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January 25th, 2017

TALES OF THE THIRD DIMENSION (1984) **

A rotted corpse named Igor, who talks with a Rod Serling voice, rises from his grave to tell three tales of terror. Since it’s a 3-D movie (which I saw in 2-D unfortunately), he also hurls things at the audience on occasion (including his own head). Meanwhile two teams of vultures look on and make lame wisecracks. (One team imitates The Three Stooges and the other acts like Laurel and Hardy.)

The first story, Young Blood (**) is about a cartoonish vampire couple who contact an adoption agency. They want another child to add to their ever-growing brood and eventually settle on a young “problem child”. In the end, they fatally discover why the kid has so many problems.

This story suffers from a goofy premise. It might have worked if they didn’t go so over the top with the vampire characterizations. The twist ending is predictable, but the big reveal is ruined by some truly awful special effects.

The second tale, The Guardians (** ½) features two greedy grave robbers who visit their grave digger friend. He tells them about the local catacombs containing hundreds of corpses that have been walled up for mysterious reasons. They then decide to stop robbing graves and go for the big score. When they enter the catacombs, they soon realize why it’s been closed.

This is by far the most serious story. The feel of this tale is closest to that of the old Tales from the Crypt comics. Director Worth (Snapdragon) Keeter fills this segment with plenty of atmosphere, but he rushes the ending. It’s a shame too because with a satisfying payoff, this could’ve been a winner.

The final story, Visions of Sugar Plums (** ½) finds some abusive parents dropping their kids off to grandma’s for Christmas. They soon learn that grandma is straight-up nuts. She talks to imaginary people, spins around in her wheelchair, and uses toasters on the edge of the bathtub. When Christmas comes, granny snaps, and takes after them with a shotgun.

This sequence is full of dry humor, and while it’s rarely laugh-out-loud funny, it does have a weird charm about it. The rampant child endangerment in this story takes some of the fun out of it though. The twist ending is stupid, but enjoyably so. (I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it.) Of all the stories, this probably could’ve been expanded as its own feature length movie.

The wraparound segments (**) are just too goofy to really work. Igor is a neat (albeit cheap) riff on the Crypt Keeper, but the comic relief vultures really get on your nerves. If I saw this in its intended 3-D version, I might’ve given it a better rating as hands, shotguns, chainsaws, bats (they look like stuffed animals on obvious wires), and eyeballs fly out at the screen.

Tales of the Third Dimension is pretty odd. Anthology horror films are usually uneven due to their very nature, but this one is all over the place. While I can’t say it’s good or anything, it certainly has its moments. I’m glad I saw it, although I probably won’t want to see it again anytime soon. (Well, maybe Visions of Sugar Plums might be fun to dust off around Christmas.)

One weird thing: The title doesn’t pop up onscreen until the third story. I don’t know if they switched the order of the stories at the last minute and forgot to move the title or what, but it’s really bewildering to see the title card an hour into the movie. That’s got to be some sort of record.

AKA: Igor.

I’ve read several of Donald E. Westlake’s Parker novels (written under the pseudonym Richard Stark), but have never given his John Dortmunder series a go. (The Hot Rock, Bank Shot, and Jimmy the Kid are other Dortmunder film adaptations.) This one was made as a starring vehicle for Martin Lawrence and like most of the Parker movies; the main character’s name has been changed. As far as Martin Lawrence comedies go, it’s not nearly as much fun as Blue Streak or Black Knight. However, there are some laughs here, enough to make for a marginal recommendation.

Lawrence plays a thief who tries to rob a rich big shot, played by Danny DeVito, who is going through bankruptcy. DeVito catches him red-handed and calls the cops. To really stick it to him, Danny claims the ring Martin’s wearing belongs to him and the cops force him to hand it over. Because the ring holds sentimental value to Lawrence, he tries to get it back and various complications ensue.

Lawrence has some funny moments here and there. There’s a Chaplin-esque scene where he tries to politely walk around a fat man to no avail before getting pissed and shouting “Deal-A-Meal!” in his face. DeVito is perfectly cast. No one plays an entitled rich scoundrel like him. It’s too bad that the script keeps him away from Lawrence for so long because they play off each other rather well. John Leguizamo gets a few laughs as Lawrence’s partner in crime and it was good to see Larry Miller as DeVito’s bumbling head of discovery.

Whenever the movie focuses on the struggle between Lawrence and DeVito over the ring, it works. However, much of the comedy is way too broad (William Fichtner plays a gay detective with farting dogs) and seems out of whack with the rest of the picture. If the filmmakers found a consistent tone, it could’ve been a fun caper comedy. As it is, it’s a bit messy and uneven, but fans of the two stars should be pleased.

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THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS (1965) **

Richard (Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me) Kiel is an alien who comes to Earth to teach a scientist how to make exact robot doubles of people. When a noted scientist winds up dead, Hugh (Leave it to Beaver) Beaumont sends his best agent, George (Robot Monster) Nader to find the killer. He teams up with the scientist’s blind daughter, Dolores (The Phantom Planet) Faith, to infiltrate the lab and save her father.

The Human Duplicators starts off with promise. The spaceship that Kiel flies around in looks really cheap (it looks like a Christmas ornament), but the interior set is really cool. The stuff with Kiel imprisoning scientists and making robot copies of them work, but once Nader starts poking his nose around, things become increasingly dull. The ending is especially lackluster as the shots of the robot’s faces shattering get to be monotonous after a while.

Speaking of which, the robots are really inconsistent. Some can get shot multiple times and keep on ticking. Others can lose an arm and not lose any pep in their step. The majority seem as though the slightest little thing could do them in. One guy even trips, falls on his face, and he breaks into a million pieces.

Another debit is Kiel’s performance. Looking like a cross between James Dean and Rondo Hatton, he makes for an imposing figure, but his mumbled dialogue delivery leaves something to be desired. There’s a reason why he isn’t given much dialogue in other movies. Here, he’s given pages of it and he’s just too awkward to really pull it off.

AKA: Space Agent K1. AKA: Jaws of the Alien.

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For most people, the announcement of the Oscar nominations means that awards season is drawing to a close. As we all know, the Oscars ain’t got nothing on The Video Vacuum Awards. This will be the 10th Annual Video Vacuum Awards, and the only person that’s more shocked about why this event has lasted this long than you is me. I honestly can’t believe I’ve been writing this blog for ten years, and before we announce the nominees, I just want to thank everyone who stops by, comments, and buys my books, because it really means a lot to me. Okay, enough of my yakking, let’s boogie:

BEST MOVIE

DON’T BREATHE
LONDON HAS FALLEN
THE NICE GUYS
TRAILER TRAUMA 3: 80S HORRORTHON
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

WORST MOVIE

THE BOY
FIFTY SHADES OF BLACK
FINDING DORY
MAGGIE’S PLAN
YOGA HOSERS

BEST DIRECTOR

SHANE BLACK for THE NICE GUYS
TIM MILLER for DEADPOOL
BABEK NAJAFI for LONDON HAS FALLEN
BRYAN SINGER for X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
BEN STILLER for ZOOLANDER 2

BEST ACTOR

BEN AFFLECK in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
KEVIN COSTNER in CRIMINAL
MICHAEL FASSBENDER in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
RYAN GOSLING in THE NICE GUYS
RYAN REYNOLDS in DEADPOOL

BEST ACTRESS

MORENA BACCARIN in DEADPOOL
GAL GADOT in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
KATE McKINNON in GHOSTBUSTERS
CHRISTINE NGUYEN in SHARKANSAS WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE
MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD in 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

BEST ACTION MOVIE

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
DEADPOOL
KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE
LONDON HAS FALLEN
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

BEST DTV/VOD MOVIE

BLOOD FATHER
I AM WRATH
IP MAN 3
KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE
SHARKANSAS WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE

BEST COMEDY

BAD SANTA 2
THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY
DEADPOOL
THE NICE GUYS
ZOOLANDER 2

BEST COMIC BOOK MOVIE

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
DEADPOOL
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

BEST SEQUEL

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
LONDON HAS FALLEN
TRAILER TRAUMA 3: 80S HORRORTHON
X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
ZOOLANDER 2

BEST FIGHT

BATMAN V SUPERMAN in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
THE SUPERHERO ROYAL RUMBLE in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
COLOSSUS VS. ANGEL DUST in DEADPOOL
DONNIE YEN VS. MIKE TYSON in IP MAN 3
KURT SLOANE VS. TONG PO in KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE

BEST DIALOGUE

BAD SANTA 2 for “DON’T TRY TO BLAME THIS ONE ON THE SNAPPER!”
THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY for “YOU DID IN ONE MINUTE WHAT IT TOOK VOLDEMORT EIGHT MOVIES TO DO!”
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR for “YOU KNOW THAT REALLY OLD MOVIE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK?”
CRIMINAL for “IT’S NOT WORTH THE KERFUFFLE!”
DEADPOOL for “TODAY WAS ABOUT AS MUCH FUN AS A SANDPAPER DILDO! HASHTAG, TRIED IT!”
DON’T BREATHE for “THAT’S MY BITCH IN THERE! OF COURSE I GIVE A FUCK!”
GHOSTBUSTERS for “I HATE TO DeBARGE IN ON YOU!”
JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK for “NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE CHARM OF A SEEDY MOTEL!”
LONDON HAS FALLEN for “GO BACK TO FUCK-HEAD-ISTAN!”
THE NICE GUYS for “MARRIAGE IS BUYING A HOUSE FOR SOMEONE YOU HATE. REMEMBER THAT.”
POPSTAR: NEVER STOP NEVER STOPPING for “YOU LOOK LIKE MATTHEW MODINE WITH A PEANUT ALLERGY!”
SHARKANSAS WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE for “KEEP THAT UP AND YOU’LL BE PLAYING POCKET POOL WITH NO BALLS!”
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS for “WHAT WOULD VIN DIESEL DO?”
31 for “WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ONION AND A WHORE? I CRY WHEN I CUT ONIONS!”
ZOOLANDER 2 for “JACK RYAN AND JACK REACHER! IT’S GOING TO BE A REAL JACK-OFF!”

I’ll be sure to post the winners in the coming weeks. If you want to cast your vote, please do so in the comment section. Thanks again and see you at the movies!

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