July 17th, 2007

ABANDON (2002) **

The screenwriter of Traffic Stephen Gaghan wrote and directed this routine thriller about a young girl (a pre-brainwashed Katie Holmes) and a cop (Benjamin Bratt) trying to solve the disappearance of her Bohemian boyfriend (Charlie Hunnam).  The surprise ending actually works and if that was the beginning of this movie instead of its climax, it could have rocked.  Too bad the last 15 minutes of this flick can’t salvage the first 75.  Zooey Deshanel, Gabrielle Union and Fred Ward co-star.  Gaghan did Syriana next.

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO GO TO MARS (1953) ** ½

Many critics say this is the team’s worst film, but it’s fun if you’re an indiscriminate fan of the team (like me)  Like Meet the Killer, the title is all wrong since Abbott and Costello actually go to Venus and NOT Mars.  Venus, if you didn’t know is populated entirely of beauty pageant winners (including Anita Ekberg).  I wonder why NASA hasn’t looked into this…

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1953) ***

Bud Abbott and Lou Costello play London bobbies trying to solve a series of murders.  Could it be Dr. Jekyll (Boris Karloff)?  Or his alter ego Mr. Hyde (stunt man Eddie Parker)?  Or both?  The comedy this time relies more on slapstick rather than the team’s patented play on words routines.  The best gag is Bud saying “Follow me!” and then pushing Lou in front of him. Karloff plays a rather wimpy Dr. Jekyll in his only portrayal of the role. The special effects and transformations are good, but not up to par with Meet Frankenstein and Meet the Invisible Man’s excellent work.  Also with Craig Stevens, who played Peter Gunn.

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948) ****

It’s amazing how well this horror comedy stands the test of time, even more than fifty years after it’s original release.  It’s the best Abbott and Costello movie ever and the best horror comedy of all time.  It still manages to be funny, scary, and surprising even after repeated viewings.  The special effects are among the best of the old Universal monster movies. The Wolf Man transformation scenes and   the scenes where Dracula turns into a bat (courtesy of animation) are excellent.  Basically, the plot has Dracula needing Lou’s brain to revive the Frankenstein Monster. Larry Talbot tries to help the boys, but ends up turning into the Wolf Man at the most inopportune times.

It was only the second (and last) time that Bela Lugosi played Dracula, and sadly, it was his last picture for a major Hollywood studio.  Universal originally wanted John Carradine as Dracula (he had played Drac previously in House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula) but director Charles T. Barton held out for Bela.  Lon Chaney played the Wolf Man for the fifth time and Glen Strange played the Monster for the third time (though Eddie Parker doubled for him in some scenes).  The film was a big hit for failing Universal, and it was the second time Bud Abbott and Lou Costello saved the studio (the first time being Buck Privates).  Universal quickly capitalized on the film’s success by having Bud and Lou Meet even more Monsters. Strange went on to Gunsmoke and Lugosi went on to do Ed Wood movies.  Also with Lenore Aubert, and Vincent Price as the voice of the Invisible Man.

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE INVISIBLE MAN (1951) *** ½

This is the best of the team’s later Meet the… series and is one of their funniest.  The special effects are top notch.  The boxing sequences, (especially the scenes with the punching bag), spaghetti eating, and the last scene where Lou Costello becomes invisible are among the highlights.  The plot involves boxer Tommy Nelson who becomes invisible to clear his name of murder.  Abbott and Costello play bumbling detectives who try to help.  The scene where the Invisible Man helps Lou in the boxing ring is hilarious and the effects hold up even to today’s standards.  Even though Vincent Price did the voice of the Invisible Man in Meet Frankenstein, he is played by Arthur (Monster on the Campus) Franz in this movie.  Also with William Frawley, from I Love Lucy.

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KEYSTONE KOPS (1955) ** ½

This typically silly later Abbott and Costello comedy has the duo traveling cross country to find a crooked movie producer in Hollywood during the silent era of cinema.  Because of the surroundings, the team almost solely relies on slapstick and not on their patented wordplay.  Fans of the Keystone Kops will also be disappointed as they only show up during the last ten minutes for an extended comic chase.  On the other hand, if you’re an indiscriminate fan of Abbott and Costello (like me) you’ll probably enjoy it.  Producer Mack Sennett cameos (as himself) as does Costello’s daughter (as a ticket taker).

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE KILLER, BORIS KARLOFF (1949) ***

Second in Abbott and Costello’s Meet the… series takes a while to get going but is loaded with laughs.  Bud Abbott tries to solve a murder in a hotel where Lou Costello is the prime suspect.  Karloff is a swami who tries to hypnotize Lou into committing suicide, but can’t because Lou is too dumb (just like in Meet Frankenstein).  The scene where Bud and Lou try to dispose of an incriminating dead body is the black comedy highlight.  The film was originally titled Easy Does It, but it was changed due to the success of Meet Frankenstein.  As in Abbott and Costello Go To Mars, the title is all wrong because Boris is NOT the Killer! 

ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY (1955) ***

This was the last film the team did for Universal.  After they were fired, they did one more film (Dance With Me Henry) and then split up.  Bud Abbott and Lou Costello find a cursed medallion that leads to a treasure hidden inside a pyramid.  Unfortunately, it’s guarded by Klaris the Mummy (Eddie Parker).  The bit where the medallion is hidden in a hamburger roll is priceless and is the comedic highlight.  The mummy costume is pretty shoddy, but the laughs are there.  With Marie Windsor.

THE ABDUCTORS (1971) *** ½

Cheri Caffaro stars in her second film as Ginger, the sexy female answer to James Bond.  This time she’s after some white slavers that kidnap cheerleaders.  She falls in love with a guy and when she finds out he works for the slavers, she tortures him in the shower.  Some of the girls don’t seem to mind the slave life, but Ginger rescues them anyway.  She also has a looooong scene where she shakes her maracas (literally).  The Abductors is even better than the original Ginger movie and has lots of cool split screen scenes.  It’s also got copious amounts of nudity, making it a top notch drive-in flick.  Caffaro yet again is tough and sexy; she returned two years later for the final Ginger movie, Girls Are for Loving.  Again written and directed by Caffaro’s hubby Don Schain.  Co-star Jeramie Rain was also in Last House on the Left.

ABSOLUTE POWER (1997) ****

Clint Eastwood is a great actor and good director, and in Absolute Power he gives us farfetched plot, but pulls it off with precision and makes a great popcorn flick out of a potentially ridiculous premise.  The story involves a thief played by Eastwood who is robbing the White House and witnesses a kinky affair by the President (Gene Hackman) that ends in murder.  The Secret Service is after Clint, and the cops want him too, but he uses his seasoned skills to elude them at every turn.  Eastwood makes a jumbled story coherent through crackerjack direction, great performances, and good editing.  Hackman is good as the lecherous President and so is Ed Harris as a concerned cop.  Murder at 1600 was another similarly themed President wanted for murder flick in 97.

ABSOLUTION (1988) **

This film sat on the shelf for ten years before finally being released in America, four years after the star Richard Burton’s death.  Burton stars as the gruff preacher/teacher at an all boy’s Catholic school.  When his prize pupil starts hanging out with a Bohemian drifter played by Billy (Head of the Class) Connolly, Burton disapproves and punishes him.  To get back at Burton, he goes into confession and tells him he’s committed murder and Burton falls for it.  However, someone actually takes it upon themselves to commit the crime for real.  The killer keeps Burton informed on his actions by telling Burton his crimes through the confessional and slowly drives Burton insane and leads him to murder.  The twist ending is alright, but until then, it’s pretty slow going and feels more like a British After School Special than a religious thriller.  There’s a pretty cool death by shovel but the insert shot of the obvious dummy head ruins the effect.  It would probably make a good Burton as a Priest in a Bad Movie double feature with Exorcist 2.  Screenwriter Anthony Shaffer also wrote The Wicker Man.  

AKA:  Murder by Confession. 

 

THE ABYSS (1989) * ½

They shoulda called it The Abyssmal.  $70 million was spent to make James Cameron’s waterlogged story of an underwater research team who find a new form of life that resemble Sea Monkeys on LSD.  All that money was spent on a boring story with irritating characters.  The film’s only asset is the great underwater photography.  Ed Harris hated filming (and Cameron) during the underwater scenes.  This was a big disappointment in the summer of 89.  Cameron spent his money more wisely next time with T2.  An hour’s worth of footage was scrapped before the release, including an expensive ending featuring more creatures and an underwater city.  Cameron later reinstated the scenes for a special video release (just as he did with Aliens and T2).

THE ACCIDENTAL SPY (2002) **

There are no accidents and very little spying in this unremarkable and lame Jackie Chan actioner.  This time, Chan plays an unwitting aerobic salesman working for the C.I.A. to steal a bomb from a drug lord.  There are one or two spectacular stunts here and there, but that’s not nearly enough if you’re a dyed in the wool Chan fan.  It’s also not very funny and too violent for a usually family friendly Chan flick.  This flick went straight to video.  Chan’s next was The Tuxedo.

ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE (1994) ***

Jim Carrey surprised a lot of people with this outrageous comedy that made him a star after years of being known as “that white guy from In Living Color”.   Carrey is completely unhinged as the wacky Ace who is trying to find the kidnapped Miami Dolphins mascot, Snowflake.  Though not all the gags fly, you won’t notice from laughing from the good ones.  Repeated viewings are required.  The comic highlights include Carrey talking out of his butt and a funny send-up of The Crying Game.  Critics hated it, but as Carrey got more and more famous, they slowly changed their tune.  Co-starring Sean Young, a pre-Friends Courtney Cox, and Tone Loc.  Followed by a sequel and a short lived Saturday Morning cartoon. 

ACE VENTURA: WHEN NATURE CALLS (1995) ***

Jim Carrey returns as Ace, this time looking for the Great White Bat in Africa.  The sequel is even better than the first one.  The opening spoof of Cliffhanger is inspired and the scene where a mechanical rhino “gives birth” to Ace is a grossout laugh riot.  Once you see Carrey passed through a rhino’s orifice, you won’t be the same.  This was an even bigger hit than the original.  With Bob Gunton and Tommy Davidson.  Two days into filming, director Tom (Celtic Pride) DeCerchio was fired and replaced by Steve Oedekerk.

THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1991) *

While this comedy looks great (director Barry Sonnenfeld used to be a cinematographer), it’s just plain unfunny and trashes the memory of the original show.  Raul Julia and Angelica Huston overact as Gomez and Morticia.  Christopher Lloyd is a fake Uncle Fester who is trying to steal the Addams Family fortune.  Christina Ricci is the only bright (dark?) spot of the movie.  Her portrayal of Wednesday is perfect.  Her blood soaked rendition of Hamlet is hilarious and is the only funny bit in the movie, and makes you think how good this COULD have been.  This was a big hit so naturally; we got a glut of movies based on “classic” TV shows.

ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES (1993) **

This mediocre sequel is better than the first, but it still ain’t all that great.  Joan Cusack plays a scheming nanny out to steal Uncle Fester’s (Christopher Lloyd) money.  Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) are sent to summer camp and have the best scenes (again).  Their Thanksgiving play is just as funny as their Hamlet play in the first movie.  The film has some funny gags but is hampered by a lame plot and idiotic ending.  Angelica Huston and Raul Julia return as Morticia and Gomez, and Christine Baranski and Peter MacNichol are funny as the camp counselors.

ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING (1987) ***

After writing Gremlins and Young Sherlock Holmes for Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus made his directorial debut with this fun teen comedy.  Elizabeth Shue is the babysitter who gets lost in Chicago and has a wild night of babysitting.  She gets mistaken as a Playboy centerfold, sings in a blues bar, and meets a mechanic who looks like Thor (Vincent D’Onofrio).  With Penelope Ann Miller, George Newbern and Keith Coogan.

THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN (1989) *

$52 million was spent on this piece of dreck and the best special effect is Uma Thurman naked.  The movie is loaded with wild visuals, but that’s about it.  The cast is wasted and many of the celebrity cameos (like Robin Williams) are grating and/or irritating.  The story has an old Munchausen coming out of retirement to explore the world, but the story is so jumbled and incoherent, it makes watching Terry Gilliam’s overcooked epic a chore.

 

THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI, ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION (1984) ***

It’s like coming in half way through the 22nd part of a 24 part Saturday matinee serial.  Peter (Robocop) Weller stars as Buckaroo Banzai, a half Japanese physicist/jet car racer/ rock n’ roll star/surgeon (I probably left some stuff out), who along with his Hong Kong Cavaliers (who include Clancy Brown, Jeff Goldblum, Lewis Smith and Ellen Barkin) stop aliens from invading from the 8th dimension.  Though it tries too hard to be a cult film, it’s still a lot of fun.  The best line is “What’s that watermelon there for?”  “I’ll tell you later.”

THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE (1990) ***

Andrew “Dice” Clay basically plays himself and does his stand-up act in this big budget flop from producer Joel Silver.  The Diceman even gets to sing!  Dice plays Ford, a “rock n’ roll” detective who’s investigating the on stage death of a rock singer played by Vince Neill.  Priscilla Presley is a femme fatale, Gilbert Gottfried is a D.J., Morris Day is a record producer, Lauren Holly is Dice’s secretary and Ed O’Neill plays a cop.  Any movie in which Wayne Newton plays the slimy bad guy and Robert (Freddy Kruger) Englund is his Cockney assassin is okay by me.  Director Renny Harlin also did Nightmare on Elm Street 4 (with Englund, of course).  Dice returned the next year with the concert film, Dice Rules.

AEON FLUX (2005) ***

Charlize Theron in a skin tight black outfit and mucho cool special effects provide plenty of eye candy for this fun sci-fi action flick based on Peter Chung’s cult animated series.  Theron is Aeon Flux, a sexy assassin working for an underground rebel force led by Frances (Fargo) McDormand in a utopian society of the future.  When Flux’s sister is killed, she goes into action, but as she slowly unravels the serpentine plot, she discovers the utopian society may not be so utopian after all.  Director Karyn (Girlfight) Kusomon piles on the cool imagery and the stylistic action sequences with a modicum of ingenuity.  The mind bending first half of the movie seemingly reinvents itself with each new scene.  We’re never sure what the hell’s going on, but that’s part of the film’s mystery.  But the more coherent the movie gets, the less interesting it becomes.  Jonny Lee (Dracula 2000) Miller and Pete (The Lost World:  Jurassic Park) Postletwait co-star.  Litmus test for audience enjoyment:  Are you willing to see a movie where a woman has her feet cut off and replaced with hands so she can swing on vines like King Kong?  If so, this movie’s for you!

AFRICA SCREAMS (1949) ** ½

Hillary Brooke hires department store workers Bud Abbott and Lou Costello as guides for her jungle expedition. They run afoul of headhunters and men in gorilla suits.  This average entry in the team’s filmography features two of the Three Stooges (Shemp Howard and Joe Besser) and the boxing brothers Max and Buddy Baer.  Brooke and Besser later co-starred in Abbott and Costello’s TV show.

AFTER HOURS (1985) ***

Director Martin Scorcese’s low budget black comedy nightmare benefits with repeat viewings, and holds up well to his better known works.  Griffin Dunne stars (and also produced) as a bachelor who has a series of weird encounters during one night in Soho.  Catherine O’Hara, Teri Garr, Linda Fiorentino, and Cheech and Chong are among the people Dunne meets during his wild night.  The cast is great and Scorcese is having fun, but it doesn’t always hit the mark.  Look fast for the director in a punk club.

AGAINST ALL ODDS (1984) ***

This remake of Out of the Past has been updated for the Monday Night Football set.  James Woods sends his former teammate Jeff Bridges to find his runaway lover Rachel Ward.  Things get complicated when Bridges falls in love with her too.  Murder, extortion, and blackmail follow.  Exotic locations and great performances by Woods and Bridges make the overlong film watchable.  The scene where Bridges and Woods race their cars down a narrow stretch of road is the highlight.  Phil Collins sings the irritating theme song.  Co-stars Jane Greer and Richard Widmark were both in the original.  Directed by Taylor (Ray) Hackford.

AIR AMERICA (1990) **

Mel Gibson and Robert Downey, Jr. star as reckless American pilots in Laos during the Vietnam War.  It tries to be a MASH for the 90’s but it’s just not funny enough to be a comedy, or exciting enough to count as an action movie.  Gibson and Downey can only carry this thing so far.  Director Roger Spottiswoode also directed Terror Train and Tomorrow Never Dies.

AIR FORCE ONE (1997) ***

A typical example of a well done popcorn movie.  Harrison Ford plays the President whose plane is hijacked by Russian terrorists led by Gary Oldman.  The President uses what little resources he has to fight the terrorists and save the day.  Okay, roll call of how many movies we’re ripping off here:  Die Hard, Executive Decision, Passenger 57, Clear and Present Danger, etc.  Though the premise is way unbelievable (C’mon, the President for God’s sakes!), but the film is packed with some good action, so you won’t notice how ridiculous it is.  And Ford’s line before he kills Oldman “Get off my plane!” has to be one of the worst one-liners in an action movie ever.  With Glen Close (as the Vice President!?!), Dean Stockwell (wants to shoot the plane down), Wendy Crewson (First Lady), and William H. Macy (pilot).

ALIEN APOCALYPSE (2005) **

A group of astronauts led by Bruce Campbell return to Earth forty years after being cryogenically frozen to discover that the human race has become enslaved by large CGI termites.  The silly looking “Mites” as they’re called eat human heads, “a delicacy second only to wood!”  Campbell escapes their prison camp and rallies together a rebel freedom force to stop the bugs.  It’s kinda like a cross between Planet of the Apes (except with bugs) and Army of Darkness (except with bugs), except that it’s not very good.  Campbell’s presence alone makes it worth a look though.  He also starred in Josh Becker’s much better Running Time.  Campbell made this for the Sci-Fi Channel about the same time he directed Man with the Screaming Brain.  Peter (They Live) Jason co-stars as the President.

ALIEN INTRUDER (1992) * ½

The stars of Grease and Grease 2 finally star in the same movie!  No, I’m not talking about John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer; I’m talking about Jeff Conaway and Maxwell Caulfield baby!  They actually have no scenes together and Conaway dies in the first five minutes so forget I said anything okay?  Caulfield stars as “Nick Mancuso” (wait, he’s playing the guy from Stingray?), a prisoner at “New Alcatraz” on the Earth of the future.  Billy Dee Williams is the warden who recruits him and some other prisoners Dirty Dozen style for a rescue mission in space.  The convicts are given weekend passes in a fantasy chamber, and a holographic alien named Ariel (Lois and Clark’s Tracey Scoggins) seduces them and turns them against one another.  The fantasy sequences are the only redeeming thing about this mess.  There’s western, biker, and surfing fantasies as well as a black and white Casablanca scene (kinda like the Night of the Living Dead scene in Waxwork).  The rest of the movie is your (below) average claustrophobic guys running around in basements and warehouses that are supposed to represent spaceship interiors movie.  It does win points for terrible dialogue like “Say goodbye, dickhead!”, “I’m horny!”, and “I got a dick with a will of iron!” though.  Watching every scene that Williams is in, you can almost see him thinking, “Damn, The Empire Strikes Back was a long time ago!”  The scene where he begs Scoggins to love him before being shot and falling onto an electrified fence is especially depressing.  Producers Joseph Merhi and Richard Pepin also did Executive Target.

ALIEN NATION (1988) **

In the not too distant future, aliens called “Newcomers” come to Earth and are welcomed into society, but have to face racism (err… speciesism) from most humans.  An alien cop named “Sam Francisco” (Mandy Patinkin) is paired up with the gruff Sykes (James Caan) and they have to put their differences aside to solve a murder involving a prominent alien politician (Terence Stamp).  There are some neat twists (like aliens getting drunk on sour milk), but the movie can’t decide if it wants to be a futuristic buddy action movie or a sci-fi social parable.  It turns out to be lacking in both departments and unfortunately the title is the cleverest thing about the movie.  Patinkin and Cann are both good and make the movie watchable.  It later inspired a television show, which easily surpassed the film in popularity.

ALIEN 3000 (2004) ** ½

When some dumb teens mess with some “Conquistador’s Gold” in an abandoned cave, they unwittingly awaken an “invisible” monster.  Years later, the lone survivor leads some military assholes back into the cave to find the monster.  Some of the gore is impressive, as is the monster suit, but the CGI “invisible” effects are terrible.  (Think a badly Photoshopped Predator.)  Lorenzo (Renegade) Lamas and Priscilla (Mallrats) Barnes star.  (Which means they show up for just long enough to cash a paycheck.)  Megan Malloy is pretty good in the lead, but Phoebe (Goth) Dollar steals the movie as one of the bitchy mercs.  She gets all the best lines, some of which include, “I’ll be fucked if you ain’t the weirdest bitch I’ve ever met!” and “Shut your face you meddling bitch!” and “Want some cheese to go with that whine?”  It ain’t great, but it’s fun in a Sci-Fi Channel premiere way.  Besides, any movie that boasts about a “Special Appearance by Scott Schwartz” has to be worth a look.  

AKA:  Unseen Evil 2.

ALLEY CAT (1984) ** ½

Karin Mani stars as Billie, the best kickboxer ever to live with her grandparents.  After Billie stops some gangbangers from stealing her hubcaps, (“Quit stealing my wheels!”) the gang members run and turn tail back to their leader (who likes to parade around in his underwear).  When he finds out he’s just gotten the clap from some bimbo, he misdirects his hostilities into ordering the death of Billie’s beloved grandparents.  After the courts let the murderer go free, she soon starts kickboxing the hell out of muggers and rapists in Central Park while somehow finding time to make time with a fresh faced rookie cop.  

Since Billie is the kind of girl who doesn’t mind getting naked and taking a lot of showers, the audience is behind her 100% in her quest for justice.  

Of course one night while jogging she’s attacked by a rapist and when she shoots at him, the crooked cops actually arrest HER for having a concealed weapon!  At the hearing, the punk who attacked her gets off easy and when she causes a ruckus, she gets held in contempt of court and gets sent to prison where she takes even more showers and has even more people (women this time) who want to rape her.  When her boyfriend goes to visit her she says, “If you get me out of here I’ll give you my body!”  When she gets out of prison, she sets her sights on getting revenge once and for all.  

Basically what we got is Death Wish only with a kickboxing Jersey Girl who lives with her grandparents instead of Charles Bronson.  While the flick delivers a fair amount of skin and is good for a few laughs (both intentional and unintentional) it never quite lets go in the violence department, relying more on grade C kickboxing rather than actual action scenes.  Mani is good whether displaying her assets or when kickboxing the hell out of somebody, but the rest of the cast seems to come out of the ABC Movie of the Week acting pool.  The cinematography is also muddy, sometimes distracting from the fight scenes, as well as (sadly) Mani’s nude scenes.  Mani also appeared in the much better chick getting revenge flick, Avenging Angel.

 

THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE (1959) ***

Nurse Beverly Garland searches for her husband who disappeared on their honeymoon in the swamps of Louisiana.  She tracks him down to an old house where she learns he is an experiment for doctor Bruce Bennett.  It turns out that her husband (played by Richard Crane) was badly hurt in a plane crash and the doc gave him a serum made from alligator secretions that helped him heal rapidly.  Unfortunately, there is one small side effect:  it gives him scaly skin just like an alligator.  Lon Chaney, Jr. takes the acting honors as the crazy drunk caretaker with a hook hand.  An alligator bit his hand off so he spends his time shooting gators.  He also tries to rape Garland and Crane saves her.  During an experiment to change Crane back to normal, Chaney comes in and ruins everything, accidentally accelerating Crane’s gator genes and turns him into a six foot tall gator (who wears pants and shoes).  “I’ll kill that two legged gator!”  Good effects from Ben Nye and a young Dick Smith make this a fun 50’s shocker.  Originally 20th Century Fox put this on a double feature with Return of the Fly.  Despite the title, there is only ONE Alligator Person.

ALL THAT YOU LOVE WILL BE CARRIED AWAY (2004) *** ½

Drive-In Movie guru Joe Bob Briggs gives a touching performance as a suicidal salesman in this short film based on a short story by Stephen King.  Briggs collects odd graffiti from gas station restrooms and jots them down in a notebook.  Before killing himself he contemplates what to do with the notebook as he doesn’t want it to be mistaken for a suicide note.  The open ended ending is quite compelling and Briggs is excellent in his first starring role.  (He had cameos in such films as Casino, Face/Off, and another King adaptation, The Stand.)  Comic Book author Harvey (American Splendor) Pekar co-stars as the hotel desk clerk.  This surprisingly moving short film was one of King’s “Dollar Baby” films, stories that he sold the film rights to aspiring filmmakers for only a dollar.

ALONE IN THE DARK (1982) ** ½

This not bad chiller has three inmates (Jack Palance, Martin Landau, and Erland Van Lidth) escaping from a mental institution during a blackout and terrorizing their doctor (Dwight Schultz) and his family.  Donald Pleasence also stars as Bain, the kooky doctor who runs the asylum.  The performances, punk music (The Sic Fucks perform “Chop Up Your Mother” on stage.), and tight direction by Jack (The Hidden) Sholder put this a notch or two above your average family in peril horror movie.  It also has a cool opening dream sequence and some pretty (intentionally) funny moments.  It’s a shame it isn’t scary.  One of the killers wears a hockey mask in one scene (the same year that Jason donned his in Friday the 13th Part 3) and has nose bleeds before he kills (19 years before Valentine).  You might recognize Schultz as Face Man from The A-Team and Van Lidth as Dynamo from The Running Man.  Palance and Landau went on to win Oscars and are pretty great as the demented inmates.  Sholder did A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 next.

ALONE IN THE DARK (2005) * ½

Uwe Boll returns to direct another movie based on a video game, but unlike his camp classic House of the Dead, it isn’t campy and it ain’t no classic.  Christian Slater stars as a paranormal investigator looking for children who disappeared from a mysterious orphanage.  Stephen Dorff, who must have overdosed on Nyquil before filming, co-stars and his 5 o’clock shadow challenges Slater’s to a fight.  The barely there Tara Reid also shows up as do some tentacled monsters.  

The doubt your sanity highlight is the scene where a seemingly indestructible man attacks Slater on a dock.  Slater shoots him, but the bullet has no effect.  What does Slater do next?  He shoots him again!  What does Boll do?  He cranks up the soundtrack, throws in some insane camerawork of the bullet being loaded into the chamber and adds a POV shot of the bullet being fired in slow motion and going straight into the dude.  You would think all of that cinematic hyperbole would signal the death of the guy, or at least mortally wound him, right?  WRONG!  It has the same effect as the first bullet which is to say NONE!  I can understand using all that fancy camerawork and CGI on the first bullet, but why in God’s name would you use it on the second bullet?  Especially when it’s just as ineffective as the first!  As a cherry on top, the “indestructible” man is later killed when he lands on a pole!  WHAT THE FUCK?  

Only Uwe Boll knows for sure.  

He did yet another video game adaptation, Bloodrayne next.

ALONG CAME A SPIDER (2001) ** ½

Morgan Freeman returns as detective Alex Cross, from Kiss the Girls in another adaptation of a James Patterson novel.  Freeman teams up with a cute cop (Monica Potter) to find a criminal (Michael Wincott) who has kidnapped a senator’s daughter.  The pacing drags a bit, but Freeman is excellent and the twist ending actually manages to surprise.  It’s about on par, if not better than the original.  Director Lee Tamahori did Die Another Day next.

THE ALPHA INCIDENT (1978) *

Bill (The Giant Spider Invasion) Rebane directed this comatose tale about a virus from Mars being let loose in a small town train station.  Stafford (also in Rebane’s The Legend of Bigfoot) Morgan stars along with Ralph (Kiss Me Deadly) Meeker and George “Buck” (They Live) Flower as (Surprise!) a drunk who unleashes the virus.  The infected citizens stay in the train station and argue, play cards and generally mill around for most of the movie.  Since the virus only affects you when you sleep, all the characters try to stay awake by drinking coffee and taking drugs.  One character says, “I think it’s time we took some amphetamines!”  You’ll need amphetamines to stay awake while watching this piece of shit.  About 85 minutes into the movie something finally happens! Ralph Meeker falls asleep, which causes his eyes to pop out and his brains to erupt from his skull.  That’s the only good thing about the movie.  Unfortunately the audience is in the opposite predicament.   If you do manage to stay awake to watch the movie, your eyes will feel like they will pop out.  Oh yeah, and the ending rips off Night of the Living Dead too.  Rebane uses his patented Wisconsin locations to their usual minimal effect.  The dreadful acting, sluggish pace and lackluster direction guarantee your brains will explode long before the end credits.  When it was originally released, it played on a double feature with Star Wars!

ALUCARDA (1975) ***

A sinfully sexy student in a convent named Alucarda (Tina Romero) gets possessed by the Devil and revels in converting fellow students into Satan’s order by participating in naked rituals and drinking blood.  By the end of the film, Alucarda is powerful enough to turn nuns into human baked Alaskas.  This intense and erotic flick has some memorable moments (naked chicks arising from coffins filled with blood) and some cool freak out scenes.  Although it’s slow in spots and takes its time to get going, Romero is excellent and very sexy in the lead.

AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON (1987) ****

This hilarious sketch comedy film was sort of a sequel to Kentucky Fried Movie.  That film’s director, John Landis directed some of this film’s segments, which also feature humorous vignettes from Joe Dante, Peter Horton, Robert K. Weiss and Carl Gottleib.  Steve Forrest and Sybil Danning star in the film’s titular linking device, a send-up of 50’s sci-fi movies.  Most of the other sketches revolve around TV’s and or VCR’s.  There’s way too many stars to list (a lot of whom weren’t very well known at the time), but there’s Michelle Pfeiffer, Griffin Dunne, Steve Guttenberg, Rosanna Arquette, Arsenio Hall, David Allen Grier, Russ Meyer, Kelly Preston and Andrew “Dice” Clay, just to name a few.  My favorite segment is the Celebrity Roast funeral with Steve Allen, Henny Youngman and Rip Taylor, but The Son of the Invisible Man (featuring Ed Begley, Jr.) and the Ripley’s Believe it or Not parody, Bullshit or Not (starring Henry Silva) are pretty great too.  Though not as good as Kentucky Fried Movie, it’s still packed with a lot of laughs and is an underrated classic.

AMERICAN STREETFIGHTER (1992) **

When Gary Daniels’ younger brother becomes involved in illegal underground kickboxing, he returns home from a ten year absence to help him turn his life around.  He also finds out that he has a ten year old son, and rekindles his old flame Tracy Dali, whom he promptly screws in the shower.  Meanwhile, his brother resents him and fights (he says “Yeah!” a lot while kicking the crap out of somebody) in the tournament anyway.  His ring name, by the way is “Kid Lightning”.  All the fighters have cheesy names like “Viper” and “The Green Beret”.  When Daniels starts fighting, his ring name is (you guessed it), American Streetfighter, even though he has a thick Australian accent.  The promoters of the fights are actually drug dealers who smuggle drugs inside the bodies of the dead fighters (a pretty cool idea actually).  When his brother his killed in the ring, Daniels starts whooping everybody’s ass.  It all ends in a sword fight in a funeral home right next to his brother’s open casket!!!  Though the extremely low budget and incompetent direction foil the action scenes, this flick is loaded with a bunch of WTF? moments.  It might have been better if they actually had an “American” Streetfighter in there too.  Followed by a sequel.

AMERICAN STREETFIGHTER 2 (1992) *

Gary Daniels returns in this so-called sequel.  It’s actually and older Daniels movie (Full Impact) with a new title sequence and flashbacks to the first movie (even though Daniels is playing an entirely different character!).  This time he is an ex-cop after a serial killer who is murdering hookers.  The killer also wiped out Daniels entire family (no, they weren’t hookers).  Kent Duncanon (also in the first movie, in a different role, of course) plays Daniels’ partner, who it’s obvious, is the killer.  The constant unrelated flashbacks and slo-mo fight scenes help pad the running time to a scant 72 minutes, but you’ll wish it was shorter.  

AKA:  Full Impact.

 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE (1997) *

Ah yes, here’s a dumb horror/comedy that will make you yearn for the subtle nuances of Teen Wolf Too.  A surfer dude teen stupidly lets a vampire named Moondoggie and his babes party hardy at his house while his parents are away.  He doesn’t seem to notice that his new friends don’t go out in the sun, sleep in coffins and suck blood, but he starts to become suspicious when they turn his dog into nacho dip.  He gets a vampire hunter/old timer surfer called “The Big Kahuna”, played by Adam West of all people to wipe out the vampires before his parents come home.  This comedy tries to be like a mix of those 80’s classics Weird Science and Once Bitten, but the jokes are dumb and the performances are awful.  Only West manages to get some laughs (“What’s this brouhaha about bloodsuckers?”) and gets to say the movie’s best line: “Stop that sucking!”  If only the movie listened to him.  Carmen Electra co-stars as one of Moondoggie’s babes and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’s Sydney Lassick plays his servant who microwaves poodles.  Legendary surf guitarist Dick Dale also appears for like 30 seconds.  Bummer dude!  

AKA:  An American Vampire Story.

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979) ** ½

This was a big hit and was based on Jay Anson’s “true” best seller, but it’s not very scary or memorable.  James Brolin is good though as George Lutz, who is slowly driven crazy by the haunted Amityville house on Long Island, New York.  Margot (Superman) Kidder has the thankless role of his wife Cathy.  If black goop running down the walls and a swarm of flies gives you the heebie jeebies, then this flick is for you.  On the plus side, there’s a cool “demon face” in the house’s famous windows, and Rod Steiger gets to act pretty crazy as the priest who tries to bless the house.  Followed by several sequels and a 2005 remake.  Directed by Stuart (Let’s Get Harry) Rosenberg.

 

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (2005) ***

After doing an unnecessary remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre producer Michael Bay set his sights on a new Amityville.  It’s actually better than the original and has some atmospheric scenes.  Ryan Reynolds sheds his usual smartass image and is pretty intense as George Lutz.  He slowly goes nuts, kills the family dog, and tries to chop up his wife and kids with an ax.  Okay, so it’s more like The Shining than Amityville, but it’s still entertaining.  Melissa George also stars, as well as a subdued Phillip Baker Hall in the Rod Steiger role.  Director Andrew Douglas showcases his music video roots in the torture dungeon sequence.  Screenwriter Scott Kosar also wrote The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.  Bay now wants to remake The Hitcher.  Is anything sacred?

AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSESSION (1982) **

This prequel starts off promising enough by showing how the Amityville house drove its former occupant to murder his entire family with a shotgun.  Unfortunately after the murders, it becomes a third rate Exorcist rip-off.  I think Sam Raimi and company saw this before making Evil Dead because this movie features a guy in a buttoned down blue shirt with a shotgun being chased by the POV camerawork of a spirit that possesses his hand.  Hmm…  The incest subplot is a lot ickier than the actual possession.  Burt (Rocky) Young takes the acting honors as the alcoholic father.  Written by Tommy Lee (Halloween 3) Wallace.   The next sequel was in 3-D. 

AMITYVILLE 3-D (1983) ** ½

In what’s probably the best of the original Amityville movies, Tony Roberts stars as a writer who moves in to the Amityville house and people start dropping like flies.  When his daughter drowns, he hires a parapsychologist played by Robert (Land of the Dead) Joy to investigate.  The home video and TV versions don’t preserve the excellent theatrical 3-D effects.  I remember seeing this in the theater as a kid and loved seeing flies, a flaming Candy Clark, and fire breathing basement dwelling demons in glorious 3-D.  This third installment has nothing to do with Jay Anson’s best selling book and was not based on any so-called “facts”, so anything goes.  (It owes more to Poltergeist than the original movie.)  Since it’s solely a work of fiction it doesn’t have to adhere to the rules of reality and actually frees up director Richard Fleisher to cut loose.  I mean in the end the house blows up!  Co-starring Tess Harper, Lori (Full House) Loughlin and a young Meg Ryan (who talks about having sex with a ghost).  Fleisher next directed Conan the Destroyer for producer Dino De Laurentiis.  This was the last Amityville movie to receive a theatrical release.  (Until the 2005 remake that is.)  

AKA:  Amityville:  The Demon.

ANACONDA (1997) ***

A documentary film crew goes down the Amazon River and pick up crazy old John Voight, who is obsessed with capturing a giant man-eating anaconda alive.  The snake (a combination of animatronics and CGI) can eat and puke out its prey.  Voight is wonderfully over the top with his scarred face and overblown Peruvian accent.  Eric Stoltz must have had a great agent cuz he spends most of the movie sleeping.  With Ice Cube (“I’m goin’ back to L.A.!”), a pre-star Owen Wilson, and Kari Wurher.  It’s nice to know there was a time in film history when a CGI snake was a bigger box office draw than J. Lo.

ANACONDAS: THE HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID (2004) ***

The original Anaconda was good because we got to see a list of big name stars and up and comers get turned into snake chow.  This time the biggest star is Morris Chestnut.  A team of pharmacologists go to Borneo to find “The Blood Orchid” which can give eternal youth.  “It’ll be bigger than Viagra!”  They hire a rugged captain (Johnny Messner) who has a dilapidated boat.  “She may be ugly, but she puts out!”  He also has a monkey that gets more screen time than any of the human actors.  After the boat goes over a waterfall (excellent effect), the team head deep into the jungle and are attacked by giant snakes.  “That was the biggest snake I’ve ever seen... BY FAR!”   Of course, the snakes are so big because they’ve been eating the blood orchids.  And of course, IT’S MATING SEASON.  “You trying to tell me there’s some snake orgy out in the jungle!”  There are also crocodiles and paralyzing spiders too.  It’s pretty much B Movie Gold.  The boat captain is like a character out of a 40’s movie and the female lead (Kadee Strickland from The Grudge) has a southern accent that completely disappears by the final reel.  And any movie that ends in a bunch of giant snakes in a “Mating Ball” is okay by me.  It just proves the rule that any movie that has “THE HUNT FOR THE BLOOD ORCHID” in the title is a good movie.  Directed by Dwight (Halloween 4) Little.

ANATOMY (2000) *** ½

Franka (Run Lola Run) Potente stars as a medical student in Germany who uncovers a secret society that performs autopsies on people while they are still alive.  The film has many unsettling scenes and Potente is really good, but the film sometimes wanders into your basic girl-runs-away-from-the-killer-with-a-knife clichés.  The autopsy and preserved human special effects are excellent and add to the creepy atmosphere.  Followed by a sequel.

ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY (2004) ****

 

Will Ferrell stars in the title role as a hard drinking, none too bright newscaster in 70’s San Diego whose masculinity is threatened by the presence of a female anchor (Christina Applegate), who he of course, falls in love with.  Ferrell is good, but his news team (Paul Rudd, David Koechtner, and Steve Carell) and a slew of celebrity cameos (Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, Jack Black, Tim Robbins and Ben Stiller) steal the show.  Director Adam McKay used to be the head writer on Saturday Night Live.

AND THE BAND PLAYED ON (1993) ***

Clinical but involving docudrama about the early days of AIDS detection and prevention.  Matthew Modine is good as the crusading doctor, and so is Alan Alda as his greedy rival.  Only in the 90’s could perennial good guy Alda get type cast into so many villain roles (Mad City, Murder at 1600, Whispers in the Dark).  When things get slow, have fun counting the endless cameos (Richard Gere, Steve Martin, Phil Collins, etc.).  Director Roger Spottiswoode also did Stop or My Mom Will Shoot and Turner and Hooch.

ANDY WARHOL’S DRACULA (1974) **

Udo Keir was pretty good in Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, but he makes an awful Dracula.  The whiny, weak, pathetic Count goes to Italy to look for a virgin, or “Wirgin” as the Count pronounces it.  You see, he’s sickly and the only thing that can keep him alive is virgin blood.  He stays with a family who has three virgin daughters and tries to put the bite on them.  Unfortunately the socialist handyman (Joe Dallesandro) screws them all before Dracula can get to them.  Drinking “tainted” blood causes the Count to puke and whine some more.  Despite a lively climax in which Dallesandro chops Dracula up limb from limb before finally staking him through the heart, director Paul (Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein) Morrissey pretty much drops the ball.  It isn’t nearly as gory or as fun as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein and is way too long and boring to boot.  Look fast for Roman Polanski who has a bit part in a pub.  Kier later played a vampire in Blade.  

AKA:  Blood for Dracula.

ANDY WARHOL’S FRANKENSTEIN (1974) ***

Warhol produced this alternately campy, sexy and gory flick.  Udo (Blade) Kier plays the doctor who has a male and female creature.  He wants them to mate so he can breed a race of super people.  Joe (Seeds of Evil) Dallesandro is the servant who gets it on with the doc’s wife while he’s busy in the lab.  In the film’s most outrageous scene Kier opens up the female’s monster’s innards and fucks her on the lab table and says, “To know death, you have to fuck life in the gall bladder!”  The over the top finale has the doc’s assistant literally eating out the female creature while the male stabs a spear through the doctor.  His gizzard hangs out (it was originally filmed in 3-D, so this scene really woulda been something in the theater) as the doc keeps yapping and yapping.  In the end, the male creature decides he doesn’t want to live anymore and rips his own guts out.  I love it.  Unfortunately, writer/director Paul (Trash) Morrissey can’t make the other parts of the film that don’t revolve around sex and gore work.  Don’t worry though, he still delivers enough tits and gore to keep you awake.  Morrissey followed with Andy Warhol’s Dracula.  

AKA:  Flesh for Frankenstein.

ANGEL 3: THE FINAL CHAPTER (1988) ** ½

 When the director of Reform School Girls directs an Angel movie, you expect more.  Unfortunately there’s little of Tom DeSimone’s trademark camp humor, and lots of clichés.  It’s still watchable thanks to a colorful supporting cast.  This time Angel is played by Silk Stockings’ Mitzi Kapture.  The ex-honor student turned hooker is now a photographer.  She goes to L.A. to reconnect with her estranged mother, and after she is murdered, Angel sets out to find the killer and rescue her little sister from the drugs/prostitution/pornography/white slavery racket.  Despite the ending when a baddie gets impaled on a hook, the sex and violence is rather tame.  Former Bond girl Maude Adams plays the dragon lady villainess and leads an impressive cast which includes Mark (The Jerk Too) Blankfield as Angel’s gay ice cream truck driving friend, Spanky and Richard (Shaft) Roundtree as a helpful cop.  Dick (Gremlins) Miller, Toni (“Hey Mickey”) Basil and Roxanne (Not of This Earth) Kernohan have small roles too.  Adams also gets the best line, “This is the United fucking States of America!  We don’t car bomb people!”  This wasn’t the “Final Chapter” however.  Angel returned five years later (as ANOTHER actress) in Angel 4:  Undercover.

ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD (1994) **

In this totally pointless and unnecessary remake to the 1951 Disney classic, Danny Glover stars as the hothead manager of the last place California Angels, whose team miraculously gets some help from above to win the pennant.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the kid who gets heavenly guidance from an angel named “Al” (Christopher Lloyd) who helps the team and a terminally ill pitcher (Tony Danza) find faith.  The overblown and cheesy CGI Angel effects are groan inducing, but it’s just harmless family entertainment.  Lloyd and Danza were also on Taxi together.  Director William Dear also did Harry and the Hendersons.  Followed by Angels in the Endzone.

ANOTHER 48 HOURS (1990) ***

Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy team up again in this belated sequel.  It’s not really all that funny, but there is a lot of action and the chemistry between the two stars is good.  This time they’re on the trail of sadistic drug dealing bikers and trying to take out a mysterious drug kingpin known as “The Ice Man”.  In the film’s best scene, the bikers try to kill Murphy on a prison bus, and it flips over “17 times”.  Nolte gets Murphy out of prison (again), beat each other up (again), get into a fight in a redneck bar (again), and save the day (again).  Nobody invented the wheel on this one, but director Walter (Trespass) Hill keeps things moving pretty fast.  Also starring Brion James and Ed O’ Ross.

ANOTHER STAKEOUT (1993) ** ½

Returning stars Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez are joined by the annoying Rosie O’Donnell in this too little too late sequel to the 1987 sleeper hit, Stakeout.  The trio pass themselves off as a family on vacation, while spying on a couple (Dennis Farina and Welcome Back Kotter’s Marcia Strassman) suspected of hiding a Mob informant (Cathy Moriarty) in their mountain summer home.  There’s a very funny dinner party scene and original director John Badham’s style is evident but the film never recovers from the horrible miscasting of O’Donnell.  Dreyfuss’ and Estevez’s chemistry almost saves it.  Madeline Stowe also returns from the first movie, in a diminished role and appears uncredited.

THE APE MAN (1943) ** ½

Bela Lugosi plays a scientist who injects himself with ape spinal fluid.  As a result, he becomes an ape man with bushy sideburns who sleeps in a cage with a guy in an obvious gorilla suit.  Lugosi needs human spinal fluid to live, so he and his gorilla pal go out on the town and kill.  Bela, who has an early TV set, also blackmails his colleague into injecting him with the fluid.  Meanwhile a fast talking reporter (Wallace Ford from Freaks) and his female photographer (Louise Currie) are investigating the story and are hot on his trail.  Seeing Lugosi in third rate Wolf Man make-up is good for a few chuckles, but there’s way too much irritating repartee between the chauvinist reporter and his photographer and not enough of Bela in funny sideburns.  Director William Beaudine did literally hundreds of B-Movies (many with Lugosi) including Billy the Kid vs. Dracula.

ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL (2006) ** ½

The creators of Ghost World, writer Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff team up for another teen angst comic book adaptation.  While it has flashes of brilliance, it’s also wildly uneven and suffers in comparison to Ghost World.  Max Minghella (son of director Anthony Minghella) stars as Jerome Platz, a young misfit who goes to art school to become “the greatest artist of the 21st century” and to meet girls.  He falls for a cute nude model (Tristan and Isolde’s Sophia Myles) and tries desperately to convince his professor (John Malkovich, who also produced) that he’s a great artist.  

The film’s first half is funny and showcases a bunch of quirky characters, but it begins to lose its way after the first hour when the serial killer subplot gets in the way of the characters.  The film is basically the art class scenes from Ghost World stretched out to feature length.  Ghost World was a classic because it focused all its attention to its quirky characters and let the plot take a back seat to everything else.  In Art School Confidential the characters are saddled with the unnecessary serial killer stuff.  It’s probably because the characters themselves are too thinly sketched to hang a whole movie on that the trite last half hour fails.  

There is enough eccentric entertainment and great dialogue (My favorite being, “You’re so September 10th!”) in the film’s first hour however to make it worth a look.  Steve Buscemi, Angelica Huston, Jim Broadbent and Ethan Suplee co-star.

ASSASSINS (1995) ** ½

Sylvester Stallone stars as Robert Rath, the best hitman in the world.  Antonio Banderas is the upstart new assassin on the block, bent on taking out Sly to make a name for himself.  Director Richard (Lethal Weapon) Donner offers up a few tense scenes, like when Sly and Antonio match wits in a bank, but like most of Stallone’s late 90’s action movies (The Specialist, Daylight, etc.)  where a more “mature” Sly actually “acted”, there’s too much talk and not enough action.  Also starring Julianne Moore.  Written by the Wachowski (The Matrix series) Brothers.

ASSAULT OF THE KILLER BIMBOS (1988) ** ½

Before Thelma and Louise there was Peaches (Christina Whittaker) and Lulu (Scream Queen Elizabeth Kaitin), two go-go dancers who are framed for murder.  They kidnap a waitress and go on the lam to Mexico and fall for some surfers (Nick Cassavettes and Griffin O’Neal).  In the end, they find the real killers and clear their names.  There isn’t much nudity (we do get a bunch of close ups of bimbo’s buttocks, though), but there are a few laughs.   Co-scripter Patti Astor was also in Amos Poe’s The Foreigner and both Cassavettes and O’Neal were in The Wraith together.

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (2005) *** ½

At first I was skeptical about a remake of one of my favorite films by my favorite director, John Carpenter.  Then, it dawned on me that the original was more or less a remake of Rio Bravo anyway, so I lightened up.  The differences between this and the original are that the heroes actually know who they are fighting and why (dirty cops instead of gang members) and the two leads’ races are reversed.  Ethan Hawke plays Jake Roenick, a cop addicted to pain killers, who oversees the closing of a police station on New Year’s Eve.  Of course, all the phones have been cut off and the computers are in storage.  A snowstorm re-routes a prison bus carrying notorious criminal Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne) to Roenick’s precinct.  A dirty cop (Gabriel Byrne) who was in cahoots with Bishop is determined to kill him and anyone else on the premises before Bishop can testify against him.  After we know the set-up, the film settles down into a series of tightly executed action scenes.  The best scenes come from Roenick and Bishop forming an uneasy alliance against the ruthless cops.  A lot of people get popped in the head real juicy like and there’s a death by icicle scene stolen from Die Hard 2.  The chase through the woods finale is a little out of step with the rest of the movie though.  With John Leguizamo and Ja Rule as annoying cellmates, Maria Bella and Drea DeMatteo as eye candy, Kim Coates and Dorian Harewood as the ill fated prison bus guards and Brian Dennehy as the crusty old timer.  There’s another remake of a Carpenter classic, The Fog in the works.

 

ASSIGNMENT: OUTER SPACE (1961) *

Antonio Margheriti directed this boring sci-fi melodrama starring Rik (Thunderball) Van Nutter.  An exploratory rocketship comes crashing toward the Earth and threatens to destroy it.  While the astronauts try to figure out a way to change course, a love triangle develops between the uptight captain, a female scientist and a hot shot reporter (Van Nutter).  I dare you to try to stay awake though this one.  Van Nutter was married to Anita Ekberg.  Margheriti later directed more enjoyable trash like Cannibal Apocalypse.  

AKA:  Space Men.

THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER (1958) ** ½

Ed Wood was an uncredited “consultant” on this movie and it shows.  There’s endless narration, titles cards used in Plan 9, and regular Wood actor Keene Duncan.  Three kidnappers hole up in a cabin in the woods owned by geologist, Robert (The Hideous Sun Demon) Clarke.  There’s a flash of light and The (not so) Astounding She-Monster arrives on Earth.  She wears a silver leotard, has make-up that probably inspired Divine, and glows.  She can’t be killed by guns or fire.  She walks endlessly through the woods and kills anything that gets in her way.  She kills a snake, a dog and even a bear (or at least a guy in a bear skin rug and stock footage of a bear).  She is killed when Clarke throws acid on her.  The stunned bimbo kidnap victim says:  “I didn’t know geologists used so many different kinds of acid!”  In the long ponderous ending, we find out the Monster was actually a good will ambassador from outer space (!) and that the Earth might be destroyed for killing her.  Duncan gets the best line:  “You put your foot in your mouth so much, you’re gonna get athlete’s mouth!”  If you can stand endless narration, long pointless scenes of people walking, and music stolen from The Atomic Brain for just over an hour, then this movie is for you!

THE ASTRONAUT’S WIFE (1999) * ½

Johnny Depp plays an astronaut that returns home from space to his wife (Charlize Theron). He begins exhibiting strange behavior, like listening to static on the radio, and after a night of passion, she becomes pregnant with alien twins.  Joe (Terminator 2) Morton is the ex-NASA official who convinces her something’s wrong.  “He’s not you husband anymore!”  A rather dull, joyless and plodding variation on Rosemary’s Baby, I Married a Monster From Outer Space and Species 2 (all better movies than this).  Theron played almost the same role in The Devil’s Advocate and believe it or not, this is one of Depp’s most “normal” roles in a while.  Best part:  Sid Vicious’ version of “My Way” is heard at a party.  Co-starring Clea (Girl Interrupted) DuVall.

ATTACK FROM SPACE (1959) ***

Starman was a popular Commando Cody/Superman clone serialized on Japanese TV in the 50’s.  The episodes were edited down into four features and released upon an unsuspecting American audience.  This one is good cheesy fun.  The hilarious looking “Emerald Men” send Starman (an invincible man in a funny leotard and cape) to stop the Nazi look alike aliens, The Saphirians from attacking Earth with nuclear weapons.  The Saphirians kidnap a brilliant scientist and his children and put them into “The Thought Eradicator” and turn them into mindless slaves.  They even have a weapon called “The Death Star” (hmm… wonder if Lucas saw this).  They arrive on Earth and blow up the Himalayas, but Starman shows up in the nick of time to stop them.  The last 25 minutes is one long fight scene in which Starman single handedly takes out hundreds of Saphirians.  He uses kung fu, somersaults and reverse motion photography to battle the bad guys, but isn’t above grabbing a gun to blow away a couple dozen or so.  The highpoint of the hilarity comes when he throws obvious looking stunt dummies around on visible wires.  Speaking of visible wires, look for them whenever he flies or when (toy) rockets fly through space.  This is a pretty damn entertaining movie, and its popularity spawned many imitators like Prince of Space and Invasion of the Neptune Men.  

ATTACK OF THE 60 FOOT CENTERFOLD (1995) ***

Director Fred Olen (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers) Ray’s fun send-up of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman and The Amazing Colossal Man (except you know, with tits) is a funny and campy B Movie filled with sight gags, nudity and a colorful cast of Ray regulars.  J.J. (Psycho Sisters) North plays Angel, a competitor for Centerfold of the Year for Plaything Magazine.  Fearing she’s getting too old and losing her looks, she takes an overdose of “Beauty Enhancers” which causes her to grow 60 feet tall.  The unscrupulous publisher (Jay Richardson) wants to use her as a publicity stunt, but when a jealous model also takes the enhancers, soon we got a gigantic catfight on Hollywood Boulevard!  While the film isn’t completely successful (a subplot about a rogue giant lab rat pads out the film), it’s still one of Ray’s best from the 90’s and features an impressive supporting cast filled with top notch B Actors including Michelle (Nightmare Sisters) Bauer, Nikki (Fugitive Rage) Fritz, Ross (The Sidehackers) Hagen, Russ (Dracula vs. Frankenstein) Tamblyn, Tommy (Catalina Caper) Kirk, Stanley (My Three Sons) Livingston and John (Z-Man from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) LaZar.

THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS (2002) **

After Trevor (Andreas Jones) murders his girlfriend (Beth Bates) during a satanic ritual, he’s put under the care of Dr. Ek (Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs) who puts him into a fake halfway house where actors (including Seth Green) pretend to be patients to drive him crazy.  Ek is after a sacred book that Trevor has and also torments Ted (Evil Dead 2) Raimi.  Shannon Hart Cleary is good as a “patient” who has rape fantasies and she and Bates have some hot nude and sex scenes.  It tries to be a mindfuck movie, but there are way too many hallucination and nightmare scenes that make things confusing as hell.  There’s also an irritating non-ending, but at least Alice Cooper shows up for a minute and screams, “I’m shrinking!”  Co-starring Wendy (The People Under the Stairs) Robie.

AUDITION (1999) ****

This is Takashi (Ichi the Killer) Miike’s best.  It’s a masterpiece of foiling audience’s expectations, patience and the ability to tamp back their vomit.  A grieving widower wants to get out and meet women so his movie producer friend suggests holding an audition.  They screen thirty girls before he meets Asami, a beautiful girl who turns out to have serious issues.  After their whirlwind courtship he proposes to her.  She disappears afterwards and shows up weeks later with a long needle and a hankering for gratuitous acupuncture and razor wire torture.  Miike moves slyly from genre to genre (the early scenes are lightly comedic, the middle is almost like a chick flick and the ending is balls out horror) and knows how to play his audience.  As grueling as the final torture scene is, the scene of Asami’s former disfigured teacher crawling out of a sack to slurp down some of her freshly spewn vomit is even worse.  A must see.

THE AVENGERS (1998) NO STARS

If The Avengers was cheese, it would be limburger.  If The Avengers was a disease it would be Ebola.  If The Avengers was a country it would be France.  Unmistakably one of the worst big budget major studio releases in recent memory.  Unmistakably one of the worst movies to be derived from a TV show.  Unmistakably one of the worst movies ever.  

The plot concerns a madman (Sean Connery in a definite career low) who controls the weather using a computer (just like in Superman 3!) to try to conquer the world.  Mrs. Emma Peel (Uma Thurman) and John Steed (Ralph Fiennes) are brought in to stop his reign (rain?) of terror.  There’s also an evil Emma Peel look alike assassin, but she’s only onscreen for about 38 seconds then disappears.  

Everything about this movie stinks.  Fiennes has only one facial expression throughout the movie and is a total bore as a hero.  Connery is embarrassing and Thurman is only in tight leather for one scene, which is really disappointing.  The Avengers is as flat and boring as balsa wood.  The only good part comes at the end when Connery’s henchman played by Eddie (Mystery Men) Izzard gets killed.  He’s totally silent through the movie until he’s about to die, to which he says:  “Oh fuck.”  

Did Warners even see this before they released it?  Whole scenes come and go with no consequence or purpose (like Connery trying to hypnotize Uma so he can screw her) and the whole movie is filled with special F/X that are third rate (Bees, blizzards, bubbles, etc.).  Stick with the original show.  Speaking of which, Patrick Macnee, who played John Steed on the original show has a vocal cameo.  From the director of Christmas Vacation, Jeremiah Checkik.

BABY BOOM (1988) **

In this mediocre yuppie comedy, Diane Keaton stars as a workaholic whose life changes drastically when she inherits a baby.  Will she give up city life for the country?  Will her homemade baby food be a Wall Street success?  Will she fall in love with Sam Shepard?  Will you puke from the banal and predictable plot?  At least James Spader provides his usual yuppie scum routine (albeit on autopilot) and Harold Ramis is amusing, but this thoroughly innocuous chick flick is way too long for its own good.  Director Charles Shyer and Keaton later reteamed for Father of the Bride.

 

THE BACKLOT MURDERS (2001) ** ½

A rock band is filming a video on the Universal Studios back lot.  A killer in an over exaggerated Elvis mask is picking them off one by one.  Who could it be?  The bitchy manager (Three’s Company’s Priscilla Barnes)?  Or the psycho ex-bassist?  Or perhaps that fired production assistant?  The setting puts this flick a notch or two above most slasher flicks.  Murders take place in front of the sets for The Lost World, The Hunchback of Norte Dame and the Psycho house.  (One bimbo asks:  “Is that the one with Anne Heche?)  Charles (the voice of Roger Rabbit) Fleischer plays the gay director who gets all the best lines.  “You girls have assets.  So move your ass and your sets!”   Also starring Corey Haim as a band member.  The deaths include a rip-off to the impaling from Twitch of the Death Nerve, Columbian neck ties, and nuts locked into a C-Clamp.  And, oh yeah, the only black character gets killed first.

BAD COMPANY (1972) *** ½

After writing Bonnie and Clyde, Robert Benton wrote (with David Newman) and directed this lackadaisical but interesting western.  Barry Brown heads west and joins up with Jeff Bridges’ fledgling gang.  Their love/hate relationship is the centerpiece of this endearing film.  Together they continuously botch robberies and get in trouble with both sides of the law.  The film is sprinkled with surprising outbursts of violence that keeps the viewer on edge.  Brown and Bridges are both excellent, as is Gordon Willis’ photography that captures the feeling of the Old West.  Also with David Huddleston (who was also in The Big Lebowski with Bridges).  Benton and Bridges later re-teamed for Nadine.

BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL (1965) ** ½

In the 60’s Doris Wishman was the Queen of the Nudie Movies.  This one is sleazier than most.  Meg (Gigi Darlene) is a housewife who gets raped by a janitor.  She kills him with a candy dish and high tails it to New York where she moves in with a handsome guy.  He turns out to be a drunk and beats her with a belt.  After he passes out, she kisses him goodbye (!!!) then shacks up with a lesbian.  Meg tells her she’s an “acrobatic dancer”, but all she really does is stand on her head.  The lesbian puts the moves on her and she splits.  She rents a room from a couple and the hubby rapes her, so she leaves and gets a job taking care of an old woman.  When her son comes to visit (he comes in through “the front door” which is clearly a CLOSET!) he turns out to be a detective looking for Meg.  And then… it was all a dream!  Wow.  With all the Wishman trademarks:  lots of bad dubbing and lots of close-ups of feet.  Wishman also did Diary of a Nudist and Double Agent 73. 

BAD MOON (1996) ** ½

Michael Pare returns home to Mariel Hemmingway from the Far East.  All is well, but she gets a little suspicious when he goes out into the woods in the middle of the night, chains himself to a tree an turns into a werewolf.  Writer/director Eric (Body Parts) Red’s film is low key and well acted, but is undone by a thin storyline and truly awful CGI transformation scenes.  Red also wrote the superior The Hitcher.

BARBARIAN QUEEN (1985) ***

On Amethea’s (Lana Clarkson) wedding day, her village is pillaged, her husband is kidnapped and her sister is raped.  “Nothing like a virgin to make a man’s day!”  She gathers together a female band of survivors to go rescue her hubby from the evil King, and joins up with a group of rebels.  She’s captured and is tortured topless on the rack.  She escapes by pushing her tormentor into a vat of acid.  She rallies the rebels and hubby gathers the gladiators to take out the King (who says stuff like “Pain is a wondrous thing.”)  The first ten minutes of this flick has got more action, blood and tits to make even the most jaded B movie fan sit up and take notice.  Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is your basic Half-Naked-Amazon-Woman-Swinging-a-Sword Movie.  With gladiator orgies, severed heads, and lots of boobs.  Lana Clarkson looks hot and says things like, “I’ll be no man’s slave or be no man’s whore!”  Sadly, she was recently murdered by her boyfriend, record producer Phil Spector.  Also starring Katt Shea, who went on to direct The Rage: Carrie 2.  This is the unrated 75 minute version, but there’s also an R rated version that runs a scant 70 minutes.  Followed four years later by Barbarian Queen 2:  The Empress Strikes Back.

BARE WENCH 2: BOOK OF BABES (2000) **

This is another mindless T & A filled spoof of The Blair Witch Project from director Jim (Chopping Mall) Wynorski.  Sexy Nikki Fritz takes along a bunch of big titted co-eds into the woods to find the Bare Wench (Julie Strain), a ghostly prostitute who killed her sister in the first movie.  It’s got plenty of nudity for all you die hard fans of shot-on-camcorder-T & A-spoofs, but the jokes aren’t very funny and the ending is stupid.  There’s Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and even Ghostbusters gags too.  The best part is seeing T & A guru Andy (Hard Ticket to Hawaii) Sidaris in a cameo as a director named “Dick Bigdickian”.  Co-star Lenny Juliano was also in Wynorski’s much better Not of This Earth.  

AKA:  Bare Wench 2:  Scared Topless.

BATMAN (1989) ****

This big budget blockbuster based on the legendary DC Comic character should have been called The Joker, because that’s who gets all the screen time.  You won’t care though because as played by Jack Nicholson, he’s one of the greatest screen villains of all time.  It’s also one of Jack’s best performances and features more quotable dialogue (“Never rub another man’s rhubarb!”) than you can shake a stick at.  Michael Keaton is pretty good as the brooding Bruce Wayne/Batman, but it would take one more film for him to fully grow into the role.  Director Tim Burton brings a suitably darker tone to the movie than most people were comfortable with, and is wise enough to let Nicholson go gleefully over the top.  The film was heavily criticized for not focusing enough time on Bruce Wayne, but Burton’s purpose is to establish and build up the Batman mythos in the minds of the people (and more importantly the criminals) of Gotham City.  It takes a page from the comic, The Man Who Laughs and shows how gangster Jack Napier becomes The Joker, which parallels how Bruce Wayne evolved into Batman.  (Batman inadvertently drops Napier into a vat full of chemicals, turning him into a psychopathic clown faced killer.)  While The Joker terrorizes the city with tainted beauty products that turn people into grinning corpses, millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne romances photographer Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger) and tries to come to grips with telling her his secret identity.  

The film though really belongs to Nicholson.  He has numerous classic scenes, among my favorites:  The scene where he guns down crime boss Grissom (Jack Palance).  “Jack is dead my friend, you can call me Joker!”  The scene where he defaces works of art in a museum before Batman breaks it up.  “Where does he get those wonderful toys?”  And of course, his immortal line:  “Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”  We get also get the definitive version of the Batmoblie, as well as the badass Batwing, which Joker shoots out of the sky with his big ass pistol.  

The ten minute lead up to the final mano y mano confrontation between the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince of Crime was filmed in real time, which is a good idea, but it would have benefited by tighter editing.  Unfortunately, the filmmakers kill off Joker (“Sometimes I just kill myself!”), presumably only because Jack pocketed over $50 million dollars for his role and probably would have wanted double for a sequel.  Co-starring Michael Gough as Alfred, Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent (later Two Face), Robert Wuhl, Jerry Hall, and Tracey Walter.  Danny Elfman provided the excellent score and Prince supplied a couple of snappy tunes.  Burton and Keaton teamed up the previous year on Beetlejuice.

BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997) ***

Robin:  “I want a car.  Chicks dig the car!”  

Batman (to camera):  “This is why Superman works alone!”  

The fourth film in the Batman franchise achieves the impossible:  it’s actually CAMPIER than the original 1960’s television series.  Like the show, it’s filled with bad puns, garish colors and isn’t boring.  It’s got a pretty bad reputation, but it’s fascinating to watch in a train wreck sort of way, and is at least more fun than Batman Forever.  This movie borders the thin line between complete incompetence and sheer brilliance.  

What’s more, every single creative decision director Joel Schumacher makes is WRONG!  Have Arnold Schwarzenegger play Mr. Freeze?  WRONG!  Having every line that Mr. Freeze says be either a cheesy “cold”, “ice”, or “freeze” pun?  WRONG!  Ask George Clooney to play Batman as well… George Clooney?  WRONG!  Have Uma Thurman play Poison Ivy as a bad Mae West imitator?  WRONG!  Have Bane, one of the cooler baddies in Batman’s rouge gallery, reduced to being a mindless monosyllabic stooge?  WRONG!  Alicia Silverstone as Batgirl?  WRONG!  Have Batgirl be Alfred’s niece?  WRONG!  (She’s supposed to be Commissioner Gordon’s daughter.)  And don’t get me started on the whole nipples on the Batsuit thing!  

Despite these impossible odds, or perhaps because of them, the movie still manages to be highly entertaining.  I hate to use the cliché “so bad it’s good”, but seriously if any movie was made to fit that cliché, this is it.  

The flick starts out with The Dynamic Duo battling Mr. Freeze in a museum.  “The Iceman Cometh!”  Batman drops in and nonchalantly introduces himself.  “Hi Freeze.  I’m Batman.”  Freeze grabs him and throws him through the air and Batman says, “Whoa!”  (I’m sorry but Batman should never ever say “Whoa!”)  Freeze says, “You’re not sending me to the cooler!” and sends his goons after them.  “Kill the heroes!  Kill them!  Yes!  Kill!!  Yes!  Destroy everything!”  Yep folks, this is the kind of movie where the villains says, “Kill the heroes!”  While fighting Freeze’s ice skating goons, Robin quips, “It’s a hockey team from Hell!”  All I’m going to say about the ensuing fight scene is thank goodness the Batsuit is equipped with ice skates to combat them.  In the meantime Freeze muses, “What killed the dinosaurs?  The Ice Age!” and escapes in his rocket ship.  Batman tries to stop him but Freeze gets the upper hand and captures him.  All I’m going to say about Freeze’s ensuing getaway is thank goodness Freeze’s suit comes equipped with wings (YES WINGS!)  Meanwhile Robin saves Batman from Freeze’s rocket.  All I’m going to say about their escape is thank goodness rocket ship doors double as surfboards.  “Cowabunga!”  

While all this nonsense is going on, Dr. Pamela Isley becomes the deadly Poison Ivy when her psycho rival (John Glover) kills her and she is resurrected as a killer plant lady whose venom filled lips can kill a man with a single kiss.  “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature!”  She then heads to Gotham City with her super strong henchman Bane (Jeep Swenson) in tow.  Meanwhile Mr. Freeze forces his henchmen to sing Christmas carols as he spurns the advances of moll Ms. B. Haven (Vivica A. Fox).  We learn that Freeze must steal diamonds to fuel his freezing suit and freezing gun.  He also keeps his terminally ill wife (Vendela) cryogenically frozen until he can find a cure.  “Leave us!  We need quality time!”  Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred’s niece Barbara comes to stay with him, Bruce and Dick.  As Freeze watches home movies of him and his wife, a henchman interrupts and Freeze freezes him.  “I hate it when people talk during the movie!”  

That night at a diamond charity auction where Batman and Robin are the guests of honor, Poison Ivy crashes the party.  All I’m going to say about the way she gets everyone’s attention is that she does a striptease out of a purple gorilla suit.  She puts herself up for auction and puts a spell on the two heroes by using some love dust.  Batman wins the auction naturally by using his Mastercard (which is good through “FOREVER” by the way).  “Never leave the cave without it!”  Freeze shows up and throws cold water on the sexual innuendo.  “Everybody CHILL!”  Batman however gets the upper hand and apprehends him and Freeze gets whisked away to Arkham Asylum where he’s put in a refrigerated cell.  “You can’t live outside the cold zone!”  

Meanwhile Barbara participates in an underground motorcycle race (run by Coolio).  When she’s run off a cliff, Dick swoops in at the last minute to save her.  Afterwards she confides in him that Alfred is dying.  Back at Arkham, Ivy shows up to spring Freeze.  Bane grabs his freezing suit for him and Freeze exclaims, “A laundry service that delivers!  Wow!”  They head back to Freeze’s hideout where Batman and Robin are waiting.  Ivy uses her love dust to have them fight over her so they can escape.  She also pulls the plug on Freeze’s wife and tells him that Batman was responsible.  Together they concoct a plan to freeze the planet and overrun it with plants, killing everyone else on Earth in the process, except for themselves of course.  “Adam and Evil!”  We also learn that Alfred has the same disease Freeze’s wife has and Freeze is the only one that can cure him.  

Elsewhere Ivy convinces Robin that he’s just as good as Batman and deserves his own signal.  Meanwhile Barbara hacks into Alfred’s computer, learns that Bruce and Dick are Batman and Robin, discovers the Batcave and suits up as Batgirl.  Ivy lures Robin to her lair and tells him her plan before giving him a deadly kiss.  Thankfully he’s wearing rubber lips (Of all the bad puns in the movie I can’t imagine why there isn’t some sort of “protection” joke here, but never mind.) and doesn’t die.  She has her vines capture Batman and Robin and tries to flee, but Batgirl gets the drop on her.  “Using feminine wiles to get what you want, trading on your looks, read a book sister!  That passive aggressive number went out long ago!  Chicks like you give women a bad name!”  She cold cocks Ivy, who yells “Curses!”  

Yep folks, this is the kind of movie in which the villain yells, “Curses!”  

Batgirl then reveals her identity to Batman.  “Batgirl?  That’s not awfully PC.  What about Batperson or Batwoman?”  Batman, Robin, and Batgirl then don brand new silvery suits (obviously a gratuitous toy tie-in) and head down to the Gotham Observatory to stop Freeze from freezing the world.  Batman confronts Freeze and tells him that it was actually Ivy who pulled the plug on his wife, who miraculously is still alive.  He promises Freeze that he can still continue his work at Arkham if he cures Alfred.  Freeze gives him the serum and says, “Take two of these and call me in the morning!”  At Arkham he becomes Ivy’s cellmate, “Prepare for a bitter harvest!  Winter has come at last!”  Back at Wayne Manor, Freeze’s serum cures Alfred, who muses, “We’re going to need a bigger cave!”  

In short:  big budget bad movie jackpot.  

After this flick flopped big time, Warner Brothers put the franchise on ice (no pun intended) for eight years until Christopher Nolan reinvented the Dark Knight with Batman Begins.  Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (who also co-wrote Batman Forever) incredibly would go on to win an Oscar for A Beautiful Mind, but you never would have guessed that from such dialogue as “Let’s kick some ice!”  Co-starring Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon, Elle MacPherson as Julie Madison and Jesse “The Body” Ventura as a prison guard.

BATMAN AND ROBIN: THE 1949 SERIAL (1949) ***

Batman and Robin returned in their second Columbia serial.  Despite a plethora of worthy villains in Batman’s rouge gallery, the filmmakers once again opted to create their own nemesis for Batman.  This time, The Wizard, a Crimson Ghost wannabe in a black cloaked hood terrorizes Gotham City.  Batman and Robin have close calls with speeding cars, bridges and falls from tall buildings.  Robert Lowry overcomes a goofy suit (the ears are way too big) to make a good Batman, but John Duncan, as Robin looks half asleep.  There’s no Batmobile and like in the earlier serial, Batman and Robin change into their costumes in the backseat of their car!  Co-star Lyle Talbot who plays Commissioner Gordon later starred in many Ed Wood films.

BATMAN BEGINS (2005) ****

After two ridiculously campy (but fun) Joel Schumacher sequels, Memento director Christopher Nolan takes things back to basics and shows us how Bruce Wayne (American Psycho’s Christian Bale) becomes Batman.  Though it’s an origin story, it owes more to Jeph Loeb’s The Long Halloween and Dark Victory than to Frank Miller’s Year One comics.  

After Bruce sees his parents murdered, he devotes his life to fighting crime.  He’s trained in the ninja arts by the mysterious Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) and the evil Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Wantanabe).  After refusing to kill in cold blood, Bruce leaves them behind and returns home to Gotham City.  With the help of his trusty butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and the Q-like Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) he creates an arsenal of weapons (including a bad ass Batmoblie), but more importantly, the Batman persona.  

Bale is really good at making Batman one scary bastard (I ain’t gonna commit no crimes in Gotham I’ll tell you that much) with his vicious lightning quick attacks and his scary ass voice.  Equally as scary is Cillian Murphy as the villain, Scarecrow.  (Hell he’s just as creepy when he doesn’t wear his mask!)  He uses his “fear gas” to scare the shit out of the crime bosses of Gotham to take over the city.  The best part of the damn movie is when Batman turns the tables on Scarecrow and gives him a whiff of his own medicine.  Gary Oldman is excellent as Detective Gordon, as is Rutger Hauer as Mr. Earle, but Katie Holmes is just okay as the love interest.  Co-written by David S. (Blade: Trinity) Goyer.  Let’s hope the sequels are as equally good and as nipple on the Batsuit free as this one.

BATMAN FOREVER (1995) ***

Alfred:  “Can I persuade you to take a sandwich sir?”  

Batman:  “I’ll get drive thru!”    

Ah, yes Joel Schumacher was in control of this baby alright.  Warner Brothers worried about alienating kiddies from the sights of fish gut eating Penguins and sexually primal Catwomen so they hired Schumacher to make a more family friendly Batman movie.  The lighter tone really isn’t the real problem of the movie.  The real problem is that the villains pretty much suck.  In the comics, Two Face was a great character.  Half of his face was scarred by acid and he was constantly at odds with his Jekyll and Hyde persona, so much so that he had to flip a coin in order to determine his enemy’s fate.  As portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones, he’s more of an embarrassing third rate Joker knock off.  (And since Billy Dee Williams played his alter ego, Harvey Dent in the first movie, he should have been played by his Lando-ness.)  And Jim Carrey plays The Riddler as well… Jim Carrey.  (Memo to Jim:  the word “joygasm” should never be uttered in a Batman movie.)  Val Kilmer fills in for Michael Keaton and does a good job in Bruce Wayne’s shoes, but his lips are way too big to be Batman.  The actor who comes off best is Chris O’Donnell as Robin.  As disjointed as the rest of the movie is, Schumacher handles the Robin origin story extremely well and O’Donnell brings the right amount of cockiness and naiveté to the role.  

The height of the nonsense comes when a gangster throws acid in Jones’ face in a courtroom and Batman is clearly seen jumping out of the juror’s box to try to save him.  Did I miss something?  Do superheroes have to serve on jury duty?  I can imagine Batman sitting alone in the Batcave sorting through his mail:  Bills, bills, death threat from The Riddler, more bills… summons for jury duty?!?  Despite the movie’s lapses, it moves along at a good clip and is never boring.  

Co-starring Nicole Kidman, Michael Gough (who also was in Top Secret with Kilmer), Pat Hingle, Ed Begley, Jr., Rene Auberjonois, and Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazar as Two Face’s arm candy Sugar and Spice.  Schumacher directed the much hated sequel, Batman and Robin next.

BATMANIA (1989) ***

This 45 minute compilation shows the evolution of the Batman character through his creation by Bob Kane for Detective Comics in the 30’s, 15 chapter serials in the 40’s, the campy TV show in the 60’s and the blockbuster Tim Burton movie of 1989.  Some of the serial footage is shown as well as some Kane art, but most of the time is spent on the TV show.  There’s Batman commercials (one with Milton Berle!), promos, and behind the scenes footage but no scenes from the actual show.  There are no scenes from the Burton movie either, but a lot of the merchandising is shown.  The best part is seeing Adam West in full costume at a convention signing autographs.  Worth a look for any dyed in the wool Batman fanatic.

BATMAN RETURNS (1992) *** ½

Where Batman actually returns FROM I have no idea (maybe he was on vacation or something), but he comes back to star in this uneven but satisfying sequel.  This time Batman (Michael Keaton) fights the ugly, disgusting Penguin (Danny DeVito) who lives in the sewer and the sexy Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer).  Max Schreck (Christopher Walken) is the real villain however.  He secretly wants to drain Gotham City of all it’s power and rides on the coattails of the Penguin as he ascends his way to becoming the mayor.  Meanwhile Schreck’s lowly secretary Selina Kyle falls for Bruce Wayne, which complicates their relationship when they have to dress up in black rubber and fight each other.  

It’s darker than the first movie and parents complained about the grotesque Penguin biting people’s noses off.  The Penguin is grosser and uglier than he was in the comics and (like the Joker) gets more screen time than Batman.  He also wears out his welcome pretty fast.  Pfeiffer and Keaton are great in their scenes together (in and out of costume) and Pfeiffer is good at balancing Kyle’s fragmented, broken persona with Catwoman’s sexy, slinky side.  Walken steals the movie though and easily outshines the other two villains.  The art direction and the Impressionistic sets (by Bo Welsh) are impressive but they don’t exactly jibe with the look of the first movie.    

It’s nowhere near as good as the first film and is clearly more of a Tim Burton flick than an honest to God Batman movie.  It also suffers from not having one character as remotely as interesting as the Joker, but the movie actually gets better upon repeated viewings and is a heck of a lot better than the Joel Schumacher directed sequels.  Burton and Keaton bolted after this flick, but returning co-stars Michael Gough and Pat Hingle stuck it out for two more movies.  Michael Murphy, Christy Conway, Paul Reubens and Vincent Schiavelli also co-star.  The popularity of Catwoman led to Burton leaving her alive at the end of the film for a possible spin-off, which took twelve years to finally rear its ugly head.

 

BATMAN: THE 1943 SERIAL (1943) ***

Batman and Robin make their screen debut in this awesomely dated 15 chapter serial.  The plot has Japanese spy Prince Daka (J. Carroll Naish) threatening Gotham City with a “radium gun” and turning people into mind control zombies.  The funniest scene is when Daka puts a poor dope into “the zombie chair”, which looks like a cross between a spittoon, a sunhat and an electric chair.  Batman’s costume changes from chapter to chapter (from black to blue, from short and pointy ears to long and curved).  It was made just after Pearl Harbor, so it’s filled with hateful dialogue and racist characters.  Lewis Wilson stars as Batman and Douglas Croft plays Robin.  Lambert (The Invisible Ray) Hillyer directed.

BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS (1980) ***

In this space age version of The Seven Samurai, Richard (The Waltons) Thomas gathers together a ragtag bunch of space pirates to defend his planet from the evil blue faced John (Enter the Dragon) Saxon.  George (The A-Team) Peppard, Robert (Superman 3) Vaughn and Sybil (The Howling 2) Danning are the humans helping Thomas, but there’s also a lizard man and five white omnipotent dudes too.  Peppard gets to show the aliens how to eat a hot dog, Danning gets to show off her ample cleavage and Saxon gets new body parts grafted every five minutes, but it’s Vaughn who takes the acting honors.  (Vaughn was also in The Magnificent Seven, itself a remake of The Seven Samurai).  This was producer Roger Corman’s most expensive movie and he re-used many of the sets and effects for many later movies.  He also got a list of future Hollywood heavyweights for his crew too.  James Cameron was the art director, Gale Ann Hurd was an assistant, and James Horner did the score.  The three of them would go on to make Aliens six years later.  Screenplay by John (Alligator) Sayles.

BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE (1959) **

Director Monte Hellman shot this for producer Gene Corman as a co-feature for a double bill with his brother Roger’s The Wasp Woman.  Some gangsters hiding out in a ski resort are menaced by the titular beast, a briefly seen spider-like monster.  The film is slow and talky but the last 10 minutes are pretty great once the slowpoke hero finally goes into the cave.  There he sees the cocooned victims (reminiscent of Aliens) whose blood gets drained by the beast while they are still alive.    The monster is okay looking (you can tell they couldn’t afford the whole spider and just went with the front half) but his appearance is too little too late.  Co-starring Richard Sinatra (Frank’s nephew).  Charles B. (Little Shop of Horrors) Griffith wrote the screenplay.  Seven minutes were later added for television showings.  Hellman later directed The Shooting.

THE BEASTMASTER (1982) ***

This has been on TBS a zillion times, so everybody’s probably seen it at least once.  Marc Singer stars as Dar, a warrior who can control tigers, falcons and ferrets with his mind.  He and Seth (Good Times’ John Amos) try to rescue a slave girl (A View to a Kill’s Tanya Roberts), help a young prince, and defeat the evil Maax (Larry Sander’s Rip Torn), who sacrifices kids.  Of course, Dar has to fight a guy who rides on horseback and wears a bat wing helmet, because every sword and sorcery movie made in the 80’s has a villain who rides on horseback and wears a bat wing helmet.  It’s rated PG, but it still has enough action, gore (severed heads in soup), and nudity (Roberts goes for a topless swim, which you don’t get to see on TBS) to keep everybody happy.  The bat-like creatures that wrap their wings around their victims and eat them till they’re nothing but slime and bones are the best part.  (They gave me nightmares as a kid.)  Singer later appeared on the V mini-series and director Don Coscarelli also directed Phantasm and Bubba Ho-Tep.

THE BEAST MUST DIE (1974) ** ½

Amicus produced this clever meshing of two durable genres:  The Agatha Christie murder mystery and the werewolf movie.  It also features a great gimmick in which there’s a “Werewolf Break” near the end of the film where the movie stops for 30 seconds, giving the audience time to guess who the werewolf is.  Calvin Lockhart stars as a wealthy businessman/hunter who now wants to hunt the ultimate game:  A werewolf!  He invites eight guests (including Peter Cushing, Charles Gray and Michael Gambon) all suspected of being a werewolf to his fortified mansion for a weekend house party.  He watches them all on an elaborate surveillance system until the moon rises and the murdering starts.  Lockhart puts on a black leather get-up, pulls out his submachine gun and goes a hunting.  Lockhart is excellent and it’s pretty progressive of a 70’s film, not only to cast a black actor as a wealthy businessman, but also not even to make a big deal of his race.  Unfortunately director Paul Annett lets the pacing drag more often than not, preventing the movie from really building up steam.  “Do YOU know who the werewolf is?”  

AKA:  Black Werewolf.

THE BEAST THAT KILLED WOMEN (1965) ***

In this fun nudie movie, a giant ape (at least a man in an ape costume) attacks women, interrupting their almost non-stop nude volleyball, nude square dancing, and nude shuffle boarding.  If you have a man in a gorilla suit attacking naked women fetish, this flick is for you!  I’d put it up there with Monster of Camp Sunshine, Kiss Me Quick, House on Bare Mountain and Orgy of the Dead as one of the Top 5 Greatest Nudie Monster Movies of All Time.  Filmed in “Bloody Panic Color”.

THE BEAST WITHIN (1982) ** ½

Bibi (Star Trek 2:  The Wrath of Khan) Besch is raped by a monster.  She gives birth to a normal son (Paul Clemens), but on his seventeenth birthday he slowly starts changing into the same monster.  The small town conspiracy, silly backstory and cicada subplot are stupid as hell and the capable supporting cast (including Ronny Cox, L.Q. Jones and Don Gordon) wrongly plays things with a straight face.  But in the end when Clemens turns into the cicada monster, a dozen tanks of nitrous oxide, a thousand Grouch punchlines and a vengeful Swedish dominatrix with a feather duster could not elicit as much laughter as seeing Clemens’ head blow up like a goddamn balloon.  That alone is worth at least **.  Director Phillipe Mora later perfected the art of bad transformation scenes with The Howling 2 and 3.  Screenwriter Tom Holland later directed Fright Night.

THE BEATNIKS (1959) **

Don’t be fooled by the title cuz there isn’t a single damn beatnik in the whole damn movie!  Tony Travis, a young hoodlum gets discovered by a record producer while singing in front of a jukebox.  (He sounds more like Sinatra than Kerouac, although he is “on the road” in one scene).   He’s torn between a singing career and his loyal but out of control friends.  The crazy one, Moon (Peter Breck) likes to say, “I’m gonna moon you man!”  They cause trouble in a diner that leads to Moon killing the owner.  “I didn’t kill that fat barkeep!”  Breck’s out there performance is the only thing to recommend in this dated musical/drama.  Travis also sings a song called “Sideburns, Don’t Need Your Sympathy!”  Breck was also in The Crawling Hand.

BE COOL (2005) ***

In this belated sequel to Get Shorty, Chilli Palmer (John Travolta) gives up the movie business to break in a new singer (Christina Millian) onto the music scene.  He has to deal with the Russian Mob, greedy record producers (Harvey Keitel and Cedric The Entertainer), and a yo boy manager (Vince Vaughn in his 25th movie this month).  There are way too many characters and way too little plot, but with this cast, who cares?  Uma Thurman dances with Travolta just like she did in Pulp Fiction (which also featured Keitel) and Danny DeVito shows up long enough to remind you this is a Get Shorty sequel.  Of the large ensemble cast, The Rock comes off best as Vaughn’s gay bodyguard and aspiring actor.  Seeing him performing a scene from Bring It On is worth the price of admission.  Director F. Gary (The Italian Job) Gray is good at throwing in funny in jokes but not at streamlining a rambling story.  Keitel was also in Get Shorty but in a different role (as himself).  With funny cameos by James Woods, Seth Green and Steven Tyler.  Based on the Elmore Leonard novel.

BEDAZZLED (2000) ***

Brendan Fraser wants Frances O’Connor to love him so much that he sells his soul to the sultry devil (Elizabeth Hurley) who gives him seven wishes to impress her.  The best gags involve Fraser becoming a Scarface-esque drug dealer and a big-time basketball player.  The 1967 British comedy classic didn’t necessarily need to be remade, but Fraser and Hurley make a great team and director Harold Ramis, working in Groundhog Day mode, make this an enjoyable comedy.  Hurley, who wears a different insanely hot outfit in every scene, makes a fine comedienne and I’d be more than happy to sell her my soul any day.

BEGOTTON (1989) ** ½

This nearly silent (except for sound effects) surreal, black and white Eraserhead influenced film was the first movie by E. Elias Merhige, the director of Shadow of the Vampire.  The disturbing opening scene has “God killing himself” using a straight razor to rip his own guts out.  His children “Mother Earth” and “Son of Earth-Flesh and Bone” wander through a wasteland where they are ripped apart by a bunch of scavengers who look like mutant beekeepers.  The stark photography is excellent and the film has some unsettling scenes, but I think it would have worked better as a short film.  Merhige also directed Suspect Zero.

BEHIND ENEMY LINES (2001) ***

A wisecracking Naval pilot (Owen Wilson) goes toe to toe with his hard ass superior (Gene Hackman) who warns him about his hotshot ways.  When Wilson gets shot down behi… (Oh, read the title!), Hackman disobeys orders to rescue him.  It’s strictly by-the-numbers, but if you are willing to do the math, it will add up to a solidly entertaining action movie.  Wilson’s miscasting actually works for the film.  He breathes some life into his cardboard cutout character and holds his own in his scenes with seasoned pro Hackman.  They later co-starred again in The Royal Tenenbaums.  Directed competently by John (The Omen remake) Moore.

THE BEING (1983) ***

Well, the nuclear run off facility was SUPPOSED to be safe, but of course when there’s a giant one eyed slimy, greasy, gooey monster with razor sharp teeth and a long tongue running around ripping off folk’s heads, everyone points the finger at Martin Landau cuz he said everything was okay.  This monster runs around on roller skates and turns itself into a puddle of slime and eats cats while the woefully inept hero played by “Rexx Coltrane” (actually producer William Osco) tries to simultaneously save the day and (unsuccessfully) bang a coffee shop waitress.  Meanwhile Mayor Jose Ferrer is busy getting drunk while his dingbat wife played by Ruth Buzzi of all people throws Tupperware parties and organizes Easter egg hunts.  

Nothing in this movie makes a whole heck of a lot of sense.  Not only does the hero make pointless observations via the miracle of voice over, but we also get a local D.J. and a concerned narrator (“The ultimate terror has taken form!”) who try in vain to keep the plot hanging together.  The plotline featuring a crazy ass Dorothy Malone looking for her missing son is never resolved and it’s never explained why Landau goes from telling everyone that everything’s fine to racking a shotgun and kicking monster ass in the span of like a minute.  And they don’t even try to explain the monster’s penchant for attacking people in parked cars.  (The film’s best scene takes place at a drive-in where a stoner patron says “Fuck you” to the monster.)  Well I guess the narrator tries to warn us in the beginning when he foretells “Strange and unexplained events are occurring!”  Still the gore for this kind of thing is above average and any movie in which Laugh-In’s Ruth Buzzi gets killed by a slimy mutated hellbeast is okay by me.  

Sure we’ve seen it all before, but have we seen it with Kinky Friedman and Murray “The Unknown Comic” Langston?  Director Jackie (Blood Diner) Kong also throws in a record amount of scenes where a monster throws the hero into stacks of cardboard boxes.  Bar none the best slimy mutant monster running amok on Easter Sunday movie ever.  

AKA:  Easter Sunday.  AKA:  Freak.  AKA:  The Pottsville Terror.

BELL FROM HELL (1973) **

A guy gets out of an insane asylum and goes to live with his aunt.  He gets a job in a slaughterhouse (Can you imagine his resume musta looked like?) and is also a special effects enthusiast.  In the film’s best scene, he torments his aunt by making her think he rips his eyes out (kinda like a cross between Corey Feldman in Friday the 13th Part IV and Bud Cort in Harold and Maude).  He then sets out to kill the people responsible for sending him away to the institution and stealing his inheritance.  There are some atmospheric moments but this is mostly a dull attempt at a modern gothic style horror film. Director Claudio Guerin Hill actually fell from the bell tower and died on the last day of shooting!

BEST DEFENSE (1984) ** ½

Dudley Moore stars as a weapons designer for the military, who’s about to be fired.  He meets another designer (Tom Noonan) who accidentally gives him plans for a new weapon.  Moore says it’s his invention and is promoted, but when Noonan ends up dead, the spies come after Moore.  “Strategic Guest Star” Eddie Murphy hangs around long enough to test drive a tank and start a war between Iraq and Kuwait (how prophetic!)  It’s pretty funny, but the similarly themed Deal of the Century is better.  With Kate Capshaw, who whistles the Indiana Jones theme (Director Willard Huyck also wrote Temple of Doom), George Dzundza, Helen Shaver and David (Sledgehammer) Rasche.  Huyck did Howard the Duck next. 

BEST OF THE BEST (1989) ****

Great cheesy action as James Earl Jones picks Eric Roberts, Phillip Rhee, and Chris Penn to train for a karate tournament in Korea.  Roberts’ son gets hit by a car so he has to leave the team (briefly).  Rhee’s brother was killed in a tournament and now he has to fight the man responsible.  A black and white flashback shows a young Rhee seeing his brother killed.  He drops his ice cream in slow motion as his brother falls to the mat dead!  He quits, but comes back after seeing a little kid drop his ice cream, and his older brother gives him his cone!!!  Brilliant.  Sally Kirkland also stars as a trainer who can break cement blocks.  There’s also an excellent bar fight with Kane Hodder and a pretty good tournament finale.  Seeing Roberts kung fu-ing, trying to act, and saying things like “I’m gonna kick your ass!” is worth the price of admission.  Jones gets the best line though, “For the next three months, you will eat, sleep and shit competition!”  Also featuring the requisite training montages and heart tugging family scenes.  With Louise (Time Served) Fletcher, Eddie (Reservoir Dogs) Bunker, and John P. (Death Wish IV) Ryan.  Rhee also produced, co-wrote the story and starred in several sequels.  Director Robert Radler also directed the Substitute 3 and 4.

BEYOND THE STARS (1989) **

This middling drama wastes a good cast and an intriguing premise.  Christian Slater stars as a NASA obsessed kid who gets to meet his astronaut idol (Martin Sheen) and is disappointed to learn that he is a drunken lout.  Of course, they become friends and learn life lessons from each other.  The two leads’ charisma is trapped underneath their clichéd characters and a snail like pace.  Co-starring a before she spread her legs Sharon Stone.

 

BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1970) ****

When 20th Century Fox let legendary bosom obsessed cult director Russ Meyer and film critic cum novice screenwriter Roger Ebert loose in Hollywood and gave them free reign to make an unauthorized sequel/send-up of Jacqueline Susanne’s hit The Valley of the Dolls, the results were nothing less than amazing.  The film follows the hit female band The Carrie Nations’ rise and fall in the music world. The female trio (Dolly Read, Cynthia Meyers and Marcia McBroom) get taken under the wing of an outrageous music impresario Ronnie “Z-Man” Barzell (John LaZar) and encounter sex, drugs and death.  The final act in which Z-Man’s acid tinged costume party goes all to Hell is one of the greatest scenes ever filmed.  The film is loaded with all the familiar Meyer trademarks:  wanton women, cuckolded men, rapid fire editing, and lots and lots of breasts.  Meyer’s lurid imagery and Ebert’s ludicrous dialogue (“You will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!”) will boggle your mind and tickle your funny bone.  LaZar gives one of the greatest performances as “Z-Man” and 27 years later Austin Powers would homage Dolls with his catchphrase, “It’s my happening and it freaks me out!”  As outrageous as most of this is it’s important to note that this is actually the very independent Meyer’s notion of a “studio picture”.  Co-starring Meyer regulars Edy Williams, Erica Gavin, Charles Napier and Haji.  Look fast for Pam Grier and Coleman Francis. 

THE BIG BOUNCE (2004) ** ½

The cast is awesome, the locations are beautiful, and Sara Foster looks great in a bikini, but just don’t look for anything remotely resembling an interesting story or surprising plot twists.  Owen Wilson stars as an ex-ball player/small time con artist.  The sexy Foster tries to get him to go for the big score and rob her rich hubby, Gary Sinise.  Morgan Freeman is the town judge who may or may not be in on the scam.  You can’t blame the actors for being here.  I mean they get to go to Hawaii and chill out on the beach all day!  It just doesn’t make for a great movie.  But any movie that has Charlie Sheen AND Willie Nelson can’t be all bad.  Directed by George (Grosse Point Blank) Armitage.  It’s based on a novel by Elmore (Get Shorty) Leonard, which had already been filmed once before with Ryan O’Neil in 1971.

THE BIG DOLL HOUSE (1971) ***

After her bit part in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Pam Grier co-starred in this entertaining Women In Prison movie from director Jack Hill.  There's not much in the way of plot or characters, but who cares?  It's a good sampler of everything you'd want in a Women In Prison flick.  The prisoners are tortured by exposure, whipping, shock treatment, snakes and "the hot box".  There's lots of nudity, involving showers, mud fights and sex.  ("Get it up, or I'll cut it off!")  There's even a food fight, hosings and the inevitable escape attempt.  Judy (Women in Cages) Brown and Roberta (Caged Heat) Collins are the other prisoners.  Hill's usual leading man Sid (Pit Stop) Haig co-stars.  Grier is great as a tough lesbian ("All men are filthy!") and her star quality is evident.  She even sings the theme song, "Long Time Woman" which later turned up in Jackie Brown.  She went on to star in four films for Hill, including the follow up, The Big Bird Cage, which was released the next year.  

AKA:  Women's Penitentary.

BILL AND TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY (1991) ***

An evil overlord (Lethal Weapon 2’s Joss Ackland) sends two robot duplicates to kill and replace Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves).  They go to Hell (“We’ve been totally lied to by our album covers!”), outsmart Death (Die Hard 2’s William Sadler) at Battleship, and get a Martian scientist named Station to build good robots to fight the bad ones.  In the end the world is saved while Kiss sings God Gave Rock n’ Roll to You.  It’s smarter, funnier and all around better than the first movie.  The highlights include Ted possessing his dad, a really long fall into Hell and a game of celebrity charades in Heaven.  Look fast for Sadler in a cameo sans make-up.  Also starring George Carlin, Primus, and Pam Grier in a nothing role.  Reeves and Sadler also appeared in Winter’s directorial debut, Freaked.

BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989) ** ½

Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter star as two dense Valley guys who have to pass their history report.  George Carlin is Rufus, a cool dude from the future who travels through time in a phone booth to help them.  They use the phone booth to kidnap famous historical figures (Socrates, Billy the Kid, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, etc.) to use in their elaborate report.  It starts off pretty funny, but way too much time is spent on the medieval segment and with the bumbling Napoleon.  The duo returned in the much better Bogus Journey, two years later.  Also starring Dan (Tron) Shor, Jane (The Go-Go’s) Wiedlin and Bernie (Spies Like Us) Casey.  Directed by Stephen (Critters) Herek.

THE BIRDCAGE (1996) ***

In Mike Nichols’ blockbuster remake of La Cage Aux Folles, Robin Williams and Nathan Lane star as a gay couple who have to “play it straight” when their son’s fiancée’s ultra conservative parents (Gene Hackman and Dianne Weist) come by for dinner.  It’s predictable and contrived, but Williams’ and Lane’s performances sell it and Hank Azaria is also great as their “butler”.   Co-starring Dan Futterman and Calista Flockhart and written by Elaine May.

THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970) ** ½

After years of being a film critic and co-writing the screenplay for Once Upon a Time in the West, director Dario Argento completed this, his first film.  Tony Musante stars as an author with writer’s block who witnesses a violent stabbing while vacationing in Italy.  He gets embroiled in the police investigation and becomes obsessed with finding the killer.  The whispering, giggling killer makes Musante’s girlfriend (Suzy Kendall) his next target which leads up to a pretty good twist ending.  The scene where Musante unwittingly eats a cat is the “Oh no he didn’t!” highlight.  This giallo is typical of Argento’s early work with the murder sequences taking precedence and all the dialogue and plot stuff coming in a distant second.  Argento wears his influences (Hitchcock, Antonioni, etc.) on his sleeve, and while the pacing drags, it’s still clear from just his first film that Argento is the man.  Music by Ennio Morricone.  Argento did The Cat O’ Nine Tails next.

BIZARRE (1969) ***

It would be too easy to say that this movie lives up to it’s title, but boy does it ever!  It’s an anthology horror/sex/comedy narrated by a mummy!  ‘Nuff said.  After a Far East prologue, the mummy (writer Elliot Stein) takes us on a journey of the “war of the sexes”.  First he shows us a cornucopia of naked women and men and asks us the audience if we can “imagine making love to them all”, then the vignettes begin.  In the first, a female S & M photographer literally tortures her male subject to death.  In the second an elderly man wants a male heir at any cost.  The third features a female cat burglar who uses sex to get out of being caught.  In the next, best and funniest, a female spy (who watches a silent black and white sex movie) has to seduce a military attaché.  The fifth features Stein (without bandages) who pays a prostitute to have sex with his pet lizard.  In the final and least satisfying segment an old lady traps people’s souls and puts them into flowers in her greenhouse.  It’s uneven and runs out of steam near the end but Bizarre features enough nutty imagery to keep you entertained and is sure to leave you with a silly grin on your face.  For anyone who thinks they’ve seen it all, you haven’t seen Bizarre.  

AKA:  The Secrets of Sex.

BLACK CAESER (1973) ***

Fred Williamson is a total badass in this early movie by Larry (God Told Me To) Cohen.  Williamson stars as Tommy Gibbs, a gangster who works his way up from being a shoe shine boy to kingpin of Harlem.  He makes his bones by killing a Mafioso in a barber chair.  He cuts off the dude’s ear and drops it into a crime boss’ spaghetti, and says, “The sauce needed more meat!”  They like his moxey so they let him run the rackets in Harlem.  He makes the big time and buys his white lawyer’s fancy apartment and pushes around the crooked cop who gave him his gimpy leg (He puts him in blackface).  The shit hits the fan for him when his woman balls his best friend, his mother dies, and his underlings turn against him.  After an electrifying first half hour, the film settles down into a routine crime melodrama.  The ironic ending has Gibbs killed by a street gang.  That didn’t stop him from returning in the sequel, Hell Up in Harlem the next year.  Co-stars Julius Harris and Gloria Hendry were also in Live and Let Die together.  Also with D’Urville (Dolemite) Martin and Don Pedro (THX-1138) Colley.  Williamson and Cohen later teamed up for Original Gangstas.  James Brown did the score and sings the excellent theme song, “Down and Out in New York City”.

THE BLACK CAT (1934) ***

Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi team up for the first time in this creepy Poe inspired horror thriller from director Edgar G. (Detour) Ulmer.  Karloff stars as Poelzig a Satanist with a serious widow’s peak who likes keeping women in glass cases.  He left Lugosi for dead during the war and married his daughter.  Lugosi comes to Karloff’s house seeking revenge and also has an acute fear of cats.  The movie is at its best when Karloff and Lugosi play psychological cat and mouse (no pun intended) and less so during the romantic subplot involving Jacqueline Wells and David Manners.  Lugosi gets the best line when Manners says their predicament is “supernatural baloney”, Lugosi retorts, “Supernatural… perhaps.  Baloney… perhaps not.”  (They both were in Dracula the previous year.)  The shocking ending (for 1934) has Lugosi skinning Karloff alive (offscreen) before blowing up the house.  Director Ulmer had an interesting career, directing everything from westerns, to B-Movies, to nudies.  Here he provides many atmospheric moments and moody sequences.  Karloff and Lugosi are at the top of their game and returned the next year in another Poe themed film, The Raven. 

BLACKENSTEIN (1973) ** ½

Blacula made a buck or two so this was churned out fast and on the cheap.  It’s mildly amusing and features some pretty good gore, but even at 87 minutes its way too long.  The opening titles give us some clue of the ineptness that lay in store.  After the word “Blackenstein” appears a helpful subtitle “The Black Frankenstein” pops up just in case you weren’t aware this was a blaxploitation version of Frankenstein.  

The story has a young black soldier (John De Sue) coming home from Vietnam a pair of arms and legs short.  His concerned fiancée (Ivory Stone) who just so happens to be buddies with a brilliant Nobel Prize winning scientist named Dr. Stein (STEIN!  GET IT!) who uses DNA injections to graft new arms and legs onto his body.  Of course his assistant has a crush on Stone and when she spurns him he screws up the operation which turns De Sue into a hulking monster with a large cranium and a flattop afro!  He goes out on the town and kills a racist orderly and rips the guts out of Liz Renay and a few other women.  In the end a pack of dogs rips him apart limb from limb and chew his guts out.  

The grade Z acting takes a back seat to some glaring continuity errors that would make even Ed Wood blush.  Consider the scene where the ARMLESS and LEGLESS De Sue is seen on a gurney with his arms and legs in plain view!  While most of the time it’s pretty entertaining and features a great soundtrack of old library music and well timed heartbeats, what really undoes the movie is the atrocious editing.  The scene in which the monster sneaks out of the lab is repeated over and over and the camera lingers on each and every step.  Also we get to see a nightclub act filmed almost entirely in its entirety (thankfully there’s no two drink minimum).  There’s even a scene in which someone is shown slowly falling asleep and I was half tempted to join her.  The nonexistent editing aside, the makeup is especially fun and the usual mad scientist shtick will please most indiscriminate fans of Frankenstein flicks.  

For all it’s inconsistencies at least it’s one of the first films to ever use DNA as a plot device.  They also use Kenneth Strickfaden’s old Frankenstein equipment which he would later lend to Mel Brooks for Young Frankenstein the next year.  That same year would also find Renay turning up in John Waters’ Desperate Living.   

AKA:  The Black Frankenstein.  AKA:  Return of Blackenstein.

BLACK FRIDAY (1940) ***

After a car accident involving some gangsters, scientist Boris Karloff put the brain of a gangster into the body of professor Stanley Ridges.  Ridges slowly turns into the gangster and seeks revenge on crime boss Bela Lugosi.  Boris uses Ridges to find the gangsters’ hidden loot so he can get more science equipment.  Everyone double-crosses everyone in this crime / Sci-Fi / melodrama.  Karloff gets the electric chair in the end.  Lugosi was actually hypnotized on the set before filming his death scene to make it more real and unfortunately doesn’t share any scenes with Karloff.  Director Arthur Lubin also directed many Abbott and Costello movies.

BLACK HOOKER (1974) **

The titular black hooker has an unwanted white son from a white client whom is sent to live with her poor parents (who call her “painted woman”) on their farm.  When screwing a white client she says, “Do you get pleasure by looking at my black magnificence?”  When her son grows up, he falls in love with a black girl and plans to marry her.  Those plans go into the shitter fast when he catches her making time with grandpa!  He then leaves town to see his mama, but of course she doesn’t want anything to do with him.  He tries to get a job at a grocery store, but when the owner’s wife starts hitting on him, he gets fired.  When grandma dies her funeral is filmed in sepia tone.  In the end he strangles his no good Mama and cries.  The title will make you think it’s a cool black action movie.  It’s not.  It takes place in the 20’s so don’t expect any cool 70’s afros or bellbottoms.  It’s also depressing as hell.  This was written and directed by Arthur Roberson and based on his play, which explains the over the top theatrical performances.  

AKA:  Black Mama.  AKA:  Street Sisters.

BLACK MAMBA (1974) * ½

John Ashley starred in a lot of cheapie filmed in the Philippines horror movies during the 70’s.  This is one of them.  A voodoo priestess uses voodoo dolls and witchcraft to kill her enemies in a small Pilipino island.  They see a “vision” of the (fairly shoddy looking) Grim Reaper before they croak.  The highlight is autopsy scene that uses real autopsy footage of hearts and brains being sliced open.  Unfortunately the mood of the scene is ruined somewhat when just before the insert shots of the body being cut open, we see the “dead” actor clearly cough!  This flick also features exorcisms, satanic rituals and graverobbing.  If you’re wondering just where the hell the “black mamba” of the title is you’ll have to wait 76 minutes into the movie to see it.  During an outrageous dream sequence (which features a cameo by Satan), the titular snake is seen going up a woman’s coochie.  You’ll be shaking your head in disbelief if you haven’t already nodded off to sleep.  Best line of dialogue:  “What scared the shit out of the hunchback?”  “I don’t know but there has to be a scientific explanation.”

 

THE BLACK SCORPION (1957) ***

Richard Denning stars as a scientist investigating a small Mexican village that’s been wiped off the face of the Earth.  It turns out giant scorpions are to blame.  They also take time out to derail a train.  Denning finds a nest of them hiding out in a cave and destroys them, but one gets loose and attacks a city.  The army is called in to help, and they corner it in a stadium.  Denning busts out an electric harpoon and tazers it’s ass dead.  Willis (King Kong) O’Brien did the effects, and while the stop motion special effects for the scorpions are good (although the scene of the scorpion attacking a helicopter is shown over and over), the close ups of their giant slobbering faces are more effective. 

BLACK SHAMPOO (1976) *** ½

In this blaxploitation version of Shampoo, John Daniels stars as "Mr. Jonathan" a black owner of a popular hair salon, who during the opening credits makes a white woman have an orgasm while washing her hair.  When she pulls down his pants she yells "Oh Mr. Jonathan it IS bigger and better!"  For the next twenty minutes he just has sex with white women (including a rich woman in front of her two hot daughters).  Then the plot begins and the similarities to the Warren Beatty movie end.  A mobster muscles in on Mr. Jonathan's shop, ransacks it, beats up his gay hairdresser Artie (Skip E. Lowe) and kidnaps his secretary and true love Brenda (Tanya Boyd).  When Brenda comes back to Mr. Jonathan, the mobster gets revenge by shoving a curling iron up Artie's ass and runs his best friend over with his car.  Mr. Jonathan gets back at him by cutting up two of his henchmen with a chainsaw (though how you can actually sneak up on somebody with a chainsaw remains to be seen).  The mobster finally gets his comeuppance when Mr. Jonathan runs a pool cue through his stomach. There's also a pretty gory hatchet murder too.  

This is a pretty wild black action movie.  It's actually like three movies in one.  The first act is what they advertised:  A black version of Shampoo.  The second is the typical mobster moving in on the hero movie.  And the third act is a pretty crazy, bloody, and gory revenge movie.  Daniels is cool and tough, whether he's banging white women or laying the smackdown on greedy mobsters.  If only Beatty's movie had some chainsaw deaths.  

This was the first film by director Greydon Clark who went on to do such dreck as Satan's Cheerleaders, Final Justice and Dance Macabre.  Edith Wheeler (AKA:  Jacqueline Cole), who plays the chesty new receptionist was also in Clark's Angel's Revenge.  Dean Cundey was one of the directors of photography and later when on to be the cinematographer for Halloween.

BLACK SUNDAY (1961) ****

Black Sunday is an unparalleled classic in Italian horror.  Mario Bava’s first and best film is pound for pound the most atmospheric movie ever made and features an incredible performance by Barbara Steele.  She plays two roles, the sexy and evil vampiric witch Asa, and her innocent descendant Katia.  The opening scene where Asa is branded, burned at the stake and gets a giant spiked mask hammered onto her face is still unsettling, even after 45 years.  Two centuries later two doctors unwittingly resurrect her and she sets out to kill and replace Katia.  Besides the brilliant opening scene, Bava offers several equally memorable images (Asa’s eyes slowly growing back into her sockets and Asa’s masked servant crawling out of his grave, just to name a few) and fills every inch of the frame with fog, fear and dread.  It was later remade by the director’s son, Lamberto.  

AKA:  The Mask of Satan.

A BLADE IN THE DARK (1983) ***

This entertaining slasher directed by Lamberto (Demons) Bava borrows heavily from Brian DePalma’s Blow Out (someone in the movie business solving a mystery), Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (transvestite killer) and the director’s father Mario Bava’s Shock (people are killed with an Exact-o knife).  The plot’s simple:  a film composer in an isolated house tries to find the killer of some hot chicks who swam in his pool.  The pacing is erratic and the hero is boring, but at least there’s some truly hilariously awful dialogue (“You‘re such a vacant nerd.  Your satisfaction is to sit like a frog in the sun!”) and excellent murder set pieces to keep you entertained.  The best scene is where a female victim is trapped behind chicken wire as the Exact-o blade slowly extends out to her.  The knife through the hand/asphyxiation and strangulation with film stock are memorable too.  The Exact-o POV shots have quite a kick to them as well.  Co-star Michele (The Gates of Hell) Soavi was also the assistant director and went on to direct the classic Cemetery Man.  

BLADE: TRINITY (2004) ** ½

David S. Goyer wrote the first two Blade movies.  This time in addition to writing he gets to direct.  Either he should have spent more time away from writing to hone his directing, or set aside directing to do a re-write, because this flick is a mess.  Wesley Snipes returns as Blade, but is basically reduced to a supporting role, as the flick revolves around a team of vampire hunters called The Night Stalkers, led by Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds.  

A group of vampires led by Parker Posey (?!?) uncover Dracula’s tomb and bring him back to life.  They frame Blade for murder and kill his best friend and weapon supplier Whistler (Kris Kristofferson).  Whistler’s daughter (Biel) and her team break Blade out of prison and he grudgingly joins up with them. It’s never clear what the vampires intend to do with Dracula, because he basically just hangs out while Posey barks out orders. (And in the film’s goofy opening, one of the vampires dressed in protective clothing, gives the sun the finger!)  

Snipes seems pretty pissed at having to share the spotlight with Reynolds and he looks like he’s about a second away from punching his lights out (the two reportedly clashed on the set).  The action scenes are workmanlike, lacking the energy and style that Stephen Norrington and Guillermo Del Toro gave to the previous entries.  Don’t expect Snipes to return to Blade anytime soon.  With WWE wrestling star Triple H as Posey’s right hand vamp and Natasha Lyonne and Patton Oswald as Night Stalkers.

THE BLANCHEVILLE MONSTER (1964) **

You know you’re in trouble when the opening credits are confusing.  First we see a dungeon cell with a pair of “scary” hands holding some prison bars.  Then the title “HORROR” splashes onto the screen, immediately followed by “The Blancheville Monster”.  I know this film is known by both titles, but I guess by SHOWING both titles, the filmmakers were just covering all the bases.  I guess the film really should be called “Horror:  The Blancheville Monster”, or hell, even “The Blancheville Horror”, since there aren’t any monsters in it.  

The plot involves a young woman returning to her remote castle home.  Since she’s a few days shy of her 21st birthday, it still gives her brother time to drive her insane and steal her inheritance.  Yep, it’s pretty much the same plot that Barbara Steele used in several of her movies, and since Barbara Steele is nowhere to be seen, that means there’s really no point to watch this.  Her bro also keeps their deformed papa in a dungeon (those were his hands in the beginning) too.  It all builds to a fairly interesting conclusion, but there are way too many dull spots to make it worth watching.  

Director Alberto DeMartino (who also did the hilariously inept, The Puma Man) apes the Roger Corman/AIP Poe movies by having a Vincent Price look alike in the leading male role and a buried alive subplot, as well as Mario Bava’s Black Sunday.  Although some of the visions and dreams are quite atmospheric, that’s not enough to recommend this tired and static Italian chiller.  Fans of Italian actresses parading around in flimsy negligees and holding candles down darkened hallways will eat it up.  

AKA:  Horror.

THE BLANK GENERATION (1976) ***

Any fan of the 70’s New York punk scene should check this documentary out.  It was shot by Amos (The Foreigner) Poe and Ivan Kral and features The Patti Smith Group, Television, The Ramones, The Talking Heads, Blondie, the New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers (with Richard Hell and Johnny Thunders).  All of whom are at their rawest form performing live at CBGB.  The best part of the doc is the clowning candid shots of Blondie.  Sadly all the footage is silent; with music badly looped over it (the music never matches the singer’s lips), and some of the songs even repeat a couple times.  It doesn’t matter though, because if you’re a fan of any (or all) of the bands featured, you’ll want to check it out.  Not to be confused with Uli Lommel’s The Blank Generation, which also starred Hell.

BLAZE STARR GOES NUDIST (1963) * ½

Renowned stripper Blaze Starr stars as herself.  She’s tired of being famous and wants to get away from it all.  She goes to a theater playing a nudie movie and decides to visit the nudist colony featured.  There she encounters naked picnicking, checkers, archery, canoeing, volleyball, chess and swimming.  She loves being a nudist so much that she neglects her celebrity duties such as attending parties, photo shoots and press functions which causes problems for her boyfriend/agent.  She drops that loser and walks off into the sunset with the camp director, Andy (Ralph Young of Sandler and Young fame).  

Blaze looks good naked, but it doesn’t help that the first half of the movie is filled with scenes of her talking on the phone fully clothed.  This is a nudist flick, and there are a lot of naked bodies on display, but I just couldn’t stop asking myself these burning questions:  A) If Blaze was going to a nudist colony, why would she have to pack her bags?  B) If Andy is a nudist, how come he is never seen without his goofy rainbow colored shorts?  C) Why would a nudist colony need a clothesline?  D) If these people are truly nudists, how come they have tan lines?  

Director Doris Wishman also directed Deadly Weapons.  Starr (from Maryland) was also the subject of the biopic, Blaze starring Paul Newman and Lolita Davidovich.  This flick has been re-released several times under different names.  

AKA:  Blaze Starr:  The Original.  AKA:  Back to Nature.  AKA:  Nature Girl.

BLIND FURY (1990) *** ½

Actor Tim (Animal House) Matheson produced this Americanized version of the Japanese Zatoichi, The Blind Swordsman movies.  Rutger (The Hitcher) Hauer is excellent as the blind Nam vet who must protect his scientist buddy (Terry O’Quinn) and his son.  Hauer uses a cane that doubles as a sword to slice and dice his enemies.  Nick Cassevettes and Rick Overton are funny as two henchmen.  The sword fight over a Jacuzzi and the scene in which Hauer dispatches Randall “Tex” Cobb are awesome (the latter scene was later copied in Star Wars: Episode I).  Fast paced, funny, and exciting, this flick is highly recommended. Directed by Phillip (Patriot Games) Noyce.

BLOOD AND WINE (1997) ***

The director and star of Five Easy Pieces, Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson reteamed for this low key but absorbing film about a smooth con man (Nicholson) trying to fleece a rich family out of a priceless diamond.  Not a whole lot happens but the acting is top notch and the scenes Nicholson has playing alongside of Michael Caine are worth the price of admission.  Stephen Dorff, Judy Davis and a pre-J. Lo Jennifer Lopez round out the cast.

BLOOD DOLLS (1999) ** ½

After Dolls, Puppet Master, Dollman and Demonic Toys, Charles Band and Full Moon Pictures gives us yet another movie featuring tiny terrifying toys.  A crazy billionaire who wears a silver mask to hide his shrunken head gets revenge on the people who swindled him out of a billion dollars by using his killer dolls.  He uses a machine to turn people into dolls and keeps a sexy female rock band in an electrified cage as sort of his own personal jukebox.  Of the colorful cast (including a clown faced henchman and a one eyed butler), I liked the bitchy dominatrix (Debra Mayer) the best.  It drags in spots, but it’s still pretty entertaining and the Clue inspired ending is kinda neat.  (It also pads the running time.)  Co-starring Phil (Troll) Fondacaro and Nicholas (Don’t Answer the Phone) Worth.

 

BLOOD FEAST (1963) ****

The ads screamed:  “Nothing so appalling in the annals of horror!”  

H.G. Lewis’ first and best gore extravaganza is still as jaw dropping as it was back in 1963.  The acting is awful, but who cares?  There’s plenty of gore to keep your eyes glued to the screen.  Legs are chopped off in a bathtub, beauties are brained on the beach, and in the film’s most (in)famous scene we get to see in graphic detail, a comely female getting her tongue ripped out.  (It was actually a sheep’s tongue.)  There’s also some risqué S & M whipping as well as a heart ripping flashback too.  (Hey, they don’t call Lewis the Godfather of Gore for nothing!)  

The excuse to have wonderfully over the top gore scenes (err… I mean the plot) involves Egyptian caterer Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) preparing a thinly veiled sacrificial feast for the young Suzette (Playboy Playmate Connie Mason) to appease his mannequin (err… I mean idol) named Ishtar.  When he’s caught trying to sacrifice her, he’s chased by her boyfriend cop (Thomas Wood) and ends up getting crushed to death when he hides in a garbage truck.  The graphic gore, flubbed lines, actors clearly reading from their script, cool drum solos (also done by Lewis) and outrageous newspaper headlines (“LEGS CUT OFF!”) add up to one hell of a time.  

Wood and Mason also starred in Lewis’ next film, the equally memorable, 2000 Maniacs.  Followed 39 years later by Blood Feast 2:  All U Can Eat.

BLOOD OF DRACULA’S CASTLE (1967) **

When the director of Dracula vs. Frankenstein and the producer of The Brain That Wouldn’t Die get together to make a movie, this is what you get.  A photographer and his model fiancée inherit an old castle that happens to be inhabited by Dracula, his wife, a butler, and a disfigured hunchback.  They chain up virgins in the cellar, drain their blood and sacrifice them to the moon god Luna.  With John Carradine as the butler and Alex (Horrors of Spider Island) D’Arcy as Dracula.  The excellent cinematography by Lazlo Kovacs can’t save this tame and slow flick.  

BLOOD OF GHASTLY HORROR (1971) NO STARS

Director Al Adamson has done all kinds of B Movies: biker movies (Satan’s Sadists), blaxploitation (Black Samurai), and soft core sex (The Naughty Stewardesses) just to name a few.  This mess is the worst Adamson film I’ve ever seen (so far).  It’s actually three unreleased Adamson movies edited into one.  It’s one part heist movie, one part Frankenstein rip-off and another part zombie movie.  

Here’s the plot.  See if you can stay with me:  A zombie rips a man’s head off.  He MAILS it to cop Tommy (Catalina Caper!) Kirk (!!!) who tells a story about a robbery.  One of the thieves, Joe gets killed and mad scientist John Carradine gives him an electronic brain and brings him back to life.  Joe kills a woman and then blows up Carradine!  Joe’s father, a doctor in Jamaica, uses Akro the zombie to kidnap Carradine’s daughter, and plans to turn her into a zombie to get revenge.  Then Kirk tells another story of a botched heist Joe did, but the editing, lighting and acting are so bad, I’m not even sure what the hell happened in that scene!  In the finale, the doctor changes her into a zombie and when the jealous Akro kills him, she turns back to normal.  The End.  

Wow.  You’ll have an ice cream headache for three days after watching this movie.  Also starring the director’s wife Regina Carrol.  Adamson also did Blood of Dracula’s Castle.  

AKA:  Psycho A Go-Go.  AKA: Man with the Synthetic Brain.  AKA:  The Love Maniac. 

BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS (1972) * ½

Ted V. (Astro-Zombies) Mikels directed this schlocker about a witch that performs human sacrifice which is preceded by liturgical dance.  She also holds séances where her “Indian spirit guide” possesses her and she talks in a hilarious broken Indian accent.  (“Come sit-um by my teepee!”)  She also uses voodoo dolls to kill her enemies.  In the end, “white magic” (read: negative scratches) saves the day.  

Awful dialogue (“I wish black magic to be performed.”) adds to the pain of watching this half baked witchcraft flick that has a terrible time living up to it’s name.  The chicks in loincloths brandishing spears ARE hot though.  The flashback scene of a witch being tortured and burned at the stake is surprisingly well done (no pun intended), but in another scene where a witch gets stoned by an angry mob, you can clearly see a screen door on a villager’s house.  There’s also a memorable scene in which a guy strangles his wife while cuckoo clocks sound.  Subtle Ted V. subtle.  

Co-stars Tom Pace and Leslie McRae were also in Mikels’ Girl in Gold Boots.  Mikels himself even turns up as a witch hunter.  

The ads said it was “A terrifying, screaming plunge to the depths of hell!”  They were right.  

Remember:  You can always tell a witch by her teat!   

AKA:  Female Plasma Suckers.

BLOODRAYNE (2006) **

After House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark, the Uwe-Boll-directed-movie-based-on-a-video-game is quickly becoming a genre unto itself.  This one is kinda like a cross between Blade, Lord of the Rings and Conan.  

Hottie Kristianna (Terminator 3) Loken stars as the smoking Rayne, a half human/half vampire chick that is hunted by the evil Kagen, played by Ben (Tuck Everlasting) Kingsley.  (Memo to Ben:  Fire your agent!)  She wants revenge on Kagen because he killed her mother, so she teams up with a trio of vampire hunters (Michael Madsen, Michelle Rodriguez and Matt Davis) to defeat him.  

Boll offers up plenty of gore (severed heads, throat rippings, eye gougings, etc.) and a healthy dose of nudity, but unfortunately the action scenes are edited so haphazardly, it’s hard to tell what the hell is going on half the time.  Of the cast, Billy Zane seems to be having the most fun as he gleefully hams it up.  Loken, who can stand around and look hot like it’s nobody’s business, is pretty good in the lead and has an energetic fuck scene with Davis in a jail cell.  Madsen on the other hand looks bored (or drunk) and you can tell that most of his lines were looped in (poorly) after the fact.  Kingsley pretty much just sits on his throne with a single facial expression and reminisces how far he’s come since Gandhi.  Of the other cast members, Rodriguez’ British accent is almost as bad as Kevin Costner’s in Robin Hood and Davis makes for a so-so romantic lead.  Meat Loaf and Michael (Eddie and the Cruisers) Pare also turn up in small roles.  

Guinevere (American Psycho) Turner wrote the screenplay.  Madsen and Kingsley (who have one awkward scene together) were also in Species together.  Boll’s next is yet another movie based on a video game (!), Dungeon Siege. 

BLOOD SISTERS (1987) *** ½

This is an entertaining 80’s slasher from Roberta (Lurkers) Findlay.  In the opening scene a fat prostitute and her john are murdered with a shotgun.  13 years later a group of sorority sisters led by Amy (Robot Holocaust) Brentano take a bunch of pledges to be hazed at the supposedly haunted whorehouse where the murders took place.  They’ve rigged up a bunch of false scares to try the audience’s patience for an hour until the psycho transvestite killer shows up and starts hacking women up.  Oh, did I mention the PROSTITUTE GHOSTS too?  Gets an extra half star because EVERYBODY DIES!  Co-star John Fasano also wrote Darkness Falls.  Brentano also starred in Findlay’s Prime Evil.  Findlay also did the pretty great killer yeti flick Shriek of the Mutilated and the infamous Snuff.

BLOODSUCKING FREAKS (1978) ****

Director Joel M. (Night of the Zombies) Reed’s masterpiece is still as jaw dropping now as it was when it was first released.  It features extreme nudity, gore and healthy doses of S & M, proving once again, that they just don’t make ‘em like they used to.  

The plot has the Great Sardu, (Seamus O’Brien) and his little Latino midget Ralphus (Luis de Jesus) putting on an off Broadway torture show.  The first night he crushes a woman’s skull and cut’s off another girl’s hand.  Ralphus finishes the act by cutting out her eyeball and eating it.  When a hoity toity theater critic is left unimpressed, Ralphus gets out his blow gun and kidnaps him.  Sardu tries to impress the critic by running 500 volts through a girl’s breasts before putting her to work in the bathroom, (where he says, “Her mouth will make an interesting urinal!”).  When the critic still doesn’t cotton to Sardu’s “art”, he decides to kidnap a world class ballerina and incorporate ballet (!) into the act.  They tie her up and brainwash her by having Ralphus bang cymbals nonstop.  When they give her too much hot cymbal action she passes out and they get a doctor to revive her.  In lieu of a fee, they let him torture one of Sardu’s girls.  He rips out her teeth one by one before performing “elective neurosurgery” on her, in which he drills a hole in her skull and sucks out her brains with a straw!  Pure genius.  Sardu then throws the doctor to his caged crazy women he keeps on hand to sell on the black market, and they promptly rip his heart out and rub it all over themselves.  

Meanwhile, Sardu convinces the ballerina to perform by cutting off her rival’s feet.  In the film’s best scene he puts a woman in a guillotine and makes her hold the rope connected to the blade in her mouth.  Ralphus whips her until she screams out, letting go of the rope and the blade comes down and decapitates her.  THEN Ralphus gets himself a little head, if you know what I mean.  When the ballerina’s football player boyfriend and a crooked detective comes looking for her, all hell breaks loose.  He tries to rescue his true love, but since she’s effectively brainwashed by Sardu, she brains him with a sledgehammer.  The detective shakes down Sardu for some of his white slavery cash and since he keeps his money in the cage with all his crazed cannibalistic cuties, they kill him and break free, massacring everyone until the last shot of a cannibal chick chomping down on a severed penis hoagie.  

It’s that kind of movie folks.  

So what did we learn from all of this?  

1.  If your uptight ballerina girlfriend wants to perform in an Off Broadway torture show, LET HER.  

2.  When putting on an Off Broadway torture show, you have to throw in some kind of upscale theatrics like ballet because your audience will not respond to sadism alone.  

3.  Brains CAN be sucked out from a straw.  

4.  If you don’t have a dart board handy, a woman’s ass is an acceptable substitute.  

5.  Most importantly, if you keep a lot of cash on hand from trading women on the white slavery circuit, do NOT stash your cash in a cage full of hungry naked cannibal chicks.  Get a piggy bank instead.  

AKA:  The Incredible Torture Show.  AKA:  The House of the Screaming Virgins.  AKA:  Heritage of Caligula.

BLOODTHIRSTY BUTCHERS (1970) * ½

In 19th century London, Sweeny Todd (Happy Days’ John Miranda) cuts hair and throats and makes off with his customer’s valuables.  Meanwhile Ms. Maggie Lovett sells human meat pies to her clueless customers.  They fall in love and kill each others respective spouses.  Everyone else seems to be in love with everyone else’s spouses too, so the movie is basically a soap opera with high school drama class production values and costumes.  A couple of choice gore scenes (hands hacked off, a human breast in a meat pie, meat cleaver to the face) and Todd’s speech about “women’s happiness” save this from being a total loss.  Director Andy (The Ghastly Ones) Milligan returned to the 19th century with his next film, The Rats are Coming!  The Werewolves are Here!

THE BLOODY BROOD (1959) **

The Bloody Brood falls into that favorite subgenre of the juvenile delinquent of the killer beatnik movie.  It’s not as good as say, The Rebel Set or The Beatniks, but if you ever wanted to see Peter (Columbo) Falk play a psychopathic beatnik, then here is your chance!  Falk is Nico, a beatnik who turns to murder all in the name of “kicks”.  For his grand murder scheme he makes a hapless kid eat a hamburger full of ground glass!  (Unfortunately it takes place off screen.)  When the cops are clueless to find Falk’s whereabouts, the dead kid’s older brother takes matters into his own hands and tracks down the deadly daddy-o.  He infiltrates their group and tries to get revenge.  There’s a slew of hipster dialogue, (“He’s tuned in baby!”) and Falk is pretty great (“I don’t talk my kicks!”), but unfortunately director Julian Roffman (who also did the cult 3-D movie, The Mask) can’t add much else to the proceedings.

BLOWN AWAY (1994) ** ½

There were a lot of mad bomber movies out in the early to mid 90’s.  Besides Blown Away there was Lethal Weapon 3, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Speed, and The Specialist.  Blown Away isn’t the first, last, best or worst of these movies, just the most formulaic.  Jeff Bridges is the head of the bomb disposal unit in Boston.  An Irish terrorist (Tommy Lee Jones) is blowing up all of Bridges’ friends because the former Irish militant Bridges wussed out on blowing up innocent civilians several years ago.  Since they were both in the Irish terrorist gang, Bridges knows all of Jones’ patterns and methods.  “He can make bombs out of Bisquick!”  The film has the usual “Cut the blue wire!” Diffuse-The-Bomb-Scenes, the best of which when a bomb is implanted in Forrest Whittaker’s headphones.  The ending is a lot like Speed where if a Jeep hits its brakes, it will blow up.  Director Stephen (Predator 2) Hopkins keeps things moving, but Bridges’ and Jones’ Boston and Irish accents grate on the nerves.  Also with Lloyd Bridges, Suzy Amis and Cuba Gooding Jr. in a bit part.  Don’t confuse this with the Corey Feldman/Corey Haim erotic thriller with the same title.

BLOODY MALLORY (2002) ** ½

This French import copies Resident Evil, Blade and Underworld.  It’s mostly entertaining thanks to Olivia Bonamy’s performance as the titular character.  She’s the sexy ass kicking leader of an “anti-paranormal commando unit” with a red dye job and skin tight rubber suit to match.  She drives a pink hearse and along with her team (which include a blue haired transsexual who says “Give me sodomy or give me death!” and a telekinetic girl) must stop vampire villainess Valentina (Hellraiser 4:  Bloodline) Vargas from kidnapping the Pope!  Mallory also communicates with her dead demon hubby (who she axed to death on their wedding day) to locate evil.  

The film pretty much shoots its wad in the first twenty minutes in the incredible scene where From Dusk Till Dawn looking “ghouls” rape nuns, who explode and give birth to baby ghouls.  After that though, it’s pretty much your average straight forward direct to DVD action horror movie.  I don’t know if the American dubbing is responsible for lines like “Do you realize that you and I alone will be pitted against an entire town of monsters and psychopaths?”, or if it was the original French translation, but there are a couple lines of incredibly awful dialogue.  There’s also in joke character names (Father Karras, Talking Tina) and at least one Pokemon inspired fight scene.  

A mixed bag to be sure, but for every lame lost inside a labyrinth scene, there’s at least one exploding nun.  Not a bad trade off.

BLUE CRUSH (2002) **

Former actor John (Christine) Stockwell directed this picturesque but routine drama about a surfer chick (Kate Bosworth) who must overcome her personal demons if she wants to win a big time surfing competition and the heart of a hot guy (Matthew Davis).  Girls will love it for it’s “You go girl!” attitude and surfers will love it because there are some excellently photographed surfing sequences, but I spent most of my 100+ minutes ogling the ultra hot Bosworth, who goes throughout the whole movie wearing nothing more than a skimpy bathing suit and a gorgeous smile.  Stockwell also directed Crazy/Beautiful.

THE BODYGUARD (1976) ** ½

If you ever wondered where Quentin Tarantino stole the Ezekiel 25:17 speech in Pulp Fiction from, look no further. This movie begins with the same speech, but substitutes “Chiba, The Bodyguard” instead of “The Lord”.  Sonny (The Streetfighter) Chiba stars in one of his best roles (as himself!).  After a mobster is gunned down, there’s a credit sequence where dozens of guys break boards and chant “Viva Chiba!”  Then two kung fu experts discuss who is better Bruce Lee or Sonny Chiba.  Meanwhile, Chiba is busy beating up five drug dealing hijackers on a plane (he literally punches one guy’s teeth out!) and afterwards holds a press conference where he chops a bottle of Coke in half with his bare hands!  He offers to be the bodyguard for a beautiful woman who’s wanted dead by the Mob.  He follows her to her apartment where ninjas attack them (from out of a couch!) and Chiba rips one of their arms off!  The woman ends up double crossing him and there’s a cool shootout in a garage where Chiba jumps over a car!  In the end, Chiba rips a dude’s eye out.  After the film’s manic first hour the film bogs down and becomes a thoroughly routine yakuza movie (probably due to the schizophrenic U.S. distributor’s editing).  Tarantino later put Chiba in Kill Bill.

BONES (2002) ** ½

If you crossed A Nightmare on Elm Street with J.D.’s Revenge, you might end up with something like this.  Snoop Dogg plays Jimmy Bones, a big time pimp who gets killed by a corrupt cop (Howling IV’s Michael T. Weiss) in the 70’s.  In the present day, some teens trying to open up a nightclub in Bones’ old stomping grounds accidentally unleash (no pun intended) the Dogg’s spirit and he sets out for revenge.  Snoop makes bad Freddy Kruger style wisecracks and the movie predictably grinds to a halt whenever he isn’t onscreen.  It ain’t great but any movie in which Snoop Dogg pukes up thousands of maggots is okay by me.  Pam Grier co-stars as Bones’ former flame.  Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight’s Ernest Dickerson directed.

BOOGEYMAN (2005) *

Barry Watson returns to his childhood home and finds out that the boogeyman still lives in his closet.  The CGI monster (who looks like the CGI Imhotep from The Mummy Returns) is pathetic, as is the incredibly weak script.  Director Stephen (Get Carter) Kay tries to eek out some style here and there but the one note story and lifeless acting kill it.  Is this what producer Sam Raimi should be doing with all his Spider-Man money?

THE BOONDOCK SAINTS (1999) ****

Troy Duffy was a twenty something bartender who got his big break writing and directing this fun flick about two Irish American brothers (Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) who inadvertently take out two Russian mobsters.  Then with the help of their buddy Rocco (David Della Rocca) they start wiping out the gangsters, scumbags and sickos on the streets of Boston.  Willem Dafoe gives a tour de force performance as the fey detective hot on their trail that slowly begins to condone their actions.  The movie has a few amazing sequences, great performances and a deservedly rabid cult following.  Porn legend Ron Jeremy has a small role.  The documentary Overnight follows Duffy’s behind the scenes woes of trying to get this made.

BOTTLE ROCKET (1996) ****

This charming, hilarious and touching comedy signaled the debut of writer/star Owen Wilson as a comedic leading man and director Wes Anderson as an idiosyncratic genius.  Wilson stars with his brother Luke as Dignan and Anthony, two privileged misfits who turn to a life of crime.  In the opening scene, Dignan helps Anthony “escape” from a voluntary hospital.  With the help of their friend Bob (Robert Musgrave) they go on the lam.  While laying low in a hotel, Anthony strikes up a relationship with a Portuguese maid and falls in love.  James Caan co-stars as the big shot thief who enlists the boys on a heist in which they botch to the tune of The Rolling Stones’ 2000 Man.  The writing is crisp and frequently hilarious and the directing shows a flair for the offbeat.  Co-starring the third Wilson sibling, Andrew as Bob’s brother Futureman.  Wilson and Anderson returned with Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic.