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February 26th, 2017

THE 10TH ANNUAL VIDEO VACUUM AWARDS

Well, it’s finally here. It’s time to see who fed it and who ate it this year at the movies. Before we start with the main awards ceremony, here is a list of winners (and losers) for The 2016 Video Vacuum Technical Awards. These awards are given out to films that had no (or at least very little) competition in their respective category. So without further ado:

THE 2016 VIDEO VACUUM TECHNICAL AWARDS

BEST HORROR MOVIE
DON’T BREATHE

WORST HORROR MOVIE
THE BOY

WORST ACTION MOVIE
SKIPTRACE

WORST COMEDY
YOGA HOSERS

WORST VIDEO GAME MOVIE
RATCHET AND CLANK

WORST SEQUEL
FINDING DORY

BEST COMPILATION
TRAILER TRAUMA 3: 80S HORROR THON

BEST KIDS MOVIE
ZOOTOPIA

WORST KIDS MOVIE
FINDING DORY

BEST REMAKE
GHOSTBUSTERS

BEST LIFETIME MOVIE
STALKED BY MY DOCTOR: THE RETURN

Now on with the show!

BEST DIALOGUE

And the nominees are…

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!”

And the winner is… THE NICE GUYS for “MARRIAGE IS BUYING A HOUSE FOR SOMEONE YOU HATE. REMEMBER THAT.”

BEST FIGHT

And the nominees are…

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

And the winner is… THE SUPERHERO ROYAL RUMBLE in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR

BEST SEQUEL

And the nominees are…

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

And the winner is: TRAILER TRAUMA 3: 80S HORRORTHON

BEST COMIC BOOK MOVIE

And the nominees are…

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

And the winner is… X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

BEST COMEDY

And the nominees are…

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

And the winner is… THE NICE GUYS

BEST DTV/VOD MOVIE

And the nominees are…

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

And the winner is… KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE

BEST ACTION MOVIE

And the nominees are…

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

And the winner is… X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

BEST ACTRESS

And the nominees are…

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

And the winner is… MORENA BACCARIN in DEADPOOL

BEST ACTOR

And the nominees are…

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

And the winner is… RYAN GOSLING in THE NICE GUYS

BEST DIRECTOR

And the nominees are…

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

And the winner is… SHANE BLACK for THE NICE GUYS

WORST MOVIE

And the nominees are…

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

And the LOSER is… YOGA HOSERS

BEST MOVIE

And the nominees are…

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

And the winner is… THE NICE GUYS!

Thanks to everyone who visits the site, buys my books, and keeps up with me here, on Twitter, and Facebook. In case you’re wondering, here’s a list of the previous years’ Best Movie winners…

2007: GRINDHOUSE
2008: RAMBO
2009: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
2010: PIRANHA 3-D
2011: HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN
2012: THE EXPENDABLES 2
2013: MACHETE KILLS
2014: A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES
2015: MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

THE TOP TEN FILMS OF 2016

1. THE NICE GUYS
2. TRAILER TRAUMA 3: 80S HORRORTHON
3. DON’T BREATHE
4. X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
5. LONDON HAS FALLEN
6. BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
7. DEADPOOL
8. THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY
9. ZOOLANDER 2
10. THE ROLLING STONES: HAVANA MOON

RUNNER-UP: KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE

DEATH SQUAD (2015) ½ *

Danny Glover sends Stephen Baldwin into the post-apocalyptic wasteland to get the goods on the new regime, ran by Rutger Hauer. When Hauer gets wind of this, he sends in a hit squad (led by Michael Madsen) to take Baldwin out. Baldwin is aided in his quest by a mutant (Neva Leoni), who may be a figment of his imagination. Naturally, Madsen fails and Hauer, who constantly bickers with his second in command (Daryl Hannah), has to go and do the job himself.

The fact that Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, Stephen Baldwin, Rutger Hauer, and Danny Glover are in a post-apocalyptic action movie should be enough to make you want to watch it. However, the cast is the only thing Death Squad has going for it. It’s slow-moving, darkly lit, and the editing and storytelling is nearly incoherent at times.

If you’re going to assemble a cast like this, at least give them more to do. Glover spends all of his screen time at a computer terminal while spouting a helluva lot of narration. Meanwhile Hauer and Hannah stand around and argue while wearing Nazi regalia. Baldwin has slightly more to do as he scuttles around the rubble, getting into scrapes and scavenging for material. Only Madsen is able to breathe life into his character. He gets a great introduction scene when he gets a blowjob in a scuzzy bathroom.

In fact, knowing that you have a cast like this and let them down with a shoddy script, schizophrenic editing, and useless action scenes makes it that much worse. They all deserve way better than this. To quote Gabriel Cash, “This whole thing just fucking sucks!”

AKA: 2047: Sights of Death. AKA: 2047: The Final War.

MERCENARIES (2014) ** ½

You’ve got to hand it to The Asylum. Sometimes they get so excited to make a rip-off that they jump the gun and make it before the movie they’re ripping off even gets off the ground. Then, while in production, the film winds up being canceled and The Asylum is stuck with… gasp… an original production!

That was the case with Mercenaries. When a female version of The Expendables was announced, The Asylum went ahead and green-lit it. Of course, the female Expendables never got made, so they were left with a movie that ALMOST seems pretty original. (Well, it’s more or less like a female Dirty Dozen, but it’s still pretty cool.)

Brigitte Nielsen is a crazed warlord who kidnaps the President’s daughter. Brigitte is a bit of a loose cannon. Since men make her paranoid, she only trusts female soldiers. That gives a government agent (Cynthia Rothrock) an idea: Assemble an all-female team of female prisoners to infiltrate her “Citadel” and rescue the President's daughter.

Zoe Bell, Kristianna Loken, Vivica A. Fox, and Nicole Bilderback are the members of the team. Each has their unique skill. All the actresses are game and seem to be having fun blowing stuff up and kicking the crap out of people. Rothrock also chews the scenery slyly as the Lee Marvin of the group. The most surprising thing is that Nielsen is excellent as the villainess. She doesn’t phone it in and seems genuinely threatening. The scene where she tries to seduce Bell is among the highlights.

The opening titles are set against a comic book background, which obviously means we’re not supposed to take a second of this seriously. I certainly didn’t and was pleasantly amused most of the time. The recruitment scenes are a lot of fun, as is the scene where the ladies are given their weapons. (I also liked the Escape from New York joke.)

If only the action was handled better. The shootouts are rather limited and suffer from too much slow motion, quick editing, and CGI muzzle flashes. Director Christopher Douglas Olen (Almighty Thor) Ray also drops the ball on the hand-to-hand stuff. Zoe Bell’s scenes in particular fall victim to crummy camerawork and are severely over-edited to boot. At least Ray ends things on a high note as the final Loken/Nielsen/Bell fight is pretty solid.

AKA: Prison Raid. AKA: Expendabelles 3.0.

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SCREAM FOR HELP (1984) ****

Michael Winner made Scream for Help in between Death Wish 2 and Death Wish 3. If that doesn’t clue you in to how awesome it is, I don’t know what will. Okay, you need more convincing. The score was by Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, which at some points sounds exactly like Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page’s score from Death Wish 2 and Death Wish 3. (Not that I'm complaining, mind you, because those scores are awesome.) Okay, you need more convincing. The script is by none other than Tom Holland, who wrote it just before he made Fright Night, and like that film, it features the same kind of likeable teenage lead that grown-ups never seem to believe.

If Death Wish 3 and Fright Night were Winner and Holland’s gym day, Scream for Help was their 90 minutes worth of cardio before hitting the weights.

Christy (Rachael Kelly) thinks her mom’s new husband (David Brooks) is cheating on her. Even when she gathers proof, her mom doesn’t believe her. When she learns that her new stepfather is planning to kill her mom for the inheritance money, Christy takes it upon herself to protect her at all costs.

You could sum up Scream for Help as Nancy Drew vs. The Stepfather, but there’s more to it than that. Like Nancy in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Christy is plucky and resourceful. The way she turns the tables on her evil stepfather will make you cheer, and trust me, the insane finale will give you plenty of moments to cheer.

Holland’s script is a nice amalgam. It’s not just a horror movie or a revenge picture or a simple thriller. There are several layers here and you never quite sure where it's gonna go. The build-up to Christy and her stepfather’s confrontation is tense and the finale is a doozy. Does it sometimes call for people to do stupid things in the name of suspense? Absolutely, but when it happens in the name of nasty villains getting their just desserts, I can't complain at all.

Sure, some parts feel like a Lifetime Movie, but since Winner is at the helm, it's all kinds of sleazy. Scream for Help contains lots of gratuitous nudity (there’s a scene where a woman rises from her chair and her boobs pop out of her robe for no reason whatsoever) and mean-spirited violence. That is to say, I loved it.

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MELINDA (1972) *

I’ve sat through a lot of bad Blaxploitation movies in my time, but Melinda is pretty near the bottom of the barrel. I think what’s truly bizarre about it is that is has all the elements necessary to make a classic of the genre. There’s revenge, sex, and a finale jam-packed with Kung Fu. It’s astounding how director Hugh A. Robertson manages to drop the ball at nearly every turn.

The ads said, “YOUR Kind of Black Film!” They sure as shit weren’t talking to me.

Calvin Lockhart stars as an arrogant DJ. One night, he picks up Vonetta McGee at a bar and takes her back to his place to get his freak on. Later, she winds up dead and he sets out to find her killer.

Sounds like all the makings of a good Blaxploitation flick are there, doesn’t it? Robertson never really cashes in on the promise of having a karate-chopping DJ as his lead. I mean you have to wait until the flick is almost over until you get to see any Kung Fu. When we finally do, it’s some of the worst chopsocky you ever saw. Even worse is the fact that you have Jim Kelly (in his film debut) on hand as Lockhart’s teacher and he has virtually nothing to do!

It’s just sad how slow moving and boring half the movie is. What’s even more frustrating is that when something threatens to happen, Robertson immediately pulls back and allows the film to squander any potential promise. Take the ending for example where the villain tosses Lockhart’s woman in a gazebo full of snakes. You’d at least expect the villain to land in there in the end, right? No, instead the bad guy just gets shoved over a (small) garden wall and Lockhart punches him a few times. What’s up with that? Why would you introduce a concept as cool as a gazebo full of snakes and then do NOTHING with it? Heck, no one even gets BITTEN by a snake! The hell?

What’s really wrong is that they never incorporate the hero’s two passions: Music and karate. It would’ve been awesome if he was a DJ who threw sharpened 45s that cut people like Ninja Stars. Or at least have a scene in a record-making factory where he kicks a bad guy into a record press and he says, “You just got remixed!” Do I have to think of everything?

THE CHINESE RING (1947) **

Roland Winters takes over for Sidney Toler as the famous detective, Charlie Chan in this ho-hum entry in the long-running series. When a Chinese princess is found murdered in Chan’s house, he sets out to find the killer. Along the way, Chan learns of a plot involving the smuggling of airplanes and a matter of some missing money. Naturally, more people wind up dead.

Directed by William (Ghosts on the Loose) Beaudine, The Chinese Ring does feature a sturdy set-up. The scene in which the princess is murdered is nicely handled and gets things off on the right foot. Too bad the plot gets increasingly muddled as it goes along and the payoff is so unsatisfactory. Because the pacing is so sluggish, the 67 minute running time feels much longer.

Winters is a bit too low key in his first appearance as Chan. His comic timing isn’t a patch on Sidney Toler or Warner Oland’s and he lacks both men’s screen presence. It also doesn’t help when the snooping reporter and her cop boyfriend get way too much screen time. I guess it would’ve been alright if Mantan Moreland and Victor Sen Young were given more to do. As it is, their comic relief material is noticeably weaker this time around.

Winters does get the best line of the movie though: "Chinese chimpanzee stay out of monkey business."

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FullSizeR (6)

A guy kills his girlfriend’s drunken asshole brother in self-defense and flees the scene of the crime. He then crushes his hand with a rock and vows to never fight again. He gets a job as a dock worker and defends the poor people who try to steal food. When “The Syndicate” moves in, they fire all the dock workers. The workers try to revolt and The Syndicate’s right hand man (Bolo Yeung) kills anyone who messes with them. It’s then up to our fugitive hero to stand up to The Syndicate and take down their muscle-bound bodyguard.

Chinese Hercules suffers from a misleading title. Sadly, Bolo doesn't make like Steve Reeves or Lou Ferrigno and break chains and beat up gladiators and shit. He's just the bad guy’s badass henchman. He’s also pretty good at what he does too. Unfortunately, Bolo doesn't even show up till a half hour into the movie. Even worse, he doesn't kill anyone till it's halfway over. The finale where he decimates dock workers has a kick to it, but it’s a long time coming. If Bolo was front and center more, this could’ve been a classic.

The flick also has an odd structure. The first act with our hero making a vow not to fight is promising and entertaining. He kind of gets pushed to the background though by the time the second act rolls around. This section revolves around the dock workers’ revolt and it’s considerably less enthralling. We get some good action late in the game, but thanks to the ho-hum second act, it never really fires on all cylinders.

AKA: Black Guide. AKA: The Kid from Pier. AKA: Freedom Strikes a Blow.

Next time on It Came from the Thrift Store, we’ll feature another Kung Fu flick, Eagle vs. Silver Fox!

KOOK’S TOUR (1970) **

Kook’s Tour was originally intended as a television special starring The Three Stooges. Unfortunately, Larry suffered a stroke and the film was instead shopped to collectors in the early days of consumer video. While it’s fun to see The Stooges in their final film together, it’s more of a curiosity item than a must-see. Even die-hard Stooges fans will probably get restless during the slow stretches.

The Stooges get tired of poking each other in the eyes and decide to retire. They load up on supplies and take their camper around to various fishing spots in the American wilderness. Both Moe and Curly Joe easily catch a bunch of fish, but poor Larry can't even catch a break.

The gang is noticeably older and slower on the draw. Because of that, there aren’t a lot of physical gags. Their wordplay is rather weak too. We do get a funny bit where Larry rigs a camera up in the woods to photograph some wildlife and winds up getting a picture of a couple necking. It’s The Stooges’ pet dog Moose who steals the show though. In fact, he winds up getting more laughs than they do.

The stuff with the Stooges is OK. Although they are far past their prime, they still seem game. However, the nature stuff is pretty dull. The running time is less than an hour long, but because the second half is really heavy on the travelogue footage (mostly to hide Larry’s absence), it feels much longer. Still, as a swan song to a beloved team, it could’ve been a lot worse.

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