February 17th, 2009

LOWER LEARNING (2008) NO STARS

In the old days when The Video Vacuum was just a fanzine, I kept my movie reviews short and sweet so I could squeeze as many reviews into a single issue as I could.  Now that I am online, I at least try to have a minimum of 250 words for each review.  I do this for two reasons:  1) to give the film it’s due and try to say something meaningful about it.  2) to prevent me from being lazy and just giving a one sentence review.  (Although I do still do that on occasion; my Burn After Reading review being the last time I pulled a stunt like that.)

 

Some movies lend themselves to open discussion.  The last movie I watched, Chocolate was one of the best Kung Fu movies I’ve ever seen and it would’ve been easy for me to write thousands of words about how great it was.  I reigned myself in though and kept it around 600 words because I wanted you all to discover how great it was for yourselves.  Some movie reviews, like the one for the Friday the 13th remake go on and on, mostly because the movie does so many things right that when it does something that completely sucks; you just have to harp on it. 

 

Then there are movies like Lower Learning.  I could take the easy route and write a one sentence review of this movie (which would read:  AVOID THIS MOVIE AT ALL COSTS), but I owe my loyal readers a lot more than that.  I’ve decided to split the difference and only spend the next 125 words actually talking about Lower Learning. 

 

All you need to know is that Lower Learning is a “comedy” that isn’t funny.  It’s depressingly offensive (and this is coming from a guy who rarely gets offended by a movie) and reeks of desperation.  I’m not going to tell you about the “plot”.  I won’t even tell you who’s in it.  They all know who they are.  God will punish them in His own time for appearing in this abortion. 

 

Seriously, rent Chocolate instead.  Heck, the Friday the 13th remake looks like Psycho compared to this dung hill.  Shit, READ A BOOK for 97 minutes.  Do anything except watch Lower Learning.

 

Okay, so that was just barely a hundred words.  Don’t say I didn’t try.  If you DO watch this shit (something I’d highly advise you NOT to do), you’d be left speechless about how bad it is too.  You’ve been warned.

FEMALE PRISONER: CAGED! (1983) ** ½

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Japanese people are kinky!  Female Prisoner:  Caged comes from Japan and it’s one of the odder women-in-prison pictures I’ve seen.  Usually I give y’all a little plot description and/or quick rundown about the film before I dive into the review, but this movie has absolutely no plot to it.  All you need to know is that a lot of Japanese females are incarcerated.  They all masturbate a lot.  The priest who hears their confession gets it on with one of the female guards.  The heroine of the picture gets a conjugal visit.  There’s some S & M; including rope bondage, whipping, and foot fetish stuff.  And the best part (besides seeing the female body being crassly exploited) is that it’s only 68 minutes long!

 

With no plot and a scant running time, you’d think that Female Prisoner:  Caged would be a classic.  No, not really.  None of the characters really stand out and while I do admit to getting a chub during one of the sex scenes, most of it wasn’t all that sexy.  This movie also had a bizarre fetish about women expunging liquids from their va-jay-jay.  In one scene a chick pisses on another girl who’s fingering her and in another, the heroine squirts out her lover’s jizz so that all the other prisoners can have some “Demon Sperm”.  (I am not making this up.)  Like I told you:  Those Japanese are KINKY!

 

Sure Female Prisoner:  Caged features lesbians, rape, mean guards, a bitchy warden and lots and lots of sex, but it drops the ball when it comes to the fundamental women-in-prison cliché:  The Shower Scene.  There are NO shower scenes in this movie!  People, if you’re going to make a Women In Prison Movie, make a Women in Prison movie!  Half-Star Deduction for no shower scene; but otherwise a decent flick.

 

AKA:  The Prison Heat.

KILL A DRAGON (1967) * ½

Some guys bust into Jack Palance’s bedroom while he’s in the process of getting some birthday nookie (“I was just about to light up the candles!”) so he kicks their collective asses.  Then a couple of villagers eventually rope Jack into helping them steal some explosives from a suave gangster (Fernando Lamas) who is threatening their island.  Palance teams up with a tubby tour guide (Aldo Ray) and together they sneak into Fernando’s Hideaway, steal the explosives, and save the day.

 

Kill a Dragon starts off with a bang (literally) as the scene where the bad guys interrupt Jack while he’s knocking the boots is unabashedly outrageous and fun.  Unfortunately, there isn’t anything else in the movie remotely that cool and the flick quickly goes down the tubes from there.  Not even the machismo overacting of Lamas or the constant mugging of Ray can save this turkey.

 

Director Michael D. (Mr. Deathman) Moore uses the Hong Kong locations effectively in the early scenes but once the action shifts to the island, the film gets slow moving and tedious.  While it’s kinda interesting to see an early American version of a Kung Fu flick, for the most part, Kill a Dragon has very little action in it.  In fact, it’s pretty weak in just about every department.

 

This movie also contains one of the most horrifying things that I’ve ever seen in a motion picture:  Aldo Ray in drag.  Once you’ve seen that horrible sight, you can’t UNSEE it.  Thanks Aldo, I’ll be seeing you in my nightmares tonight.

MURDERS IN THE ZOO (1933) ** ½

The great Lionel Atwill stars in this uneven but fun horror flick as a big game hunter who brings a bunch of animals from Indo-China to America so they can be displayed in the titular menagerie.  Of course, Atwill is a madman and he especially doesn’t like anybody messing with his wife.  Out in the jungle, Atwill sewed a dude’s mouth shut because he kissed her and once back stateside, he lets loose a poisonous green mamba on a guy who tries to put the moves on his wife.  When his wife tries to leave him, Atwill tosses her ass into the alligator pit and lets them chow down on her.  In the end, the police finally wise up and come looking for poor Lionel and he hides in a particularly dumb place:  The Boa Constrictor cage.  Predictably, he ends up getting squeezed to death by the slithery snake.

 

Murders in the Zoo was trying to ride the coattails of Atwill’s success in Mystery of the Wax Museum by showcasing Lionel massacring people in a public place.  Because Murders in the Zoo was made before the Hays Code, it features some pretty good kills (for a movie from 1933 anyway).  Sadly, there is a completely gratuitous drunken comic relief PR guy (Charlie Ruggles) that totally gums up the works.  I know that the filmmakers probably had to have some funny stuff in there to balance out the gruesome deaths (again, for a movie from 1933 anyway), but this Ruggles guy ain’t funny in the least. 

 

Despite the irritating shifts in tone, I still kinda dug this movie.  Atwill’s performance is pretty much the whole show and the scene where he sews the guy’s mouth shut must have been something back in ’33.  Director Edward Sutherland handles the death scenes nicely and should be commended for keeping them appropriately nasty (well, for a movie from 1933 anyway).

CANDYMAN: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH (1995) *

Before directing such critically beloved fare as Gods and Monsters, Kinsey, and Dreamgirls, Bill Condon helmed this shitty sequel to the already shitty enough Candyman.  This time out, the hooked-handed Candyman (Tony Todd) is brought back to life in New Orleans (just in time for Mardi Gras) when a troubled kid says his name five time in the mirror.  The kid’s teacher (Kelly Rowan) has to deal with the supernatural boogeyman and she predictably learns (long after the audience has already guessed it) that she is a descendant of Candyman.  (Candyman likes a little cream in his coffee if you catch my drift.)  Of course, Candyman doesn’t kill her because she’s pregnant (which the audience also figures out long before she does) and he wants his bloodline to continue.  I think.

 

This flick is just a straight up mess.  Like the Freddy and Michael Myers sequels, this installment gives way too much background on the Candyman and ruins the mystique of the character.  All it does if further jumble up an already incoherent plotline.  The worst part of the movie though is the constant false scares.  Seriously, there had to have been like 27 false scares in this movie and all of them are punctuated by piercing screeching sound effects that will give you a headache.  Speaking of headaches, the movie also features an irritating Cajun DJ that provides idiotic narration throughout the flick.  This guy is so annoying you’ll want to just punch his fucking lights out.

 

Tony Todd’s performance is again the best thing this lame flick has to offer.  It doesn’t help that he’s barely in it.  Like the first movie, he mainly just kills people with his hook, but he spices things up in this one by unleashing a horde of killer bees out of his stomach.  No matter how awful Candyman 2 was, I still have to give screenwriter Rand (The Maker) Ravich some points for creativity as this is the only movie that I can think of in which a Sno-Cone salesman has all the valuable exposition on the film’s villain.  He also wrote some good dialogue like, “You’re next!  Groin to gullet!” too.