Archive for July, 2014

Trailer Thursday 7/31

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on July 31, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

I need to make this one kind of quick before I collapse from exhaustion.

With high school and college band camps getting ready to get going full steam, I thought now would be the perfect time to showcase the trailer for Drumline. Check it out and then check the movie (I think it was the last time I actually found Zoe Saldana hot)

Hercules (2014)

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Hercules (Dwayne Johnson) is the leader of a band of mercenaries formed by the prophet Amphiaraus (Ian McShane), the thief Autolycus (Rufus Sewell), the warrior Tydeus (Aksel Hennie), the archer Atalanta (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and the storyteller Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). Hercules is said to be the demigod son of Zeus, who completed the legendary Twelve Labors, only to be betrayed by Hera, who drove him insane and caused him to murder his wife Megara (Irina Shayk) and their children during a visit to King Eurystheus (Joseph Fiennes). Hercules has since rejected Zeus and chosen to live as mortal, and is tormented by visions of Cerberus.

One day, Hercules and his men are approached by Ergenia (Rebecca Ferguson), on behalf of her father, Lord Cotys (John Hurt), who wants Hercules to train the armies of Thrace to defend the kingdom from bloodthirsty warlord Rheseus (Tobias Santelmann). Hercules accepts after each of his men is offered their weight in gold, and the band is welcomed to Thrace by King Cotys and General Sitacles (Peter Mullan), leader of the Thracian army. After training the army, Hercules and his men lead them into battle against local barbarians as a test of their strength. After the barbarians are defeated, Hercules and Sitacles confront Rheseus and his soldiers, believed to be Centaurs, but soon proven to be men on horseback. Rheseus is defeated and taken back to Thrace as a prisoner, where he is tortured and humiliated. Noticing that Ergenia has taken pity to him, Hercules confronts her and finds out Rheseus was merely retaliating against Lord Cotys’ aggressive attempts to expand his kingdom, and, although Ergenia doesn’t agree with his methods, she abides to them for the sake of her son, Arius, Lord Cotys’ successor to the throne.

After receiving their reward, the mercenaries are ready to leave, but Hercules decides to stay behind to stop Cotys, and all but Autolycus choose to follow him. However, they are overpowered and captured by Sitacles and his men. While chained, Hercules is confronted by King Eurhysteus, who is in league with Lord Cotys, and reveals that he poisoned Hercules the night his family died, viewing him as a threat to his power. Hercules’ family was in fact killed by three vicious wolves sent by Eurhysteus, resulting in Hercules’ constant hallucinations of Cerberus. When Lord Cotys orders Ergenia to be executed for her betrayal, Hercules is encouraged by Amphiaraus to embrace his destiny and breaks free of his chains, saving Ergenia and slaying the wolves. Hercules releases the prisoners, including Rheseus, and then confronts King Eurhysteus, impaling him with a dagger. He is attacked by Sitacles, who is then stabbed by Iolaus.

Outside, Hercules and his forces battle Lord Cotys and his army. Arius is taken hostage, but then rescued by Autolycus, who has decided to return to help his friends. In the ensuing battle, Tydeus is mortally wounding and dies in Hercules’ arms after slaughtering numerous Thracian soldiers. Hercules then rips a statue of hero from its foundations and uses it to crush the remaining soldiers and throw Lord Cotys off of a cliff, to his death. The few surviving soldiers bow to Hercules, and Arius takes the throne, with Ergenia at his side, while Hercules and his men depart in search of other adventures.

REVIEW:

So, after the abomination that was The Legend of Hercules, are we ready for Hercules, yet another film that brings us the life and times of one of the most beloved demigods. This one should not be compared to other films of its ilk. Is Dwayne Johnson’s star big enough, like the rest of him!

What is this about?

When world-weary Hercules, now a mercenary, is asked to defeat a savage warlord, he must redeem his honor and his reputation as a mighty demigod. With his companions, Hercules renews his faith in justice in this adaptation of the graphic novel.

What did I like?

Look the part. I have to give it to Dwayne Johnson, he is the first to actually look like Hercules since those Italian movies of the 60s that starred the likes of Mickey Hargitay and other bodybuilders. Johnson was already a big guy, but as we’ve seen in his recent movies, the guy has been getting huge. All that growth isn’t for his return to the WWE ring, but for this role. Looks like it paid off!

Action. As can be expected, this is a flick that is full of action. Unlike that other Hercules film that came out earlier this year, which was nothing but talking, Johnson’s Hercules actually kicks ass and takes names. Isn’t that what we want from Hercules? I can’t speak for you, but that’s what I want. Hercules and his Avengers-like team of warriors are not to be messed with.

Twist. I won’t spoil it, but there is a twist to the tale of Hercules that you may or may not like. For me, I could care less for it, but I appreciate the risk they took. Much in the way they changed up things in Maleficent, the filmmakers took liberties with the source material and created a new story, while teasing the one we all know.

What didn’t I like?

12 Labors. I think I mentioned it in one of the other Hercules flicks I reviewed this year, but how hard is it to get a Hercules movie that deals with the 12 labors? All the drama and other stuff that happens afterwards is fine, but not what we really want to see. Personally, I think a Hercules movie that deals with those 12 labors would be awesome, but apparently Hollywood is doing all they can to not make that film and I have no idea why. We do get a hint of the labors at the beginning of the film and during the credits, which was nothing more than a cruel tease, really. If you’re going to give it to us, give it to us!!!

Merc with a mouth. So, this film portrays Hercules as a leader of mercenaries. Not my cup of tea, honestly. I prefer Hercules to be a solo act wandering the countryside helping people, but that could be because of my affinity for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Still, since he is leading a band of mercenaries, supposedly this should work, but I just can’t get behind that idea.

Gods. As we all know, Hercules is the demigod son of Zeus, and yet, there is nothing more than a few mentions of the king of the gods. It appears that they were going more for the realistic tone with this one (and yet included the Hydra, Cerebus, etc.), but it just seem to me that we could have had at least an appearance somewhere, or maybe even Ian McShane’s character turns out to be Zeus? I guess that would have been too creative, though.

When all the dust clears, Hercules isn’t a bad flick. It definitely fits that summer popcorn flick mold, and for that it gets very high marks. However, the film feels like it wants to be something more. For instance, there are moments when you know you want to see blood from what happens, but because this is PG-13, we don’t get any, much like we saw in Pompeii. So, what is my recommendation on this? Well, it is worth seeing, perhaps even in the theater, but I wouldn’t rush out to see it. If you get the chance, check it out, if not, wait for the DVD/Blu-ray.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Eddie Murphy Delirious

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , on July 25, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Comedian Eddie Murphy brings his proudly raunchy comedy act to a sold-out stadium and pontificates in his own vulgarly hilarious fashion on such subjects as sexual orientation, puberty, dating, disciplinarian mothers, ice cream trucks, and the personality traits of certain singers.

REVIEW:

Work has me a little busy these next couple of weeks, so how about something short that I’ve been putting off for a while, Eddie Murphy Delirious. Many have forgotten what a comedic genius Eddie Murphy was at one time, but these old stand up routines such as this and Eddie Murphy Raw have preserved the hilarity that he once possessed.

What is this about?

Flashing the wild stand-up comedy that made him a household name, Eddie Murphy unleashes uncensored observations and parodies in this 1983 live show. Murphy’s outrageous act varies from his vivid childhood memories to his classic impressions.

Since this isn’t really a film with a beginning, middle, and end, but rather a stand-up comedy routine, I can’t really review it that way I do everything else.

First thing that has to be mentioned is the red leather suit. Not only is it vintage early 80s and has become synonymous with Murphy, but apparently the ladies loved him in and guys wanted to have their own version of it. Personally, if it was still the style, I’d probably be in the market for one myself.

Murphy’s routine is vulgar and offensive, but above all it is hilarious. True, if he did this today, no one would come out smiling since everyone is so

thin-skinned now. However, back in the day, people could take a joke, and that is why this is such a successful flick.

Perhaps one of the best segments was the ice cream man vignette. I remember growing up and chasing the ice cream man around the neighborhood, so I could really relate to what Murphy was saying, even if his stories were much more amusing than anything I went through, obviously.

Much like Raw, this is filmed at a live event, this time in Washington D.C. The thing about live comedy tapings, especially for movies like this, is that you don’t really know how live they are. I think about the Steve Harvey segments from The Original Kings of Comedy and wonder if that “confrontation” was truly live or just staged. Nothing like that with Murphy, but a couple of times it felt like he was pandering to the crowd, rather than using his prepared material.

When all the dust clears and you have stopped laughing so hard, Eddie Murphy Delirious is quite hilarious, especially when you can relate to certain segments. I didn’t find it to be the most hilarious of Murphy’s stand-up routines, but you can see why this is the one that put him on the map after Saturday Night Live. Do I recommend this? Yes, but be warned, the F-bomb is dropped quite a few times. If you can get over that, then this is something you should check out, so give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

Antz

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The setting for the story is an ant colony in Central Park in New York City, over the span of four days. The protagonist is Z-4195 (Woody Allen), or “Z” for short, a neurotic and individualistic worker ant living in a wholly totalitarian society who longs for the opportunity to truly express himself. His friends include fellow worker Azteca (Jennifer Lopez) and a soldier ant, Weaver (Sylvester Stallone). Z meets Princess Bala (Sharon Stone) at a bar where she goes to escape from her suffocating royal life and falls in love with her.

In order to see Bala again, Z exchanges places with Weaver and joins the army. He marches with the ranks, befriending a staff sergeant named Barbatus (Danny Glover) in the process. He doesn’t realise that the army’s leader and Bala’s fiancé, General Mandible (Gene Hackman), is secretly sending all the soldiers loyal to the Queen to die so he can begin to build a colony filled with powerful ants. At the base of a tree near nightfall, Z realizes he’s actually marching into battle, and all of the soldiers except for Z are killed by the acid-shooting termites. Following the battle, all Z can find of Barbatus is his head. Before he dies, Barbatus tells Z to think for himself rather than follow orders all his life, leaving Z saddened and depressed. Z returns home and is hailed as a war hero, even though he did not do anything and was traumatized by the fighting. He was also congratulated personally by the secretly irate General Mandible, and is brought before the Queen. There he meets Princess Bala, who eventually recognizes him as a worker. When Z finds that he has been cornered in a lie, he panics and pretends to take Princess Bala “hostage” in order to trick the queen’s guards into letting him leave rather than imprison him. They escape the colony and hide, and Z begins searching for the legendary Insectopia.

Word of the incident quickly spreads through the colony, whereupon Z’s act of individuality sparks a revolution in the workers and, possibly, a few soldier ants as well. As a result, productivity grinds to a halt. Seeing an opportunity to gain control, General Mandible begins to publicly portray Z as a war criminal who cares only about himself. Mandible then promotes the glory of conformity and promises them a better life, which he claims to be the reward of completing a “Mega Tunnel” planned by himself. Mandible learns Z is looking for Insectopia after interrogating Weaver. Knowing full well of the place’s existence, Mandible sends his second-in-command, Colonel Cutter (Christopher Walken), to its location to retrieve the Princess and possibly kill Z. Cutter, however, slowly begins to have second thoughts about Mandible’s plans and agenda and develops sympathy for the worker ants.

Z and Bala, after a misdirection and a brief separation, finally found Insectopia, which consists of a human waste-bin overfilled with decaying food (a treat for insects of all kinds). Here, Bala begins to reciprocate Z’s feelings. However, during a break, Cutter arrives and flies Bala back to the colony against her will. Z finds them gone and makes his way to rescue Bala, aided by a wasp named Chip (Dan Aykroyd), whom he met earlier and has made himself drunk grieving over the loss of his swatted wife, Muffy (Jane Curtin). Z arrives at the colony, where he finds that Bala has been held captive in General Mandible’s office. After rescuing her, he learns that General Mandible’s “Mega Tunnel” leads straight to a body of water (the puddle next to Insectopia), which Mandible will use to drown the queen and the workers who have gathered at the opening ceremony. Bala goes to warn the workers and her mother at the ceremony, while Z goes to the tunnel exit to stop the workers from digging any further. He fails, however, and the water leaks in. Z and Bala unify the workers into a single working unit and build a towering ladder of ants towards the surface as the water continues to rise.

Meanwhile, General Mandible and his soldiers are gathered at the surface, where he explains to them his vision of a new colony with none of the “weak elements of the colony”. He is interrupted, however, when the workers successfully claw their way to the surface and break through. Mandible angrily tries to kill Z but is stopped by Cutter, who finally rebels against Mandible and instead tries to help Z and the worker ants out of the hole “for the good of the colony.” The enraged Mandible charges toward Cutter, who is, however, pushed away by Z at the last moment. Mandible inadvertently takes Z with him back down into the flooded colony, and is killed when he lands upon a root while Z falls into the water. Cutter, taking charge, orders the other soldier ants to help the workers and the queen onto the surface while he himself rescues Z. Although it seems that Z has drowned, Bala successfully resuscitates him. Z is lauded for his heroism and marries Bala. Together they rebuild the colony with Cutter as their General, transforming the colony from a conformist military state into a community that values each and every one of its members.

REVIEW:

In the early 90s, there seemed to be change in animation. Studios were drifting away from traditional, hand-drawn animation in favor of computer generated imagery. A big mistake in my opinion, but who am I to judge. Perhaps one of the films that has been overshadowed and/or forgotten because of the Pixar films that were released around the same time is Antz.

What is this about?

In this animated hit, a neurotic worker ant in love with a rebellious princess rises to unlikely stardom when he switches places with a soldier. Signing up to march in a parade, he ends up instead enlisted to fight against a termite army

What did I like?

Voice cast. Woody Allen, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Jennifer Lopez, etc. Wow! What a cast lending their voices to these characters. For a film that isn’t by a huge studio (at the time DreamWorks was still establishing itself), that is quite the coup. No one can watch this flick, listen to these voices, some more recognizable than others, and not smile and point them out.

War. I’ve always thought that ants and termites were constantly at odds with each other. This film took my idea and ran with it to the point that they are at war. A termite/ant war, wow! Don’t think that this war is just mentioned, either. There is at least once scene that could rival something out of Saving Private Ryan. Ok, maybe not that extreme, but there is some of the emotions of war that we see, which isn’t something we usually see in an animated film.

Ant life. The life of an ant is most definitely not fun and games, especially if you’re a worker ant like our protagonist, Z. I don’t know of any other film that shows us what life is like for ants inside the colony. I actually enjoyed seeing the workers work, the soldiers in training, etc. It “humanized” them, if you will, as opposed to making them the mindless automatons we know or expect them to be.

What didn’t I like?

Seen it before? I’m not sure which came first, this or A Bug’s Life, but this was not the better of the two. Thing about that, though, is that they are basically the same story, with a few changes here and there. If I’m not mistaken these came out the same year! When that is the case, one has to be far superior to the other. This wasn’t the superior film, I’m afraid.

Early, but no excuse. The animation is obviously early in the CG era, but other films have been released that look far superior, such as Toy Story, which came out 4 years earlier. Making matters even worse, Shrek, which was released by the same production company as this looks far superior to this, so there is no excuse for the primitive CG look.

Termites. As much as I liked the ants vs. termites angle that was going on, despite it taking a backseat to a sappy love story, I can’t help but wish there was more life to them, as opposed to knowing they are the enemy, but never really seeing them. Would it have been that much trouble to give the enemy some characterization?!?

Final verdict on Antz? Well, it is a decent family film that could be much better. The voice cast is the best thing about it, as nothing else seems very inspired. I guess I’m a bit spoiled because of the great films that have been released from this company and Pixar, that this came off as half-assed. That being said, I wouldn’t steer anyone away from it. It is worth a viewing or two, especially as a family flick. Perhaps you should give it a shot!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 7/24

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on July 24, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Let’s go back to the year 1986, shall we?

Imagine you’re a 8 yr old boy. A huge fan of the Transformers and then this come on the big screen…

 

 

That’s right, Transformers: The Movie!

For anyone that grew up in that era, you know how awesome and exciting it was to see them on the big screen and why this film, despite how it is viewed by today’s society, is held in such high esteem. If you haven’t seen it, go check it out, or at least view some clips on YouTube. You may actually like what you see!

Coneheads

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 19, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Upon discovering an Unidentified Flying Object over American airspace, the National Guard sends out planes to warn it off and end up firing upon it when they don’t comply. Activating their cloaking device and crashing into the ocean the occupants, Beldar Clorhone and his life mate Prymaat try to adapt to the humans’ way of life despite standing out with their conical shaped skulls. Beldar gets work as an appliance repairman, and when his grateful boss Otto discovers that Beldar is an illegal alien, he arranges to have an identity created for him, which sends up red flags for the (INS). Meanwhile, after communicating with their world and discovering that a rescue vessel will not be there for several years (seven “Zurls”), Prymaat informs Beldar that she is pregnant and they need to adapt as humans to raise her safely. An ambitious INS agent named Gorman Seedling and his assistant Eli attempt to capture Beldar and Prymaat, but they elude him.

Months later, Beldar has become a respected taxi driver, and the couple live in his boss’s basement. After the birth of their child, Connie, they move to a suburban neighborhood in Paramus, New Jersey, adopting the surname Conehead as Beldar makes a career as a driving instructor. Meanwhile, Seedling gets an offer for a promotion and decides to leave the Coneheads to the next agent to take his place, however his promotion is hindered by this case and he is forced to continue it due to the expense of tracking them.

Now a teenager, all Connie wants to do is fit in with her peers, much to the objection of her father, especially when she becomes involved with a mechanic named Ronnie. Beldar is preoccupied with winning a golfing trophy at a country club where he is a member and Prymaat becomes concerned about her appearance. Eli and Seedling pose as Jehovah’s Witnesses to gain entry to the Conehead home, but they are ejected quickly when Beldar receives word from Remulak that a rescue vessel is on its way.

At a costume party that night, Connie is told they are to be rescued and she disobeys her parents by returning home with Ronnie to consummate their relationship as a goodbye, before they are caught and the INS shows up to arrest them. As Seedling is about to capture the Coneheads their vessel arrives, and he along with Eli are taken with them into space and sent back to Remulak together. While there, their leader, Highmaster Mintot accuses Beldar of treason and sentences him to fight a ferocious beast called the Garthok. Beldar manages to use his golfing skills to save himself and kill it, and is granted a request. Beldar requests to return to Earth to oversee its conquest, which Mintot agrees. Eli is left behind and becomes Mintot’s flunky. Beldar leaves with Prymaat, Connie and Seedling in tow but realizes that Connie’s feelings are more important than planetary conquest and quickly fakes a counterattack, forcing the rest of the ships to turn back as Beldar self-destructs the ship, making it look like they were destroyed. In appreciation for sparing his life, Seedling agrees to give the Coneheads a Green Card in exchange that he prove he has a talent no other American citizen possesses, which Beldar happily agrees to.

Some time later, Ronnie arrives to take Connie to the prom and after a few words of advice (55 words to be precise), Beldar uses a massive flash bulb from his home-built Polaroid camera to document the event. As Connie and a now-sunburnt Ronnie depart for their night, Beldar and Prymaat look at the picture they took and say “Memories, we will enjoy them.” before the screen fades to black.

REVIEW:

Either in the late 70s or early 80s, there was a sketch on Saturday Night Live that took the world by storm. Well, who are we kidding, just about everything they did back then was amazing, especially compared to what they try to pass off as comedy on there today. With the immense popularity of that sketch, as well as the success of Wayne’s World, it was decided to Coneheads needed to be brought to the big screen. The big question though is, how will audiences react to these strange beings from another world?

What is this about?

With enormous cone-shaped heads, robotlike walks and an appetite for toilet paper, aliens Beldar and Prymatt don’t exactly blend in with the population of Paramus, N.J. But for some reason, everyone believes them when they say they’re from France.

What did I like?

Just another family. With giant cones for heads, it would be so easy for the filmmakers to make a joke out of how everyone notices that they aren’t “normal”. However, the joke really is how that no one seems to notice, even the teenage girls (who you know notice everything that they don’t like…HA!) didn’t seem phased. Whenever alien races move to Earth, it seems to be that they are ostracized, rather than embraced. Even the aliens in Alien Nation, who look human save for some spots on their heads, had some problems. I’m glad the Coneheads skipped over this issue. It would have killed the momentum of the film with everytime someone would have noticed.

Gags. Being an alien species from another world stranded here brings about all sorts of difference in culture and what things are. One running gag that always has me cracking up is how to the Coneheads, a condom is gum. I wonder what gum on their planet of Remulak is to humans. Gags like that are the driving force behind the comedy of this picture. Truthfully, there aren’t many funny lines spoken. A few physical gags, but those are alien-related. The bread and butter are the small gags that will crack you up with how ludicrous they are.

Meet the young one. When the Coneheads originally appeared on SNL, it was during the late 70s/early 80s. This film was released in 1993. On the show, the daughter was played by Larraine Newman. While she was able to get away with playing a teenager on the show, that would not do for the big screen, so she was replaced with Michelle Burke. As a way to keep her as a Conehead, she does make a cameo appearance, ironically talking to her Burke, in the arena. It was a nice touch and showed respect to all the time she put in cultivating that character.

What didn’t I like?

Rancor…um…Garthok. The Coneheads return to their home world of Remulak and once it is found out the Beldar (Dan Aykroyd) had his teeth fixed to fit in down here on Earth, the high exalted one (or whatever his title is) accused him of treason and threw him into the pit. In this pit is a monster of great size and strength known as the Garthok. Looking at it, and assessing the situation, one can only think of the Rancor from Return of the Jedi. Why, oh why, must every film rip off the holy trilogy?!?

Too normal? Earlier I mentioned how no one really brought up the appearance of the Coneheads. However, there was this one random guy why said something and it got me to thinking. With the normal way these people have lived their lives down here on Earth, surely someone has had to have said something to them or reported something. I guess that was the reason the INS plot was shoved in here, because that didn’t really work on any level, except to make them look totally inept and incompetent.

Me want Jane. I’m not sure what the reason for this was, but Jane Curtain’s Prymaat had little to nothing to do in this film. It was almost as if Curtain had other projects going on at the same time and could only be around for a day or two, so they filmed all of her scenes real quick. Nothing against Dan Aykroyd. I love the guy, especially in comedic roles that suit him, but one of the reasons the Coneheads sketch worked so well was the family aspect. As this film portrays them, it is Beldar and his daughter. Occasionally they’ll wheel out Curtain. That just isn’t right. Can we get more Jane, please?!?

Most films from the 90s haven’t withstood the test of time very well, just go look at Twins! Coneheads has avoided that curse and, with current events being what they are, actually still is relevant. Who would have thought that a film that wasn’t thought to be a big hit would be worthy of such high praise. I think the best part of this film is not the sci-fi elements, nor the comedy, but rather the everyday lives of these people who have cone-shaped skulls living down here on a planet of “blunt skulls”, as they call us. The filmmaker’s decision to show us that part of their lives, rather than having them be a side-show attraction is really appealing and a different take on aliens than what we are normally accustomed to. Do I recommend this film? Yes, very highly! If for nothing else, then you can see that there was a time when Saturday Night Live actually produced worthwhile sketches that went on to bigger things.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Revisited: Heavy Metal

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The movie’s title sequence story (Soft Landing) begins with an astronaut named Grimaldi descending through Earth’s atmosphere in a 1960 Corvette.

This leads directly into the film’s framing story (Grimaldi) when he arrives at his home, where he is greeted by his daughter. He shows her something he brought back: a crystalline green sphere about the size of a baseball. When he opens the case, the orb rises out of it and painfully melts the astronaut. It introduces itself to the terrified girl as “The sum of all evils.” Looking into it, the girl sees how it has influenced societies through time and space. The orb, known as the Loc-Nar, forces her to watch the following stories (in order):

•Harry Canyon: Written by Juan Gimenez. In a dystopian New York City, cynical taxicab driver Harry Canyon narrates his day in film noir style, grumbling about his fares and the occasional robbery attempt (which he thwarts with a disintegrator installed behind his seat). He stumbles into an incident where a fat gangster and his cyborg henchmen murder an archaeologist. Harry grudgingly allows the murdered man’s daughter into his cab, and she tells him about her father’s discovery: the Loc-Nar, an artifact over which people are killing each other. Harry cannot afford to pay for a police investigation, so he takes the girl back to his apartment. That night, the girl strips, climbs into his bed, and they have sex. Harry awakens alone the next morning when the cops bust into the apartment looking for the girl, whose existence he denies. One of his fares that day is the fat gangster, who threatens Harry if he doesn’t cooperate. Later, the girl contacts Harry and offers to sell the Loc-Nar and split the proceeds with him. He agrees to take her to the exchange. When the gangster gets the Loc-Nar, he takes it out of its isolation case, and he disintegrates. Meanwhile, the girl pulls a gun on Harry, who is forced to use his self-defense ray to evaporate her, after which he keeps the money.

•Den: Based on the original story by Richard Corben. Dan, a nerdy teenager (voiced by John Candy) finds a round “green meteorite” and puts it in his rock collection at home. Weeks later, during a lightning experiment, the orb hurls the boy into the world of Neverwhere, where he changes into a naked bald muscle man called Den. Landing on a giant idol, he witnesses a strange ritual and rescues a nubile young woman who was about to be sacrificed to “Uhluht’c” (“C’thulhu” spelled backwards). Reaching safety, she tells him that she is from the British colony of Gibraltar, on Earth, and that her name is Katherine Wells. While she demonstrates her gratitude with sexual favours, they are interrupted by the minions of Ard, an immortal man who wants to obtain the Loc-Nar and use it to rule the world. He puts Katherine in suspended animation and orders Den to get the Loc-Nar from the Queen (the woman who performed the ritual). Den agrees after Ard tells him “If you refuse, you die, she dies, everybody dies!”, and infiltrates the Queen’s palace with some of Ard’s warriors. He is promptly caught by the Queen’s guard, but she offers leniency if he has sex with her. He complies, while the raiding party steals the Loc-Nar. Den escapes and, with the Queen and her forces in pursuit, races back to the idol, where Ard is attempting to recreate the sacrifice himself. Den rescues Katherine, and the Queen’s arrival sparks a bloody battle between her and Ard (backed by their respective armies). Den ends the battle by recreating the incident that drew him to Neverwhere, banishing Ard and the Queen. Refusing the opportunity to rule, Den and Katherine ride into the sunset, content to remain in Neverwhere as heroes with idealized bodies.

•Captain Sternn: Based on the original story by Bernie Wrightson. On a space station, a square jawed space captain named Lincoln F. Sternn (voice by Eugene Levy) is on trial on numerous serious charges (and one moving violation) presented by the prosecutor (voiced by John Vernon). Pleading “not guilty” against the advice of his rat-faced lawyer (voiced by Joe Flaherty), Sternn explains to his astonished lawyer that he expects to be acquitted because he bribed a witness, Hanover Fiste, to praise his character. Fiste takes the stand, but his perjury is subverted when the Loc-Nar, now the size of a marble, causes him to blurt out the truth about Sternn’s evil deeds until he angrily denounces Sternn to the point of suggesting gruesome execution methods (Sternn is nothin’ but a lyin’, cheatin’, back-stabbin’, double-dealin’, larcenous perverted WORM!! Hanging’s too good for him! Burning’s too good for him! He should be torn into little-bitty pieces and buried alive!). Fiste rants with such fury that he changes into a muscled giant like the Incredible Hulk, and chases Sternn throughout the station, breaking through bulkheads and wreaking havoc. Eventually, Fiste corners Sternn, receives his promised payoff for his part in Sternn’s plan to escape, and promptly shrinks back to his gangly original form (this may indicate that, rather than the Loc-Nar’s prompting, the whole event, complete with Hanover’s ability to grow and go insane, was planned ahead of time, to allow Sternn the chaos necessary to escape or fake his own death. Or, it may have played on Fiste’s suspicion that, having paid only part of the bribe, Sternn would renege on the rest). Sternn then adds a bonus: he pulls a lever opening a trapdoor under Fiste, and the Loc-Nar reenters an atmosphere with Fiste’s bodyless flaming hand still clinging to it.

•B-17: A World War II bomber makes a difficult bombing run with heavy damage and casualties. As the bomber limps home, the Loc-Nar rams itself into the plane, and raises the dead crewmembers as rampaging, flesh-hungry zombies. The pilot is the lone survivor. After the Loc-Nar rams the plane, the pilot puts the plane on auto pilot and leaves the cockpit to survey the damage. While at the rear of the plane, the zombie crew attack the pilot who runs back into the cockpit and locks the door. When it becomes obvious that the zombies will defeat the cockpit door, the pilot dons a parachute and barely escapes through a trap door in the deck of the cockpit. Unfortunately the pilot lands on a desert island populated by more zombified airmen.

•So Beautiful, So Dangerous: Based on the original story by Angus McKie. A scientist (Dr. Anrack) arrives at the Pentagon for a meeting about mysterious mutations that are plaguing the United States. At the meeting, Dr. Anrack tries to dismiss the occurrences, but when he sees the green stone (Loc-Nar) in the buxom stenographer’s (Gloria’s) locket, he starts behaving erratically, goes berserk, and attempts to sexually assault her. In the sky above, a colossal starship with a smiley face design breaks through the roof with a transport tube and sucks up the berserk Dr. Anrack and by accident, Gloria. The ship’s robot is irritated at Anrack, who is actually a malfunctioning android, but his mood changes when Gloria arrives. Supprisingly Gloria is not shocked at being sucked up by the ship and instead is annoyed by the encounter, commenting “who is going to pay for my dry cleaning?” With the help of the ship’s crew of burn-outs (the pilot and co-pilot) the robot convinces Gloria to stay on board and talks her into having “robot” sex. She even reluctanly agrees to marry him (provided they have a Jewish wedding). Meanwhile, the burn-outs snort a massive amount of plutonian nyborg and fly home completely stoned, zoning out on the cosmos and passing space junk. Too stoned to fly straight, they crash land in a huge space station, though they think it was a nice landing.

•Taarna: Inspired by Moebius’ Arzachstories. The Loc-Nar crashes onto a planet and into a volcano. At the base of the volcano, a religious leader and his followers have assembled to worship. The Loc-Nar causes the volcano to erupt a green, foamy substance that flows down volcano and swallows the worshipers and their leader. The leader changes and his followers are corrupted by the green slime and change into mutated murderous barbarians. The leader organizes the mutants into an army who ravage a peaceful, prosperous city. The city elders, who consist of scientists and statesmen and lack an army, desperately try to summon the last of a warrior race, the Taarakians. Taarna, a strong, beautiful warrior maiden (the last of the Taarakians), receives the summons and goes to an ancient temple where she swims across a pool and collects a sword and a tight fitting, revealing leather uniform. She arrives too late to stop the massacre and resolves to avenge the city. After leaving the city, she stops at a tavern and orders a drink. The tavern’s patrons of mostly mutants see her as easy prey and try to gang up on her so they can sexually assault her. She decapitates them with a single swing of her sword, giving the rest of the mutant patrons a message. Her search leads to the barbarians’ stronghold, where she is captured, stripped naked, tortured and left for dead by the leader. With the help of her avian mount, she escapes and confronts the barbarian leader. Though wounded, she defeats him and in one last effort, then flies into the Loc-Nar, destroying it.

As the final story ends, the Loc-Nar terrorizing the girl is similarly destroyed, blowing the mansion to pieces. Taarna’s mount, reborn into a younger form, appears outside and the girl happily flies away on it. It is then revealed that Taarna’s soul has been transferred across the universe and through time to her. This is further signified by the change in hair color the girl now exhibits and the appearance of the Taarakian crest on her skin. Thus the girl is revealed to be the next Taarakian herself.

REVIEW:

Have you ever watched a film and could just tell that it was a product of its time? One that captures the era so well, you wish you could go back in time and really relish in it? I think that is what Heavy Metal tries to do, not necessarily with the “plot”, but more so with the atmosphere it creates, as well as some things that one could only et away with in the early to mid 80s!

What is this about?

A cult classic featuring a thumping metal soundtrack, this animated extravaganza centers on a menacing meteorite thought to be the root of all evil.

What did I like?

Soundtrack. Blue Oyster Cult, Journey, Cheap Trick, Stevie Nicks, Nazareth, Devo, Riggs,  Sammy Haggar, Black Sabbath, etc. No, this is not the lineup for some music festival, but rather artists that contributed to the soundtrack. That is an all-star lineup, no matter when you are watching this flick. Aside from the astonishingly great animation, one could just listen to the music and be mesmerized. I know that I often time crank Don Felder’s “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)”. I wonder if one can find this soundtrack anywhere. After I post this, I think I’m going to go have a look.

Variation. With anthologies, it is important to note the differences in styles. Take for instance, Fantasia. Not only does each section have a different composer, who had their own style of composition, but the animation for each was totally different, as well. You would never confuse “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” with “Rite of Spring”. They were totally different styles of animation. In this film, the styles aren’t that varied, but there is a distinct difference. An example would be the “Captain Sternn” and “So Beautiful…” segments. They have a more, shall we say, Saturday morning cartoon look to them, as opposed to the other segments which have a more theatrical animation (at the time) style to them. Then of course, there is the B-17 segment, which was actually taken from real life ad then turned into animation with the help of rotoscope, much like the animated version of The Lord of the Rings. With all these different styles, an animation student can go to school watching this film.

Dangerous curves. The female body is a thing of beauty. Apparently, the filmmakers and animators think the same way, because in just about every segment, they take the opportunity to draw naked, curvy, voluptuous women, complete with hard nipples and, in one case, matching carpet. They even go so far as to make sure that one of the females dresses very slowly and seductively…if what she is wearing can be called getting dressed. As an adult, I feel I should say that this is sexist, misogynistic, blah, blah, blah. However, I can’t help but revert to the teenage boy who would watch NC-17 (back then, they were X) movies through the scrambled cable. It is that thinking that leads me to believe this was made for a purely male, adolescent audience. Who else would appreciate so much gratuitous boobage?

What didn’t I like?

Loosely connected. Since Loc-Nar is telling this frightened little girl of his exploits throughout the galaxy and whatnot, wouldn’t it serve a purpose for these stories to actually be connected? As it is, the only real connection is that Loc-Nar appears in them. A few happen to transition with him in it, but that isn’t enough of a connection for my taste. I guess I just would have liked it better had there been something saying this evil happened here, so beware, or something along those lines.

Candyman. John Candy has a great voice. As a kid, I enjoyed waking up and watching Camp Candy on Saturday mornings and I still enjoy his movies to this day (good and bad). I’m not sure if there was a budgetary reason behind this, but why must they use Candy for every voice? Ok, I exaggerate. Eugene Levy and a few other no name people provided some other voices, but Candy was at least 4 or 5 characters, if I’m not mistaken. Would it really have been so hard to call someone else in to do some voice work? Again, nothing against Candy, I just don’t think using the same guy to do half the voices like this is a good idea.

5 seconds of realism. With all of the great animation to be seen in this film, as well as techniques that were still finding their footing, it seems odd that at the end, we get this one scene of live action. I question that decision because it didn’t do anything to the “story”. The film starts off with an astronaut dropping from the spaceship in his car. Now, had that been live-action morphing into rotoscope or something along those lines, it would have been cool, but this random scene, which is maybe 5 seconds in length, of live action speaks of laziness on the behalf of the animators, to me.

I’m not sure if it is still published, but if you can believe it, Heavy Metal is actually based on several short stories from the magazine of the same name. Truthfully, there isn’t much else to say about this film. If you’re a fan of 80s rock, animation, and gratuitous boobage, as well as some violent sci-fi, then this is the film for you. Otherwise, you’d be better served moving along to something else. I hear there’s a new Barbie video coming out. Perhaps that would be more to your liking? Ha! Seriously, though, this film does have some issues here and there, such as the size of Taarna’s breasts. In one scene, she looks as if she’s a DDD, and the next she could be down to a B-cup. Small animation errors like that hurt the film, but I still had a good time watching. If you get the chance, I highly recommend you give this a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 7/17

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on July 17, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

Next week is San Diego Comic Con (the big one!). No, I’m not going, but I will be keeping up with what is going on through various podcasts and such.

One thing that I have noticed the past few days is the sudden influx of superhero news, especially about things changing over at Marvel and the upcoming Fantastic Four movie (which id being filmed here in town, but I am NOT excited about seeing).

So, I pulled this random trailer from the depths of hell for you good people to enjoy. The 1994 version of Fantastic Four!

Note…to my knowledge, the trailer was shown in theaters, but the film never made it that far

Black Mama, White Mama

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , on July 16, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Brought to a women’s prison in a tropical country which resembles the film’s Philippines-set location, Lee (Pam Grier) and Karen (Margaret Markov) encounter sadistic matron Densmore (Lynn Borden) who voyeuristically observes through a peephole as the inmates take a shower. Prone to emotional outbursts, she orders a guard to escort Lee to her private room, puts on a black glove and strikes Lee across the face, but is almost immediately restrained when the level-headed warden Logan (Laurie Burton), with whom she has a lesbian relationship, forcibly enters the room and orders Lee’s return to the prisoners’ area.

Following a fight in the prisoners’ meal hall between Lee and Karen, which spreads into a free-for-all, the two are punished by lockup inside a metal box exposed to the broiling tropical sun, with only enough space to stand back-to-back and, shortly thereafter, scheduled for transfer to a maximum security prison. As the lightly escorted bus traverses a country road close to the jungle, the convoy is attacked by revolutionaries, led by Ernesto (Zaldy Zschornack), bent on rescuing his companion, Karen, a key member of the group. In the ensuing battle, Lee and Karen, who are chained to each other, strangle matron Densmore with their chain, while warden Logan is fatally shot by the rebels. At that point, army reinforcements led by Captain Cruz (Eddie Garcia) arrive on the scene, the rebels retreat and Lee and Karen run into the woods. They subsequently force a couple of nuns to give them their habits, then travel on a bus in this disguise and, later, after getting a ride from a truck driver (Bruno Punzalah), throw him out of the truck and drive off.

Before being sentenced on a drug charge, Lee was a prostitute for the region’s most prominent pimp and drug dealer Vic Cheng (Vic Diaz), whose $40,000 of ill-gotten profits she managed to hide and, as a result, is now being hunted by him and his henchmen. Captain Cruz, pressured for results by his superior, Galindo (Alfonso Carvajal), visits the pool hall frequented by Ruben (Sid Haig), the cowboy-styled leader of a rival criminal gang and offers him the opportunity of a substantial financial gain in exchange for interrupting the activities of his rival, Vic Cheng, as well as the revolutionaries’ gun-running. However, when Cruz, with Galindo in the back seat with a female companion, attempts to follow Ruben by driving at a distance behind his vehicle, Ruben doubles back, forces Cruz to stop, makes Cruz and Galindo drop their pants and announces that, based on their respective sizes, he intends to castrate them with a gunshot, but actually only fires a shot at the tire of their car. He then drives off with members of his gang, taking Galindo’s attractive young woman with him.

Ruben subsequently visits the house of one of his subservient associates and immediately takes the man’s all-too-willing two daughters into the bedroom, locking the door. After several minutes pass, the concerned and discomfited associate knocks on the door, informing Ruben that Ernesto and his revolutionaries are nearby, having taken possession of the tracking dogs which Ruben has been using to search for Lee and Karen. The ensuing shootout with Ernesto’s men results in death for Ruben and all members of his gang. Ultimately Karen is reunited with Ernesto who, with a single shot, severs the chain linking her to Lee. Later on the docks, in another shootout and explosive blast between Vic Cheng’s henchmen and Ernesto’s revolutionaries, almost everyone is killed, including Karen, while wounded Ernesto manages to get away with a couple of his men. Lee, helped by an older, armed friend (unbilled Andy Centenera) also survives and leaves the island, as Captain Cruz oversees the inspection and identification of the numerous dead bodies strewn over the docks.

REVIEW:

It’s about time for some Pam Grier love around here, don’t you think? Digging through what Netflix has to offer, I came across Black Mama, White Mama. Now, that title alone, makes me think this is some kind of 70s revolution flick, but I could be totally wrong. Let’s find out more, shall we?

What is this about?

Chained together, two female prisoners of different races stab their way to freedom while igniting a shooting war between gangsters and militants.

What did I like?

Prison. For some reason, during the period in which this film was made, there was a slew of female prison films to be released, many of which featuring the same cast, led by Pam Grier. You can compare it to today with reality TV or superhero films. Having never been in prison, especially a women’s prison, I don’t have a clue as to how accurate these portrayals are, but I can say that I do enjoy using the prison as a way to set up and develop characters, rather than each have their individual stories, randomly come together, and then we get the film. Personal taste, I suppose.

Suspense. Going into this flick, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of genre. As it turned out, this fell in the category of  action/suspense. Grier and Margaret Markov’s escape was not the easiest to accomplish. Once they got away, they were hunted, still chained together, and had to deal with outside forces who were paid to take them dead or alive. As the audience is watching this, all they can think of is, will they make it? Quite exciting, actually.

Bondage…er…bonding. Who among us could be chained together with someone while trying to escape a prison island and not develop some sort of bond with our compatriot, no matter our feelings for them? The relationship between these two women is a major selling point for the film, hence the title. Watching them go from enemies in the prison, to the hot box, to frenemies, and finally to such close friends that when one is killed, the other is in tears as the final credits roll is some pretty decent character development.

What didn’t I like?

More Pam. Obviously, Pam Grier is the star power that drives this film, and yet we don’t get much of her. Sure, she’s on screen for a nice amount of time, but she seems to be more of the, pardon the term, “bottom bitch”, while Markov makes her attempt to become a star. Had that plan worked, I probably wouldn’t bring this up, but considering how Grier’s star was on the rise with films like Foxy Brown and Coffy, films like this and The Big Doll House are why her film career stalled until Quentin Tarantino brought us Jackie Brown. Grier didn’t necessarily need to be the star of this, but she could have been given a juicier part, or at least something else to do.

L-word. Apparently, it is a prerequisite in order to work in a women’s prison to be a lesbian. I say this because just about every women’s prison film seems to involve lesbians, one of which is a sadistic taskmaster. Is this just a stereotype that has turned into a trope? Or just something to excite the male viewers (as if sweaty, nearly naked women in close quarters wasn’t enough…not to mention the shower scenes!!!). I don’t know, I guess I’ve seen this so much now that it is starting to become an annoyance, rather than the pleasurable, for lack of a better term, character relationship it is meant to be.

Fight the power. As it turns out, one of our escapees is actually a freedom fighter. Here’s a hint, it isn’t Grier’s character. While it is hinted at throughout the film, this part never really comes to fruition until the final scene when they are actually about to escape, and then all hell breaks loose. For me, while understanding the quandary it would be to do the freedom fighter thing while escaping prison, I felt that this is an angle that should have been explored a bit more, rather than just skated over as an excuse to bring in some men.

I don’t understand why they call Black Mama, White Mama a Blaxploitation flick. Grier is the only African-American in the cast, from what I recall, save for some extras, I believe. As far as the film goes, it isn’t as the last few Grier flicks I’ve watched, but it isn’t on par with the flicks that made her a star. The acting is horrible, the sets look recycled from all the other prison films that were done at this time, and the story seems uninspired. Do I recommend this? Perhaps if you’re having a Pam Grier viewing party and need some filler before you get to the good stuff. Even then, I feel that this would be a stretch, especially considering that you could take her out of this flick and it wouldn’t matter, except that you would need someone else to fill the title role. Don’t waste your time on this one. Look for her better flicks, if you’re in the mood for some kick-ass Pam Grier action (and who isn’t?)

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Big Trouble in Little China

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) and his friend, restaurant owner Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), go to the airport to pick up Wang’s fiancee Miao Yin (Suzee Pai), who is arriving from China. A Chinese street gang, the Lords of Death, tries to kidnap another Chinese girl at the airport who is being met by her friend Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall), intending to sell her as a sex slave. After Jack intervenes, they take Miao Yin instead. In Jack’s big-rig truck, he and Wang track the Lords of Death to the back alleys of Chinatown, where they find a funeral procession that quickly erupts into a street fight between the Chang Sing and Wing Kong, two ancient Chinese societies. When “The Three Storms” (Thunder, Rain, and Lightning) appear, slaughtering the Chang Sing, Jack tries to escape but runs over Lo Pan (James Hong), a powerful and legendary sorcerer, as well as the leader of the Wing Kong. Horrified, Jack exits his truck, only to find Lo Pan, who is merely annoyed. Wang hurriedly guides Jack through the alleys, escaping the carnage and mayhem, but Jack’s truck is stolen.

Wang takes Jack to his restaurant, where they meet up with Gracie, Wang’s friend Eddie Lee (Donald Li), and magician Egg Shen (Victor Wong), a local authority on Lo Pan. They try to explain to an incredulous Jack some of the ancient knowledge and sorcery the Chinese brought with them to America, eventually devising a plan to infiltrate a brothel, where they think Miao Yin is being held. However, the Storms make off with Miao Yin, bringing her to a front owned by Lo Pan. Trying to rescue her, Jack and Wang are quickly subdued by Rain and taken to see Lo Pan, now in the form of a crippled, old man. Wang tells Jack that Lo Pan needs a special green-eyed girl to break an ancient curse, and he intends to sacrifice Miao Yin. When Jack and Wang’s friends attempt to save them, they are also captured, and Lo Pan notes that Gracie has green eyes, too. Lo Pan decides to sacrifice Gracie, while making Miao Yin his unwilling wife.

After getting the drop on Thunder, Jack and Wang escape, also freeing many women kept in holding cells. Wang and Jack go to see Egg Shen, and, with the help of the Chang Sing, they enter an underground cavern to return to Lo Pan’s headquarters. Egg pours each of the group a potent potion that Jack says makes him feel “kind of invincible.” During the wedding ceremony, a huge fight ensues, which Jack misses, due to accidentally knocking himself out. Wang kills Rain in a sword duel, while Jack and Gracie try to catch Lo Pan. Wang joins them, and, just when all seems lost, Jack kills Lo Pan, with a skillful knife throw. Thunder, enraged and dishonored at his failure to protect his master, starts to inflate to an enormous size, exploding and killing himself. Jack, Wang, Gracie, and Miao Yin are cornered by Lightning in a corridor, which he makes collapse. Egg rescues them with a rope and kills Lightning, when he tries to follow. After finding Jack’s truck, they escape back to Wang’s restaurant.

Lo Pan having been defeated, the group celebrates in a warm and family-like way: Wang and Miao are obviously about to marry; Margo, Gracie’s journalist friend, seems to be about to pair-up with Eddie; and Egg decides to go on a prolonged vacation, saying China is in the heart. Jack, instead of starting up a new life with Gracie, (as everyone was expecting up to that point), bids farewell to the group and hits the open road, with an unknown-to-him stowaway – one of the remaining monsters from Lo Pan’s labyrinth

REVIEW:

A couple of movie review podcasts that I frequently listen to are constantly referring to Big Trouble in Little China as one of the greatest cult 80s action films out there. I remember seeing this in the video store as a kid and always passing it up, but being curious. The same has held true when I see it on Netflix. Sure, it has an interesting cover, but sometimes the artwork can be deceiving. Still, I wonder if this is worth all the hype.

What is this about?

When an ancient magician kidnaps his friend’s fiancée, a two-fisted trucker and a sexy attorney must navigate a shadowy realm to capture the culprit.

What did I like?

Supernatural. I woke up this morning with an urge to watch something supernatural. Don’t ask me why because I really can’t give you an answer. Having said that, though, I wonder if it is because my best friend has recently started watching Supernatural on Netflix and makes sure I know that is what she’s doing. All that aside, perhaps it is because I was in the mood for it, but the supernatural element of this film really struck a chord with me and made me wish for more. Chinese deities, creatures in a labyrinth, etc. keep the audience’s attention.

Wong fu. A somewhat smaller role, or so we are led to believe, is Victor Wong’s Egg Shen. Introduced as some guy driving a tour bus, we learn that he is quite the capable sorcerer in his own right. Much wiser than he looks, Wong’s character is also powerful enough to go toe to toe with the villainous Lo Pan. While Kurt Russell is the big star of this film, it is Wong that can be truly considered the hero.

Rapid fire. As someone who has spent quite some time watching old films, I notice the rhythm of how people talk. In this film, I happened to notice in some spots that the dialogue, not counting the cheesy one-liners, is as rapid fire as a 30s film noir. I was digging the retro vibe to the way these lines were delivered. It gave me the mindset of those old serials from that era, which I kind of feel this film would have worked better as, but I may touch on that a little later.

What didn’t I like?

Getting ready for her next role. Some people think Kim Cattrall is a fine actress. I am not one of those people. To me, she is nothing more than the token hot chick in the 80s who disappeared in the 90s and resurfaced as a deformed version of herself when Sex and the City started. Watching her “act” in the few scenes she has was painful. I think it would be more fun to watch mushrooms grow out in the yard. Cattrall is so wooden, it made me wonder if she was just getting ready for her next role, Mannequin. Maybe I should rephrase that as Cattrall is so plastic. Ha!

Weak storms. There are these three powerful warriors that appear out of nowhere and start wiping out the warring gangs. When it comes to the final showdown, they are taken out quite easily. Why is it such powerful henchmen, for lack of a better term, go down so easily? Shouldn’t these storms have shown the true power they have and merge together as one giant, all-powerful storm? Or would that have been too over the top for a film that is already there. While I’m thinking about it, is it me, or did anyone else think of Raiden from Mortal Kombat when the lightning storm guy showed up. Also, was he really using lightning as a fireman’s pole, of sorts?!?

Genre bending. The original concept for this film was for it to be a western, but some bigwig at the studio decided it needed to be a modern-day tale. Don’t you just love it when they do that? I’m a little biased, being a fan of westerns and all, but I think this would have been more interesting as a western, perhaps even better. Mixing the American West with Oriental mysticism was sure to make for some intriguing situations.

Upon its initial release, Big Trouble in Little China did not fare so well. Director John Carpenter took its failure so hard that he left Hollywood and went into independent filmmaking. However, it has gained a cult following over the years and is listed on many “Best of…” lists. Perhaps it was just ahead of its time or audiences at that time didn’t fully appreciate what they were seeing. Make no mistake, this is not a great film, but it falls into that category where you can overlook its flaws and just enjoy the film for what it is. As such, I say this worth a viewing whenever you’re in the mood for some 80s action. Give it a shot sometime, why don’t you?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 7/10

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on July 10, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

The year is 1956.

As we roll into the drive-in and get all settled in with our best girl/guy, the trailers starts. One that is sure to catch our attention is one starring the buxom, bodacious goddess, Jayne Mansfield in her big screen debut, The Girl Can’t Help It. Have a look and tell me that you can’t wait for this to come out in theaters!

 

 

Revisited: The Toxic Avenger

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Melvin Ferd III, a stereotypical 98-pound weakling, works as a janitor at the Tromaville Health Club in the fictional Tromaville, New Jersey. There, he is tormented by his customers Bozo, Slug, Wanda and Julie. The Mayor of Tromaville is Peter Belgoody, who, unknown to the citizens of the town, is also the leader of a massive Tromaville crime ring, but hides this fact by promoting good will and proposed justice to the town as a cover-up. As days go by, Melvin’s tormentors grow more and more violent, even killing a young boy on a bike in a hit and run and taking photos of the carnage afterwards. Finally one day, they trick Melvin into wearing a pink tutu and kissing a sheep. He is chased around the health club by other customers and jumps out of a second story window. He lands in a drum of toxic waste which immediately causes severe burns and disfigurement. Despite the burning chemicals even causing him to burst into flames, Melvin survives and stumbles home. Drawing a bath to try and scrub some of the chemical residue from his horribly scarred flesh, Melvin begins his transformation into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength.

Elsewhere, a group of drug dealers led by the criminal Cigar Face are harassing a police officer by the name of O’Clancy, trying to buy him off. When he refuses to accept the money, Cigar Face and his gang attack and brutalize him. Then, just as Cigar Face prepares to castrate Officer O’Clancy with his gun, a large creature comes out of nowhere and violently kills Cigar Face’s goons Knuckles and Nipples, and leaves a mop on their faces as a call sign. Cigar Face survives, but has had his testicles smashed by the creature before escaping. O’Clancy is initially terrified of the creature but soon learns he was only trying to help him as the creature approaches him and politely apologizes for his behavior as he has “never done this sort of thing before”. The officer’s rescuer, dubbed the “Monster Hero”, is the now-profoundly mutated Melvin. He tries to return home, but his mother ends up fainting upon the sight of him. Wracked with sorrow, the Monster Hero builds a makeshift home in the junkyard. Mayor Belgoody is shocked at the deaths of some of his goons, but is still confident that the Monster will not come looking for him, hoping that one of his goons will kill him eventually.

Elsewhere in Tromaville, three men named Leroy, Frank and Rico hold up a Mexican fast food restaurant. Leroy kills one of the patrons and Frank attacks a blind woman named Sara after Leroy kills her guide dog. Frank attempts to rape her, but is attacked by the Monster Hero, who ends up ripping off Frank’s right arm. He wreaks bloody vengeance on the three men: Leroy is first covered in whipped cream (and a cherry) before having a milkshake stirrer rammed into his throat, Rico has his hands and wrists plunged into a deep-fryer and Frank is stuffed in an oven. The Monster Hero takes Sara back to her home, where they begin to get to know one another and progressively fall in love. The Monster Hero returns to the Health Club, killing a drug dealer by crushing his face with a weight-lifting machine. There, he attacks popular girl Wanda. Afterwards, the Monster is relieving himself in a back alley when a limo pulls up and a pimp tries to push a 12-year-old girl onto him. When he starts to fight back to save the girl, a group of men come out of the limo. He fights them all off and saves the girl. The Monster Hero soon starts building up a friendly reputation in Tromaville by doing all sorts of “superhero” work from saving two younger boys from being run over by Bozo’s car to even helping the elderly to cross the street.

Meanwhile, Mayor Belgoody is becoming more and more aware about what is happening to his goons as not only are they being killed one by one by the Monster Hero, but some of them are also turning themselves over to the police for their own safety. He is now worried that their deaths will lead up to him sooner than he expects and wants the Monster Hero to be taken care of. One night, Cigar Face returns (covered in bandages and casts) and brings along a new group of Belgoody’s goons to surround the Monster with guns. Before they fire on him, he jumps up to a fire escape and they end up shooting and killing each other with Cigar Face getting away. The Monster Hero returns to the health club again and attacks Julie. Soon afterwards, he confronts the last of his tormentors, Bozo and Slug, who have attacked an old woman and stolen her car when Julie doesn’t show up. Bozo and Slug try to run him over, but the Monster jumps on top of the car and grabs Slug crushing his neck and throwing him out of the moving car. The Monster Hero then confronts Bozo by grabbing him by the face and terrifies him by revealing himself as Melvin from the accident to a horrified Bozo. After several accidents that occur because of Bozo’s driving, the Monster tears off the wheel to the car causing Bozo to drive off the side of a cliff. The car crashes and bursts into flames burning Bozo alive, but unaffecting the monster. One day, when the Monster Hero kills a seemingly innocent old midget woman in a dry cleaning store (it is later revealed that she is in fact a leader of an underground white slave trade) by throwing her into the store’s washing machine, the Monster Hero wanders back to his junkyard home revealing his true identity to Sara and feeling terrified and guilty for what he has become. Sara however tells Melvin that she still loves him no matter what he looks like and the two decide to move away from the city and take a tent into nearby woods.

However, Belgoody finds out about the Monster Hero’s “mishap” and uses this opportunity to call in the National Guard in hopes of finally killing him. Soon Sara and the Monster are discovered in the woods and now surrounded by both the National Guard and the townspeople. Mayor Belgoody comes intent on killing him (whereas the National Guard’s request was originally for capture). But thanks to the Monster’s kind duties to the town, the people of Tromaville including the Monster Hero’s mother will have none of it. Mayor Belgoody’s evil ways are exposed after he threatens to kill O’Clancy for trying to take his gun away from him. The Monster Hero then kills Mayor Belgoody by ripping out his organs to see if he has “any guts”. The film ends with the townspeople’s celebration at the Monster’s acceptance and a reassuring epilogue that wherever evil brews in Tromaville, Melvin the Monster Hero, now dubbed the “Toxic Avenger”, will be there to protect the town

REVIEW:

Man, you could away with just about anything in the 80s and call it a film, couldn’t you? In what other point in time could you have a mutated freak, who is a 7 foot tall killer, basically become a superhero? Only in the 80s, my friends, for today, this would be some hardcore horror picture complete with deep, and unnecessary, character development. Thanks goodness The Toxic Avenger just kills a couple of people, then moves on to the next scenes, rise and repeat!

What is this about?

In this satirical spoof, the meatheads at a local health club push around the geeky janitor who works there. One day, however, the bullies push too far, and the janitor falls out a window and into a dump truck filled with toxic sludge. The toxic dip transforms the janitor into a hulking superhero — the Toxic Avenger — who fights for justice at all costs and is plenty popular with the ladies too!

What did I like?

Defend the little people. After he turns into the Toxic Avenger, Melvin is compelled to defend the citizens of Tromaville. In some random scene, which was obviously placed there to explain to the audience why he was killing people, it said that the toxic waste, along with the way he was turned subconsciously made him want to obliterate evil. No problem with that from me. I actually liked that the little guy who gets constantly picked on turns into a big guy and can return the favor!

Gratuitous 80s. If you’ve ever seen a movie from the 80s, then you know that back then they didn’t hesitate to show as much skin and violence as they possible could whenever it was possible. Why else would there be girls in bikinis in the gym, or return trips to the steam room, or the crushing of a kid’s head, etc. In today’s cinema, these things don’t happen without someone getting all up in arms and offended, but back then no one even batted an eyelash. Sure, the picture could have done without some of this stuff, but what fun would it be?

Monster no more. After his change, the director made a brilliant move with Melvin. For about 30 minutes or so of his killing spree and daily life, we don’t see his face. All we do is hear him growling, crushing skulls and whatnot. Then, as he is about to exact revenge on a girl in the steam room, he dons a cloak a la The Elephant Man, and sneaks up on her (something her boyfriend had done earlier in the film). She thinks it is her beloved betrothed, rips it off and we see the face of the “monster”. Genius way of introducing us to the hideous face, as well as developing the mystery notion of is he friend or foe up to that point.

What didn’t I like?

Muscles? Isn’t it amazing the varying effects toxic waste can have? Apparently, it can turn you into a homicidal maniac clown that terrorized Gotham City and Batman, it can totally kill you (hence the word toxic), or it can change you from a 90 lb weakling nerd to a 7 ft muscle-bound mutant with God-like strength. I don’t question the mutation, especially given the cheap look of this film, but I do wonder what it is about toxic waste that made Melvin grow a couple of feet and add on muscles, not to mention totally change his voice. I guess it is the same thing that was in those old milk commercials from the early 90s. Kudos if you remember those!

Thing, is that you? As I’ve been typing this post, a thought came to mind. There are similarities between the Toxic Avenger and Thing from the Fantastic Four. For instance, they both are hideously, seemingly irreversibly disfigured/changed. Also, they have blind (and hot) girlfriends. Now, isn’t that one of the weirdest coincidences? What are the chances? I don’t mind that Melvin has a blind girl for a girlfriend, I just question why she had to be blind to fall in love with a hideously disfigured superhero when usually all it takes is for them to save their life a time or two *COUGH* Lois Lane *COUGH*

Out of place. Earlier today, I was reading an article about how a fat woman wore a 2 piece bikini to the beach. She has been getting mostly praise and accolade for taking that step as a positive image for women’s body images. Truthfully, I don’t think she looked that fat from the picture they showed, but that’s neither here nor there. In the gym scenes, though, we have all these fit, attractive, scantily clad girls running around, and then there is this one chick in sweats, looking miserable, and I think at one time she was eating a donut. Yes, there is a random fat girl in these scenes. I don’t mind that she’s there, but did they need to make her stick out so? Especially since she’s not really a character in the film! I don’t recall her having any lines or being addressed in any way. This just seemed to be a mean-spirited joke by the filmmakers that didn’t go over very well with me, that’s for sure.

All in all, The Toxic Avenger, for all its B-Movie level acting, special effects, and dialogue is a fun time. Believe it or not, there are a couple of plots in here. One involving the corrupt mayor and the other with the bullies that are responsible for Melvin’s transformation, inadvertently. Neither is really that important, though, as the big story is the life and time of our hero, which is who and why you are watching this film anyway. Do I recommend this? Yes, very much so, but I warn you about the sequels (and apparently a musical?). It is all downhill from here, so enjoy it while you can, or check out the cheesy cartoon that is fun, too…in that early 90s kind of way.

4 out of 5 stars

High Anxiety

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , on July 9, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The story begins at Los Angeles airport, where Dr. Richard Thorndyke (Mel Brooks) has several odd encounters (such as a homosexual man disguised as a police officer). He leaves for the institute with his driver, Brophy (Ron Carey). Upon his arrival, he is greeted by the staff, Dr. Charles Montague (Harvey Korman), Dr. Philip Wentworth (Dick Van Patten) and Nurse Charlotte Diesel (Cloris Leachman). When he goes to his room, a large rock is thrown through the window, with a message of welcome from the Violent Ward.

Thorndyke then hears strange noises coming from Nurse Diesel’s room and when he and Brophy go to investigate, Diesel claims it was the TV. However, it was a passionate session of BDSM with Dr. Montague. The next morning, Thorndyke is alerted by a light shining through his window. It is coming from the violent ward. Dr. Montague takes Thorndyke to the light’s source, the room of patient Arthur Brisbane, who, after suffering a nervous breakdown, thinks he is a Cocker Spaniel.

Later, Nurse Diesel is talking with Dr. Wentworth. He wants to leave, but she won’t let him. However, after some arguing, she says she’ll let him go. When Wentworth is driving home that night, his radio blasts rock music loudly and will not shut off. He is trapped in his car, his ears hemorrhage, and he dies from a stroke, aggravated by the loud volume.

After this, Thorndyke goes to the grand hotel – the broad-atriumed, vertigo-inducing Hyatt Regency San Francisco, where much to his dismay he is relegated to a room on the top floor, due to a reservation change by a “Mr. MacGuffin”. He pesters the bellboy (Barry Levinson) with repeated requests for a newspaper, wanting to look in the obituaries for information concerning Dr. Wentworth’s demise. He then takes a shower, during which the bellboy comes and in a frenzy mimics stabbing Thorndyke with the paper while screaming “Here’s your paper! Happy now?! Happy?” The paper’s ink runs down the drain, a reference to Psycho.

After his shower, a woman bursts through the door; she is Victoria Brisbane (Madeline Kahn), the daughter of Arthur Brisbane (Albert Whitlock). She wants help regarding her father. He agrees to the terms, but then finds out Nurse Diesel’s plot. The patient is not the real Arthur Brisbane.

To stop Thorndyke, Diesel and Montague hire a killer, “Braces” (Rudy De Luca), to impersonate Thorndyke and shoot a man in the lobby. Now with the police after him, he must prove his innocence. After he is briefly attacked by pigeons, he contacts Brophy, and realizes Brophy took a picture of the shooting. The real Thorndyke was in the elevator at the time, so he should be in the picture.

He orders Brophy to enlarge the picture. When he goes to call, “Braces” tries to strangle him; however, Thorndyke is able to kill him. Brophy enlarges the photo, and Thorndyke is indeed visible in the picture. Nurse Diesel and Montague capture Brophy and take him to the North Wing. They also take the real Arthur Brisbane to a tower to kill him.

As Thorndyke runs up the tower to save him and Brisbane, Nurse Diesel leaps out from the shadows in a witch’s costume with a broom, and falls out the tower window. Thinking she really is a witch, she tries to act like she’s flying, ending in her death at the rocks below.

Dr. Montague appears from the shadows and gives up before being hit in the head by the trap door by Brophy. Victoria is reunited with her father and gets married to Thorndyke who go off on Honeymoon.

REVIEW:

With the success of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, it is a wonder that no one has really made an attempt to make a full on spoof of them. Sure, we get plenty of cartoon and comic fodder of scenes here and there, but nothing that is a full on riff of his masterpieces. That is until the release of High Anxiety, a parody film by the master of parody, Mel Brooks.

What is this about?

Dr. Richard Thorndyke arrives as new administrator of the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, VERY Nervous to discover some suspicious goings-on. When he’s framed for murder, Dr. Thorndyke must confront his own psychiatric condition, “high anxiety,” in order to clear his name. An homage to the films of Alfred Hitchcock; contains many parodies of famous Hitchcock scenes from The Birds, Psycho, and Vertigo.

What did I like?

The usual suspects. Mel Brooks seems to have a set group of actors whom he can call upon for any of his films. Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Dick van Patten, and to a certain extent, Cloris Leachman. A recurring cast like that always helps because they know he director, his style, etc., making for a string of great performances.

Reference. Along with parodying Psycho, Vertigo, and The Birds, this film makes reference to other works of Hitchcock’s. For instance, late in the film, Brooks’ asks his female accomplice to meet him in the “North by Northwest” corner of the park, an obvious reference to Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.

Respect. When one makes a parody of something, you always wonder what the creator of the original is going to think. I’m sure that was going through Brooks’ head when he learned that Hitchcock was going to see this. As it turns out, though, he loved it and sent a word of congratulation to Brooks, as well as some fancy wine. Of course, Hitchcock did work with him on the screenplay, so there may have been a little bit of a pat on the back there, as well. HA!

What didn’t I like?

Blonde ambition. Madeline Kahn is normally the gorgeous, sexpot in Brooks’ films. No change in her role in this flick, except for the fact that she went blonde. Normally, I could care less about something as fickle as the color of someone’s hair, but the blonde was such a distraction for me that I have to mention it. Kahn looks best when she is sporting red locks. Who had the bright idea to turn her blonde for this? It really did no good, honestly.

Awkward. Ever have one of those moments when you need to talk about something adult-oriented, but some kids suddenly show up? Brooks writes this in at a convention in which his character happened to speaking. Not long after one of the other psychiatrists asks him about penis envy, another comes in with his two daughters. While it is a bit of a funny scene, I didn’t really see how it connected with everything.

Make an appearance. In nearly all of his film’s, Alfred Hitchcock made some sort of appearance, much like Stan Lee does with the Marvel films today. However, he doesn’t appear in this. Being that this isn’t his film, that isn’t such a big surprise, but wouldn’t it have been nice to see Hitch somewhere in this? I’m just saying.

For someone like me, who is a fan of Hitchcock’s films, specifically the ones that are targeted, High Anxiety is a rare treat. It isn’t very often that a parody treats the material with such love and respect as this film does. Brooks even goes so far as to set a scene in the same, if not VERY similar, setting  as a previous film, I forgot which one. The bridge and phone booth make for the perfect backdrop. Do I recommend this film? Yes, very highly! Check it out!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars