July 18th, 2009

THEY CALL HIM BRUCE LEE (1979) **

Jack Lee stars as a “Trustee of Bruce Lee” who is in possession of a book that Bruce wrote that blows the whistle on an unsavory dojo.  Naturally, the no-good karate school wants to get their hands on it, so they send some goons to rough him up every five minutes or so.  He gets a bit fed up with all the non-stop Kung Fu fighting and entrusts the book to a dude named Rey and his comic relief idiot buddy Tito.  When the bad guys kidnap Rey’s gal pal, he dons Bruce Lee’s trademark yellow jumpsuit from Game of Death and sets out to rescue her.

 

As low budget Kung Fu movies from the Philippines go, you can certainly do a lot worse than They Call Him Bruce Lee.  Although the IMDB says this flick came out in 1979, it had to be released in America no earlier than 1984 because it features music stolen from Tron, First Blood, and Ghostbusters.  (Not to mention Enter the Dragon as well.)  Hearing those familiar tunes definitely bumps ups the cheese factor but it’s not enough to completely save the flick. 

 

Jack Lee makes for a suitable Bruce Lee substitute.  He’s really flexible and can kick his foot waaaay up over his head.  He’s a little bit of a one-trick pony though because that high kick thing is basically his only move.  I dug the flick whenever Lee was on screen kicking people in the face, but he disappears from the film after about 45 minutes.  Then it’s up to that other dude to carry the movie.  Sadly, he’s not up to the task.  Lee had a modicum of charisma but this other guy (I’m sorry I don’t know his name.  IMDB identifies him as Jack Lee too, but I think they’re mistaken.) just doesn’t have the (karate) chops that old Jack did. 

 

Oh, and just for the record:  No one ever calls him Bruce Lee.

 

The second half of the film is also hampered by way too much soap opera shit and a needless subplot where Rey gets set up by the bad guys to cheat on his girlfriend.  While there are a handful of fun Kung Fu battles, far too many of them rely too much on over-cranked slow motion that only succeed in showing the audience just how ordinary the fight choreography is.  (It also helps pad the running time too.)  There’s also a lot of pointless business involving the girlfriend’s shotgun-toting father that is supposed to be funny but isn’t.  At least the pissed-off papa gets the best line of the movie when he shouts, “May herpes infect your toes!”

DONNIE DARKO (2001) ****

When Donnie Darko was released, Mind Fuck Movies like Fight Club and Memento were all the rage.  I saw it on video when it first came out and instantly loved director Richard Kelly’s unique vision and loopy Kubrickian logic.  Unfortunately, in the past couple of years, the flick has been embraced by the pathetic pseudo-Goth Emo teeny-boppers that frequent Hot Topic and wear too much eyeliner.  You can’t talk about Donnie Darko without one of these poseurs chiming in and telling you how it’s a movie for “their generation” and “perfectly encapsulates what they’re all about”.  Well, I’m here today to take Donnie Darko back from those worthless fucks.  Donnie Darko belongs to open-minded moviegoers that can appreciate originality and clever twist endings and not to whiny Emo cuntflaps who will cut themselves wide open with a razor at the drop of a hat because their mascara got a little runny.

 

If you already don’t know the plot:  Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a disturbed teenager who has a history of arson and pops scripts like crazy.  He starts having visions of a demented bunny rabbit named Frank who tells him that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds.  Donnie also finds out that he can somehow travel through time thanks to bubbles that come out of his chest.

 

I know I’m not explaining it very well, but I don’t want to give away the surprises that the film holds.  One of the flick’s many charms is that you’re assured to be surprised even after repeated viewings.  That’s part of the fun of the movie.

 

Kelly effectively creates a world that is sublimely locked in time (1988) yet feels like it could happen today.  It’s a place that seems otherworldly but looks perfectly ordinary.  He also crafts a bat shit insane ending that simultaneously wraps things up and leaves you scratching your head trying to piece everything together.  The man can also film a jazz recital like no one in the business.  How many directors can brag about that?

 

Then there are the performances.  Gyllenhaal is note perfect as Donnie.  He’s awkward like a real teenager yet he still possesses a potentially dangerous aura around him.  Jena Malone does some stellar work as Donnie’s love interest and Mary McDonnell is MILF-errific as his caring mother.  But hands down the best actor in the bunch is Patrick Swayze.  He plays this diluted self-help guru with a sleazy past.  His informercials are hilarious and his pep rally speech to the school is a classic.  It’s easily the man’s best performance since Road House.

 

These Emo idiots nowadays try to live their life based around Donnie Darko.  They think that they’re just like Donnie because they take medication too.  (It’s probably for asthma not schizophrenia.)  They need to get a life.  Either that or go watch Twilight or something.  Leave the good movies to the rest of us.

 

PS:  Donnie Darko:  The Director’s Cut is to be avoided at all costs as it tries to over-explain things and features different song cues which ruin the overall mood of the film.


Donnie Darko is filled with enough trippy coolness to land it on The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of the Year for 2001 at the Number 8 spot, smack dab in between The Royal Tenenbaums and Ocean’s Eleven.

TERROR AT RED WOLF INN (1972) ***

A stupid college co-ed wins a dubious contest that pays for an all expense paid weekend to a quaint old fashioned inn that’s ran by two old farts.  The chick develops a crush on the proprietors' slow witted grandson and doesn’t really notice when the other guests start disappearing.  Turns out that the old fogies are actually cannibals and they’re planning to put the dumb broad on the menu.

 

Terror at Red Wolf Inn was better than I expected but it really wasn’t “good” per se.  Everything that happened was fairly predictable, right down to the scene where the heroine escapes the house only to run straight into the arms of her captors.  (Just like in Texas Chainsaw Massacre; which was released two years later.)  I can let that slide.  I can also forget about the fact that the main character was dumber than a bag of hammers.  I was even able to deal with the murky cinematography too. 

 

Let me tell you why I can easily forgive this movie for its various shortcomings:  THE SCENE.  There is a scene in Terror at Red Wolf Inn that had me in stitches.  Seriously, I don’t think I laughed this hard at a scene since Boat Trip. 

 

This scene involves the dim bulb hunk of a grandson trying to impress the bimbo leading lady on the beach.  First, he starts by idly playing in the sand and she joins him.  They stare at each other longingly for a minute or so before he awkwardly (and I do mean AWKWARDLY) learns in for a kiss.  That’s not the best part.  You see, right before he’s about to kiss her, his fishing rod hooks something and their lovebird shit comes to a screeching halt.  He reels the line in and is horrified to find a baby shark on the hook.  He screams, “SHHHHAAAARRRKK!” and picks the thing up by its tail and smashes it against a rock about 13 times.  After it’s good and dead, the guy REPEATEDLY PUNCHES THE SHARK IN THE FACE.  It’s here where he turns to the chick and solemnly says, “I love you” before storming off.  The bewildered chick then proceeds to BURY THE SHARK on the beach while crying.  

 

And here’s the kicker, folks:  After all that, SHE STILL LOVES HIM.  Incredible.

 

I cannot begin to describe to you my brain’s reaction to seeing this scene unfold before my eyes.  You can’t imagine how my sides pained me while I was laughing at this scene.  All I kept thinking throughout this scene was:  WHAT THE FUCK WERE THESE PEOPLE SMOKING WHEN THEY CAME UP WITH THIS SCENE AND WHERE CAN I GET SOME?

 

I have seen people act in a fit of rage before but John Neilson, the guy who played the whack job shark catcher takes the cake.  There’s Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire.  There’s Peter Finch in Network.  And then there’s this guy.  

 

If I were to compile the 50 greatest scenes of all time, this scene would definitely be up there with the horse head scene from The Godfather and the three minute tracking shot from Goodfellas.

 

The rest of Terror at Red Wolf Inn is just so-so.  Staying at a Red Roof Inn would probably be just as terrifying.  But because this movie contains THE SCENE, it deserves every single one of its Three Stars.

 

AKA:  Terror House.  AKA:  Terror at the Red Wolf Inn.  AKA:  Club Dead.  AKA:  Terror on the Menu.  AKA:  The Folks at Red Wolf Inn.

HOW AWFUL ABOUT ALLAN (1970) *

Anthony Perkins plays yet another emotionally disturbed man with severe parental issues in this extremely lame Made-for-TV movie from producer Aaron (Charlie’s Angels) Spelling and director Curtis (Ruby) Harrington.  Perkins stars as this schmo named Allan who stupidly let his father burn to death in a house fire.  Wracked with guilt, he becomes psychosomatically blind and has to be institutionalized.  When his vision goes from pitch black to blurry, he is released into the care of his sister (Julie Harris) who runs a boardinghouse.  She was burned trying to save their father in the fire and as a result has to wear a flesh-toned faceplate.  She takes on a mysterious boarder who begins messing with poor Allan by throwing his voice and trying to push him down stairs.  Of course, no one believes Allan and they naturally assume it’s time for him to go back to the nuthouse. 

Will Allan be sent back to the funny farm?  Will Allan uncover the sadistic boarder’s identity?  Will you fall asleep before then?

 

Perkins’ solid, if all too familiar performance is the only thing that makes this turd remotely worth watching.  Since it’s a TV movie, you’re guaranteed there won’t be much in the way of T & A or blood and guts.  This would’ve been forgivable if there was actually any suspense, but there isn’t.  How Awful About Allan is slow moving, boring, and just plain stupid.  And if you can’t see the painfully obvious “twist” ending coming from a mile away; then you’re the blind one.

 

How awful indeed.