadows, the cinematography is so bright that it accentuates every flaw. I mean how can a monster be menacing when it’s got a perpetual smile on its face? Once Nessie goes on land, it looks even funnier.

Actually, the first few minutes of this are pretty atmospheric. The underwater photography of the divers swimming around Loch Ness is excellent. Once you see Nessie, all hopes for a genuinely scary picture are dashed.

Whenever Nessie is front and center, The Loch Ness Horror is bearable because the monster is so hokey. When the characters take center stage, the movie hits a brick wall. The ineffectual hero and irritating supporting characters with overdone Scottish brogues get on your nerves awful quick. Buchanan’s pacing is sluggish as it is, but then he introduces too many subplots that further bog things down. (Did we really need the subplot about the British soldiers looking for a downed Nazi plane?) If Nessie’s body count wasn’t so slim and she was given an opportunity to chomp down on a half dozen or so more tourists, I might’ve been more forgiving. As it is, there’s too much boring human drama and not enough stupid-looking monster mashing for my tastes.

AKA: Nessie.

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NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT (1972) **

Ann (Diana Lorys) is a sexy stripper who is suffering from a psychotic break and having terrible nightmares. Her lesbian lover Cynthia (Colette Jack) tries to get a kindly psychiatrist (Paul Muller) to look after her. They’re actually in cahoots and are trying to drive Ann to suicide so they can steal her money.

Director Jess Franco turns up the heat early on as he gives us lots of sex scenes, lesbian make-out sessions, nudity, and shower scenes. Then the film veers off into melodrama territory for a bit. After that, the pacing never recovers. If you can handle a lot of soap opera plotting and acting, you might be able to enjoy it. The murder plot is overly predictable and more than a bit rambling, but it remains watchable throughout thanks to the generous doses of nudity.

Fans of bad dubbing will probably want to give it an extra Half Star as it contains some of the worst dubbing I’ve seen outside of a Kung Fu movie. (Then again, are there really fans of good dubbing?) The hackneyed dialogue is also good for a few laughs. My favorite part was when Muller asked Lorys, “What’s the matter with you?” while she was in the midst of a nervous breakdown. I was all like, “Dude, you’re the psychiatrist! Isn’t it your job to figure it out?”

Lorys gets naked a lot and has long stripteases that enhance the plot in no way, except to provide a lot of nudity. In her narration, she says her stripteases are slow because her boss wants to give the customers “time to enjoy their drinks”. I think the real reason was that Franco was coming up short on the running time and decided to use every frame of striptease footage he filmed. She also gives a pretty good performance, considering that her voice is horribly dubbed. I also liked seeing Franco vets Jack Taylor and Soledad Miranda popping up in small supporting roles, although they aren’t given all that much to do.

For more Jess Franco reviews, check out my latest book, Revenge of the Video Vacuum. It makes a perfect stocking stuffer! You can order your copy from Amazon using this link: http://www.amazon.com/Revenge-Video-Vacuum-Mitch-Lovell/dp/1519142331/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1482157190&sr=8-1&keywords=revenge+of+the+video+vacuum

THE LAST PATROL (2001) ½ *

Dolph Lundgren has made some bad films in his time, but this one might be his worst. It’s a post-apocalypse movie from director Sheldon Lettich, a veteran of many Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicles. That sounds like a good idea in principle. The execution on the other hand is pathetic.

Now notice I called The Last Patrol a “post-apocalypse movie” and not a “post-apocalypse action movie”. That’s because there’s hardly any action in it. Most of the time, Dolph sits moping around his military base narrating the hell out of things while a cavalcade of the most annoying people you ever saw gallivants across the screen. It gets on your goddamned nerves in about five minutes flat. Seriously, the film feels like a bad FOX sitcom at times, minus the laughs. I want to fault the script for being so dumb, but Lettich should’ve really reined his actors in a bit and made them act like actual human beings.

Lundgren doesn’t fare much better. He acts indifferent and aloof and doesn’t really seem all that bothered whenever his fellow men act like something out of a MAD Magazine parody. If he was still playing Ivan Drago, he would’ve throat-punched somebody about five minutes into the movie.

Further proof Lundgren didn’t care: He couldn’t even be bothered to loop some of his own dialogue. Instead, some monotone lunkhead provides his voice in some scenes. That’s right folks; he pulled a Seagal on this one.

The awfulness of the film is compounded by the fact that nothing really happens for an hour or so. During that time, there are a lot of eye-rolling interactions with Dolph and the moronic characters. The worst is Candy, a bubble-headed blonde. Even though she’s easy on the eyes, she’s murder on the ears, especially when she’s singing like Betty Boop. She also takes what is probably the worst shower scene in cinema history.

The final act is a slight improvement from what came before. That’s because it actually features a sliver of action and a bare wisp of a plot. Candy is kidnapped by some convicts from a nearby prison who have somehow managed to survive the big earthquake that decimated the world’s population. Dolph and his cronies then sneak into the prison to rescue her, which gives us about five minutes or so of genuine action.

One thing I did like about the villain was the fact that he used the prison’s security cameras to create his own talk show, which he broadcast to the other prisoners. That was fairly clever. For every (OK, one) clever moment in the film, there are about seventy-four lame ones (like the last-minute rain dance).

Near the end of the movie, a kid prays, “Dear God, this isn’t working.” The filmmakers should’ve said the same thing.

AKA: The Last Warrior.

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