October 21st, 2009

THEY (1974) NO STARS

There is a mysterious plague sweeping the planet that takes form in a little smoke bomb.  Whoever breathes in the red fumes starts coughing like they just smoked a carton of Menthols and keel over.  Four Canuck-leheads manage to survive living in the Manitoba wilderness.  They try to reach civilization via ham radio but instead get an alien voice on the other line.  The quartet of nincompoops (plus one homely looking chick) stupidly thinks the voice is trustworthy and the aliens come and vaporize the clueless Canadians.

 

I rarely award No Stars to a movie.  Usually, the only time I do this is if a film is completely morally bankrupt (like The Cell) or is so vapidly boring it makes me want to pull my hair out (like Unbreakable).  They is a case of the latter.  99% of this movie is devoted to a bunch of dumbasses sitting in a log cabin and futzing around with a CB.  What’s worse is the fact that the film’s biggest special effect is nothing more than a red flashlight.

 

The beginning of the flick is edited so poorly that I honestly believe the editor died in mid-scene and a four year old finished it for him.  There are scenes of people panicking, then we see a Rand McNally globe, and finally we’re left with a blurry shot of a Pogo Ball that I think was supposed to represent the imminent alien invasion.  That part kinda got a chuckle out of me and made me think that They could be a fun Grade Z flick.  I was wrong.  Once the dudes hole up in the cabin, the movie begins to move slower than a snail moonwalking uphill on a mountain of molasses. 

 

The idiotic “ending” in which the last remaining (ugliest) boy and girl of the group become young and frolic in the fields is especially WTF.  I think we were supposed to think that this was one of those Garden of Eden deals where the aliens destroyed the human race and left only one boy and one girl to start over again.  Unfortunately, the editing for this scene is so piss poor that it’s liable to give you whiplash.

 

I’ve sat through some bad Bill Rebane movies in my time.  (Monster a Go-Go, Rana:  the Legend of Shadow Lake, The Alpha Incident, The Demons of Ludlow, The Cold, Twister’s Revenge, etc.)  This is his worst.  Boy is that ever saying something.

 

AKA:  Invasion from Inner Earth.  AKA:  Hell Fire.

WAY OUT WEST (1937) ** ½

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy go into a western town to give a deed to a gold mine to a PYT.  The duo mistakenly hands it over to a scheming floozy whose saloon owner husband is crooked as all get out.  Once Stan and Ollie realize their error, they set out to return the deed to its rightful owner. 

 

I’m not as familiar with Laurel and Hardy as I am with other comedy teams of the era.  (The only other film of theirs I’ve seen was Babes in Toyland.)  I like slapstick a lot but I think their brand of comedy is a little too gentle for my tastes.  I mean when The Three Stooges do slapstick, they really SLAP each other.  Laurel and Hardy’s physical comedy is OK, but it’s nothing compared to Larry, Moe, and Curly. 

 

Way Out West is kinda scattershot but it hits just about as much as it misses.  There’s still enough funny stuff here to make me want to see more of the team’s movies.  I liked their little dance they did together and there’s a pretty good running gag where Stan is able to light his thumb on fire.  I think the funniest part is when they try to sneak inside the villain’s house and inadvertently send a donkey flying through his second story window. The flick might have even gotten Three Stars if it didn’t have so much goddamn singing.

 

Way Out West is still funny enough to put it on The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of the Year 1937 at the Number 5 spot.

LEPRECHAUN 3 (1995) ***

When I was in high school, this was the first movie I ever reviewed for our school TV show.  I liked it back then, and it’s just as much fun now.  Leprechaun 3 is simply the best film in the franchise.  This is the Goldfinger of the series.  (I think Leprechaun would like that bit of praise because it has the word “Gold” in the title.)  This is the one where all the elements clicked.  The one that was more than a sum of it’s parts.  The one where they finally got the formula down pat.  It’s as if director Brian (Night of the Demons 2) Trenchard-Smith said, “The audience wants to see nothing but the Leprechaun killing people then saying funny rhymes afterwards, so by God let’s give it to them!”

 

3 finds Leprechaun (Warwick Davis) in Las Vegas.  Scott (John Gatins) loses his college tuition at the roulette wheel until he gets a hold of one of the Leprechaun’s gold coins.  He makes a wish on the coin to be on a winning streak and it comes true.  An incompetent magician (John DeMita) and a haggard looking casino worker (Caroline Williams from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) quickly steal the coin to get their own wishes.  This of course doesn’t set well with the Leprechaun and he makes sure that their wishes backfire drastically.

 

Leprechaun went to Hollywood in Part 2, so Vegas was a natural setting for the little bugger.  As with the previous installment, the rules are all different from the original.  This time instead of shamrocks or wrought iron being the bane of the Leprechaun’s existence, it’s his gold that is his Achilles Heel.  He also awakens from being imprisoned in stone by a magical amulet, which is different from his tree house prison from the last picture. 

 

In addition to the inconsistencies in the Leprechaun lore, the film also takes too long to get going.  Far too much time is spent on the Indian pawn shop owner who does battle with the Leprechaun in the first act.  I did like the part where he bit the guy’s ear off though.  (“I like Indian food… so spicy!”)  Once Gatins gets a hold of the Leprechaun’s loot, the film really starts to cook. 

 

What makes Leprechaun 3 so memorable is the rhymes.  This one has the best of the entire series.  (“With all of this killing, I’ve lost me schilling!”)  The funniest ditty comes right after Leprechaun kills Williams.  She wishes for a perfect body and he makes her boobs, lips, and butt grow to enormous proportions until she literally explodes.  Afterwards, Leprechaun quips, “What a lovely lass, I had to blow up her ass!”

 

There’s also a lot of random bizarre shit in this movie that I enjoyed.  Like the CD-ROM program that tells the Leprechaun’s back story.  That was original.  There was also a quirky kill in which Leprechaun made a gangster’s fantasy dream girl turn into a cyborg with boobs.  It didn’t make a lick of sense but it was cool nevertheless.  The weirdest thing about the flick though is the subplot involving the hero being bitten by the Leprechaun and becoming a Were-Leprechaun.  How much Mad Dog 20/20 do you have to drink before you come up with THAT idea?

 

I also liked how Leprechaun runs around Las Vegas (“Golden Nugget!  I’d like one of those!”) and nobody even blinks.  The best of these scenes comes when he runs into an Elvis impersonator who says, “Nice shoes, do they come in blue suede?”  These exterior shots also provide us with a good look at Las Vegas’s Fremont Street in the 90’s.  I was there recently in ‘07 (when I got married) and the downtown section has definitely taken a turn for the worse, so it was nice to see the old part of Vegas perfectly preserved in time.

 

Leprechaun 3 delivers on the gore (the bloodiest scene is when he saws the magician in half), clever kills (he turns a guy into a human slot machine), and hilarious rhymes (“For that trick, I’ll chop off your dick!”).  The flick also contains some intentional humor that’s actually quite funny.  (Like the Mafiosos who have a debate about boxers vs. briefs.) What more could you possibly want from a Leprechaun movie?

 

Trenchard-Smith also directed the next installment in the series, Leprechaun 4:  In Space.

 

<Tomorrow’s Horror Franchise Movie:  (Fittingly enough) Leprechaun 4:  In Space> 

TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN (2009) ½ *

Movies like Transformers:  Revenge of the Fallen is the reason why Netflix was invented.  This way I can watch a horrible robot movie anonymously in the comfort of my own home without being publicly embarrassed.  Viewing it in the privacy of my living room was still embarrassing though. 

 

You want to talk embarrassing?  Let’s talk embarrassing.  Let’s talk about the ice cream truck robot has a bumper sticker that says, “Suck my popsicle”.  Let’s talk about the gratuitous humping dogs that wouldn’t even make a two year old laugh.  Let’s talk about the gratuitous product placement.  (Why else would a freshman have a Mountain Dew machine in his room?)  Let’s talk about the annoying mom who eats a mess of pot-laced brownies.  Let’s talk about ridiculously stereotyped jive-talking robots.  Let’s talk about John Turturro in a jock strap.  Let’s talk about the idiotic Robo-Geezer with a British accent.  Let’s talk about a tiny robot humping Megan Fox’s leg.  Let’s talk about Shia LaBeouf dying and going to Robo-Heaven.

 

This movie is fucking embarrassing but it also happens to slightly better than the first Transformers. The best part is Peter Cullen’s voice as Optimus Prime.  He lends the character a certain dignity that none of the other robots (or humans) has.  Too bad he completely disappears halfway through the movie. 

 

The main baddie in the flick, The Fallen is kinda like The Emperor in Return of the Jedi.  He sits on a throne and speaks in a sickly voice to his apprentice.  He doesn’t do a whole lot but at least he’s cooler than the pathetic Megatron.  The best robot in the whole deal was the Robo-Whore who transforms from slut to killer Decepticon in 3 seconds flat.

 

The humans are so goddamn annoying that I was actually rooting for the Decepticons to fuck everybody up.  The scene where they inflict harm on Shia (who still hasn’t learned how to act) was pretty good but they should’ve been allowed to go all the way and really do some damage to that whiny little bitch.  Seriously, do we even need humans in these movies?  I mean what’s the point?

 

“Director” Michael Bay films things with all the wit and style of a Slim Jim commercial.  I will say that the robot battles are a tad more coherent this time around, the highlight being the fight in the woods where Optimus rips a Decepticon’s face off.  Bay unfortunately goes overboard on his patented 360 camera pans.  So much so that will make you want to puke.  He also gives us more slow motion scenes of people running and ducking for cover during the finale than the human mind can comprehend. 

 

You know, when I was a kid, I liked the Transformer toys because it was kinda like a puzzle trying to figure out how to turn the robot into the car.  It’s this puzzle aspect that made them fun (at least to me anyway).  In the movies, they transform from vehicle to robot all by themselves in a matter of seconds without rhyme or reason to where any of the parts go.  It took a little something called imagination to make the toy’s transformation believable.  It’s that same kind of imagination that’s sorely lacking from these films.

 

Turturro gets the best line of the movie when he says, “I am directly below the enemy scrotum!”

KILLERS OF THE SEA (1937) ***

Before The Deadliest Catch, there was Killers of the Sea.  This documentary tells the story of Captain Wallace Caswell, a salty seaman who caught and killed dangerous sea animals with his bare hands.  When sharks and octopi come along and eat fishermen’s catches, robbing them of their payday, Caswell is called in to dispose of the pesky animals.  Throughout the film, Caswell fights a marlin with a rod and reel, kills a dolphin with his bare hands (the narrator calls it a “whale” but it’s really a dolphin), catches a bass with a giant hook, hacks up a hammerhead, repeatedly stabs a tiger shark, murders turtles, fends off a giant octopus, and almost loses his life while dueling with a deadly sawfish.

 

This flick was on a 50 Movie Pack of horror movies but it totally isn’t a horror flick.  It’s still fun in a hopelessly dated kinda way.  (Wait until you hear the horribly racist things the narrator says about Caswell’s black cook.)  If you are a member of PETA, the gratuitous animal cruelty will no doubt make you sick.  On the other hand, if you’re like me and can appreciate archaic cinematic artifacts like this one, you should be amused.

 

I think the best part of Killers of the Sea was it’s length.  It was only 49 minutes long.  The first 4 minutes was spent on opening credits, a crawl telling you all about Caswell, and THE NATIONAL ANTHEM!  I’ve seen a lot of movies in my time but I’ve never seen any movie begin with the flipping Star Spangled Banner!

 

Many will find this flick reprehensible but I thought it was a fascinating relic of a bygone era.  There is never a dull moment and the 49 minutes whizzes by in no time.  Besides, you can’t lose when the narrator constantly says shit like, “When you see Caswell climbing out of his pants, that means the battle is about to begin!”

 

Killers of the Sea has enough unintentional laughs to put it on The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of the Year for 1937 at the Number 4 spot.

DELTA FORCE COMMANDO (1987) ** ½

Fred Williamson starred in many low budget Italian made action flicks throughout the 80’s.  This one is on the higher end of the totem pole.  It’s sorta like a cross between Delta Force and Death Wish, although that’s probably giving it too much credit.

 

Brett Clark retires from Delta Force so he can spend more time with his pregnant wife.  Predictably, she gets gunned down by Nicaraguan terrorists about five minutes into the flick.  They also steal a nuclear weapon and fly back to Nicaragua and threaten the US with it.  Clark re-opts with Delta Force, but not to stop the terrorists from blowing shit up; he just wants revenge.  When his superior (Bo Svenson) gives orders not to pursue the terrorists; Clark decides to hijack Fred Williamson’s plane and forces him to go on an unpaid vacation to Nicaragua.  Williamson says OK because if he didn’t then we wouldn’t have a movie.  Once in Nicaragua, the duo blow away lots and lots of terrorists and eventually save the day.

 

Delta Force Commando is a competent no-frills action flick that manages to hold your attention throughout most of it’s running time.  The flick contains plenty of scenes where Williamson and Clark gun down tons of bad guys and say funny shit afterwards.  (“Excuse me while I throw up!”)  It also happens to be just mean-spirited enough to make you go, “Damn!”  In addition to the gratuitous death of the pregnant wife, we also get a gnarly scene in which the villains put electrodes on Williamson’s gonads.  (“They hot wired my nuts!”)  We also get some rather hilarious 80’s fashions too.  (The main terrorist wears an acid-washed blazer with the sleeves rolled up and all the women sport humongous shoulder pads.)

 

What kinda sinks the film is the interchangeability of all the action scenes.  Clark busts down a door, shoots a bunch of dudes, and rescues Williamson.  Repeat.  Clark and Williamson get inside a car/bus/jet and chase the bad guys until one of them shoots a rocket launcher at our heroes and they have to jump out of the vehicle seconds before it explodes.  Repeat.  Plus, the ending is mostly a letdown.

 

Clark (“Nick the Dick” from Bachelor Party) makes for a bland lead but at least Williamson gets to do one or two little cool things.  I especially liked the scene where the screaming guy with a machete ran at Fred and he just nonchalantly shot him.  If The Hammer wasn’t reduced to playing second fiddle, we may have had a classic on our hands.  

 

Williamson and Svenson also starred in Inglorious Bastards together.