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January 6th, 2017

GRADUATION DAY (2015) * ½

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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HOT SHOTS (1956) ** ½

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

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

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

SEXTETTE (1978) **

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

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

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

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

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

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

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