Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Teenage Zombies (1959) and Frankenstein Island (1981)

If there was ever an unholy stamp of evil for films...

...this would be one of least, that's what I've heard. Jerry Warren was a B-Movie director, infamous for films such as Wild World of Batwoman, and Man-Beast. Today, I'll be talking about two of his most derided films-Teenage Zombies, and Frankenstein Island...

A group of teens are keen on water-skiing, and on the advice of a friend, they check out an island. Strange things start happening to the gang when they arrive-They see a mob of people in a trance-like state, and their boat goes missing. They approach a house, where Dr Myra, a hostile scientist lives. She captures the teens, intending on using them as guinea pigs in her twisted experiments for the COMMIES!...

Teenage Zombies is really more of a mild political thriller than it is a horror film. The zombies are little more than controlled people, rather than the Romero kind, and serve no horrific purpose in the script. They're just here to rough up the heroes, and cart them off to cells.

The film isn't really particularly suspenseful, as you can basically guess how it'll turn out-Very happily. I'm not sure if that was because of the Hays Code, or just general teen B-Movie cliche trappings, but either way, it's not a hard film to read.

Teenage Zombies is only 70 minutes long, but that's not exactly indicative of a breezy watch when it comes to awful films from this period. Manos was shorter, and we all know what kind of a ride that movie is! But thankfully, this move is never boring, and it gets into gear very quickly.

The acting's mostly decent. There are a couple of badly acted laughs here and there, but overall, there are no terrible performances. Jerry Warren regular Katherne Victor plays the evil mad scientist-You can tell she's evil because her fridge has windows on it! What a monstrous freak! And associated with her are two Russian agents who speak with broad American accents.

The set-work here is pretty cheap, there's lots of choppy editing, and there are numerous Ed Woodian moments on display. In one scene, the two male teens, having escaped from the cell without alerting the villains, search the island for the boat, then decide to build a raft, all under the cover of the brightest night you will ever see! Seriously, there's not even an attempt to make it seem like it's really nighttime! The sun's shining, and Mr. Blue Sky is there to stay!

There's a scene where someone gets shot, and there's no wound effect at all! The actor just puts his hand to his chest and falls over. And the final battle is hilariously choreographed. It's not terrible, but it's still very cheaply done.

The finale is a real oddity! It starts with a brief fight, then about twenty minutes of the characters reverssing the zombie effects of two of their friends, by going step by step in the most long and drawn out way possible. It's like the fight in They Live, in how ridiculously protracted the scene is!

The ending is pretty abrupt, and pretty goofy! It's like if you mixed Archie and the gang with The Atom-Age Vampire!

A line from the movie says it best. "I swear, Skip, you remind me of a walking comic book!". That's a pretty apt description of this movie. I wouldn't exactly recommend Teenage Zombies, but it's entertaining fluff, and if you're in the mood for a 1950's B-Movie, you could do a hell of a lot worse than this.

A group of men in a hot air balloon race are swept off course and end up on an island, where they encounter many strange things. Talking about places causes baffling excruciating pain, a tribe of women live here are constantly harassed by mysterious men, and atop the hill is the descendant of the late Dr. Frankenstein, who's using the girls for insidious experimentation. She gains the trust of the doctor of the group, teaching him the island's history, and showing him the valued end result she yearns for with her experiments. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang decide to stop the mad doctor, rescue the women, and get off the island...

Frankenstein Island in many ways, is like Lost, except good. Thanks, Mr. Warren, you made a story about a diabolically mysterious island with many strange things and properties, some supernatural, and some scientific, and it was better thought-out than Lost!

The plot here is pretty barebones, and the characters are constantly under-reacting to things like crazy! They're so lax that I almost recommend the movie for their attitude alone! As for atmosphere, there's so little horror in this film that I'd be hard pressed to even call it horror.

like idiots, they don't do anything to stop Sheila when she goes off into another room to summon Frankenstein's Monster.

This is a step up from other films of the time period with Frankenstein in the title, in that this actually is about a Frankenstein. Sheila, in particular.

Sheila Frankenstein?! And her married name is Van Helsing, but she doesn't like that one all that much. And as far as we the audience is concerned, she's not a very effective scientist, only relying on the help of her constantly bedridden 200 year old husband, a bearded dick, a one-eyed constantly drunk lout who laughs constantly, and the philosophically incorporeal spirit of her dead father. She also has a backup emergency security system in the form of Frankenstein's Monster. How does the Monster fare in this movie, you ask? He grunts a lot, constantly swats around like he's blind, and does nothing but throw down during the climax battle royale.

As for the original Doctor himself, John Carradine turns in one of his 'Trojan horse' appearances* for an extended cameo, showing up every now and then as a giant head apparition, spouting off philosophically about THE POWER!! And Cameron Mitchell's performance as the kinda-crazy guy constantly quoting Edgar Allen Poe is pretty bizarre. The man would never turn down a film role!

*Wherein Carradine is filmed talking for a few minutes extra footage to slap into a twenty year old film, or a current one, for the name recognition. He may only be in this movie for less than a minute, but did you know that John Carradine is the star of Frankenstein Island?! And as we all know, DVD's never lie...

The acting is all-round bland. Nothing terrible though, minus the guy playing henchman Jocko, and an actress's delivery at screaming about an hour in. Katherine Victor is ok as the villain, but nothing special.

On display here is a mix of not-so good fight choreography and lack of sound effects for connecting hits. However there's a fire-dance scene which is actually impressive. The California-set 'island' doesn't look very convincing, given the kind of flora all around, but I'm willing to give the movie the benefit of the doubt and assume that an island could look like lower California. Geography isn't my strong suit.

The effects are pretty mediocre, but passable-ish for a B-movie. Also, from the outside, the Frankenstein abode looks like the director's house rather than a stately gothic mansion, which doesn't exactly do wonders for the imagination.

Everyone and their mother has pointed out that despite being made in the 80's, this has the film stock of a B-movie from the 50's (probably because Jerry Warren never replaced his camera). The film's editing is choppy, but that could just be a problem with the print I watched, as could the in-and-out overexposure every now and then.

At the 88 minute mark, the film abruptly shifts to a totally different scene several...days? weeks?...later, and it feels like it's missing the proper ending. Either that, or Jerry Warren was sequel-baiting.

While not a remake, Frankenstein Island bears several similarities to Teenage Zombies. Both involve a group of characters getting stuck on an island, where a female mad scientist Kat Victor is experimenting on people to make sorta-zombies, and there's both a hulking brute, as well as a huge brawl at the climax of both movies.

Frankenstein Island is a watchable film. I would in no way recommend it, but if you have nothing to watch, then it's a solid 100 minute time-waster

So there's my thoughts on a couple of Jerry warren films. Neither were nearly as bad as I was expecting (I'd heard Teenage Zombies was one of the worst movies ever made from a reliable source). I'm pretty curious what delights/horrors Wild World of Batwoman has in for me. I'll find out soon enough, when I start my MST3K reviews...

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Well, here it comes. I'm finally talking about A Nightmare on Elm Street. I've talked about its first sequel, and the two Bollywood ripoffs, Khooni Murdaa, and Mahakaal*, but I still haven't had the good sense to review the original until now.

 Neither of which had subtitles, so my posts on them were more recaps with jokes than they were reviews for the most part.

Bad dreams are starting to invade the nights of the teens of Elm Street, but teens Tina and Nancy are simply just scared...until they find out they've all been dreaming about the same thing-A mysterious and violent man, with a burnt face, filthy red-and-black sweater, and a set of clawed gloves. Things get worse when Tina is viciously murdered in her dream. The police think her boyfriend Rod did it, but Nancy realizes that not only did the figure in their dreams somehow kill Tina, but that she and her friends are next. Soon finding out that any injuries she sustains from the man in her dreams are inflicted upon her in real life, Nancy makes sure she and her remaining friends stay awake, and avoid a grisly fate courtesy of Freddy Krueger, The Springwood Slasher...

A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the big three in slasher film lore, right next to Halloween, and Friday the 13th, and thanks in part to its iconic killer, ingenious concept, great direction, and many other aspects, it's a well deserved position!

Let's start with the characters. Nancy is one of the great horror movie protagonists! She's smart, resourceful, and not just a pretty face. She's also badass when she's setting up various traps in her house to get Freddy. Her skills in the finale are what Rob should have displayed in Friday the 13th Part IV, rather than getting caught and knifed instantly (all the while literally yelling "He's killing me!"-C'mon, 1980's American screenwriters, I thought you were better than Claudio Fragasso!).

One weird thing about her is how she constantly calls her mother just that-"I'm fine, Mother.". Weird for someone in the 80's to say it like that. She doesn't even abbreviate it to 'Mom' when she's calling out for her for dear life.

Tina's pretty eh. The problem I have with her character is that she dies only 10 minutes in. It would have been better if she'd had more screen time before her death, so we could have gotten to know her better enough for her death to scare us more. And Rod's a bit more developed, and is a pretty well-written character, although he doesn't appear a whole lot. His death scene, while bloodless, is still effective and creepy.

Onto a negative, we have Glen! This goddamn idiot! One job, Glen, you had ONE JOB! Stay. Awake! And what do you do the first time, when Nancy asks you to keep watch over her as she sleeps? You nod off! And what happens later, when you've had the nightmares too, and now know the reality of the situation? You fucking fall asleep again! And not due to circumstances beyond your control, but because you're lying down in bed, against your comfy pillow, wearing a headset and watchin' TV. Idiot! But the really annoying thing is that he actually wakes up from that, and clearly not learning a damn thing, promptly falls right back to sleep, not bothering to do anything to stay awake! Dude, you could have gotten some nice sex with your girlfriend, but thanks to your own idiocy, you're the new wallpaper.

Minus Glen, the plot here is flawless!...Aside from one major problem-The ending! The original ending (which is the one we get, minus the 'shocker' twist at the end) was bad enough, as it has Nancy simply turning her back on Freddy and denying his existence, and he strikes at her...and fades from existence! This is the exact same strategy that Judy in Friday the 13th Part VII: A New Blood tried with Jason and her sleeping bag, except there it didn't turn out so hot! And after that, Nancy walks out the door, and suddenly it's daytime, she's going to school, and look! All her friends and family are suddenly alive again, now never having died, and her mother has even kicked her alcoholism! What kind of fairy dust did Wes Craven snort to deliver an ending this ridiculously happy?! But of course, thanks to studio interference, there had to be a sequel hook, even though Craven had ended the story, and had no intention of there ever being a sequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street (HAHAHAHAHAHHA!).

The sequel hook isn't quite as super-fairy-love-rainbow-magic-happy as what precedes it, but instead goes for a shock 'But all of that was a dream' route, which makes no goddamn sense! So either way, the ending doesn't work at all.

Onto the positive aspects of the plot. While most viewers nowadays probably already know the story off by heart based on Freddy's backstory, which is the mystery of this first entry in the franchise, it's still an effective plot, and Fred Kruger (only Freddy himself and sometimes Nancy say 'Freddy' at this point in the series) is a great villain! Wes Craven follows the Rule of Jaws, and the dreamscape-maniac only has a scant few minutes of screentime overall, but thankfully we see plenty of him althroughout, rather than see only his feet for the first 80 minutes...or four movies (I'm looking at you, Friday the 13th II, III, and IV!). Freddy isn't the one-liner machine he would later become, but is instead a leering perverted psychopath, interested more in murder than cracking a million jokes when doing so. Thanks to his personality, Freddy will always be better than Jason, who has never been anything else other than a mindless killer in all 11 movies he's appeared in.

By the way, haters on the sequel like to bash it on the grounds that Freddy is barely in it, but he appears more in Freddy's Revenge than he does here in the original! Plus, Freddy's Revenge ups the ante, offers something new, and has a very different plot, which is everything a good sequel should do.

The effects are mostly great! Sure, the mannequin at the end is just embarrassing, and Tina's body is clearly plaster or something when she gets sliced the first time by Freddy, but the rest of her death scene is fantastic stuff, just as Johnny Depp's is! And for practical effects naysayers who say 'The use of CGI is unavoidable when it comes to people people set on fire, you unhappy whiners!', they need to watch the finale of Nightmare on Elm Street!...And then find the tallest skyscraper they can, jump off, and then go fuck themselves!*

*Awesomely terrible insult courtesy of Claudio Fragasso and Bruno Mattei's Jaws 5.

The gore on display here is great! While there are sorta only three death scenes (four if you count a 'certain character's' two sorta not deaths), the movie makes them count, giving elaborate deaths and plenty of the red stuff! And there are numerous scenes which are now iconic in the horror genre! They were even recreated deliberately terrible with shitty CGI for that hilarious 2010 April Fool's practical joke. You really had us fooled, guys, but those recreations made me realize the whole thing was just a joke, and it's not real. Not real. Not real...

Oh, and why did the **************************************** at the MPAA not censor this film, when they were having their sensibilities completely shattered by a simple spearing through a bed in Friday the 13th Part II? Because they figured that since the death scenes in Elm Street were overly fantastical and not realistic, they couldn' whatever it is the paranoid Stalinist scumbags were afraid would happpen. My guess is that they were afraid all horror fans would instantly snap and pick up a chainsaw once a certain gore quotient was filled in their heads. God, what a bunch of fucking babies!

The dream sequences are surreal and extremely creepy, with only Freddy's super-long arms in that one scene coming across as tacky. The one in the school is my favourite-"Were it not for that I have bad dreams..."

The film is rarely dated, and only feels that way with the 80's laZer effects in Nancy's nightmare at the school, and scenes with characters smoking in places like medical clinics.

The soundtrack is suitably creepy, and while the main theme, with all its rescorings, can get a bit repetitive, it's never enough to be annoying.

The acting's all good. Heather Langenkamp makes for one of, if not the best, final girls in horror, and while her acting does falter a bit in a couple of scenes, she's great! Tina's Amanda Wyss is decent in the few minutes she has, as is Jsu Garcia (credited as Nick Corri) as Rod. John Saxon turns in a fine as usual performance, and the unrecognizably young Johnny Depp is decent as Glen. The standout is the creepy Robert Englund, who makes the most of his screentime-"I'm your boyfriend now, Nancy!".

All in all, of course I recommend A Nightmare on Elm Street! It's one of the all-time horror greats, and you should watch it immediately if you haven't seen it! Meanwhile, you better stay awake...

The House on Sorority Row (1983)

The girls of a sorority (none of whom ever seem to wear bras-Thanks 1980's!) are keen on having an upcoming party, but their strict house mother Ms. Slater is having none of it. Angry at her hateful attitude, the girls decide to prank Slater. Unfortunately their plan backfires, and Ms. Slater ends up seeimingly dead.

The sisters dispose of the body, but it later disappears, as do the girls, one by one...

House on Sorority Row is a simple little slasher film, but I won't hold that against it. After all, the only thing stopping any of the first four Friday the 13th movies being that is that they're part of a famous franchise.

The plot is serviceable, and the mystery is pretty good, and really makes you wonder whether or not Ms. Slater is really still alive or not. Granted, the ending is a letdown, but I'll get to that. The Atmosphere is also pretty good, with nice music (excluding the cheesy 80's band), and there are some neat reveals!

The violence is decent, but there are a couple of hilariously obvious mannequin shots. There's one lame silhouette kill, which annoyed me a bit. They can definitely be effective, but in a slasher film, they're a bit of a cheat. Thankfully this film actually has onscreen death scenes, unlike say Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, which is a hair's inch away from being rated PG here in Australia (Hellraiser, by the way, is only rated M now, which is the Australian equivalent of a MAN'S PG-13*).

One scene really made me laugh. Jeannie has just been attacked by the killer, but escapes into the house, where she's found by final girl Katey, who dresses her wound, then goes to get help-"I'll be right back!". Famous last words, eh! Naturally, the moment Katey leaves Jeannie alone, she's butchered after a chase to the bathrooms. Poor Jeannie, I liked you. You were cute!

Also on the movie's 'To kill' list is apparently epileptic people, given the egregious strobe flashing in one scene.

The characters are ok. Nothing special, or particularly well-written. Thankfully this movie isn't like the sorority slashers of today, which tend to have all the house girls be absolute vile bitches to each-other all the time. Vicki is definitely the bitch of the group, but she's not that bad.

The majority of the acting is decent, although there is one line a certain actress delivers that shows she clearly wasn't hired for her acting talents.

My main problem with House on Sorority Row is the really abrupt ending! The final girl is wrestling with the killer, finds a doll, sees if its head is removable for no reason, and finds a knife inside. Just so happens! Then she stabs the killer repeatedly, then knocks him/her out of the attic, then...the killer opens his eyes. DUN DUN DUN!-MOVIEOVER.

Also, the twist doesn't really make sense, given what happens in the prologue, and Ms. Slaters scene in the attic when Vicki's having sex downstairs. The way these two scenes are filmed is a cheat!

One last thing-How does Ms. Slater even die?! The gun was emptied, then loaded with blanks. How the hell did a live round get in there? Assuming a bullet was even what killed her. It's not exactly clear.

This isn't a very complex or original slasher film, but House on Sorority Row is still worth at a watch...

Monday, April 28, 2014

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Made in 1962 on a shoestring budget ($33.000-an actual shoestring budget, not what Hollywood thinks is one, which is about fifty million dollars), Carnival of Souls is a fondly remembered creepfest, and one which supposedly inspired both George A. Romero, and David Lynch among others.

Unfortunately Carnival of Souls is in the public domain, which means that not many people have given much of a shit about the film's visual and sound quality. Some have though, and I think there are some super-super remastered version out there, with organ music that doesn't have the sound of VCR wobble to back it up, like crummy PD releases, as well as the ones on Youtube have.

Organist Mary (Candace Hilligoss) is with some friends, who are egged on into a race, wherein their car crashes over a bridge and sinks into the river. Hours later, the authorities have been unable to locate the car, but they do find Mary, who walks out of the lake no worse for wear, aside from the shock. Soon after, she moves to Utah, where she gets a job as a church organist. Not liking the company of people very much, Mary isn't having much of a good time, but things get worse when she soon starts to see things. Mysterious ghouls starts stalking her, and she's oddly drawn to an old condemned carnival...

Carnival of Souls is creepy, but only a little. The dilapidated carnival looks nice and eerie, and the look of the ghouls-especially The Man-is suitably creepy, with director and producer Herk Harvey doing a great job. And just like Psycho, and Night of the Living Dead, Black and white would be this film's friend if it wasn't for the crummy quality of most prints out there. Unfortunately what diminishes the scares of the film is that overall, it's too simple. There isn't much to the film at all. A woman keeps seeing apparitions of a freaky man, and that's basically it.

The plot regarding the ghouls is very minimal. Less is more, but not always, as I wanted to know more about them. Given how malevolent they seem, and Mary's impact on the real world, I'm not really fine with the lack of story about them or Mary's predicament.

The ending isn't quite predictable, but it's not particularly hard to gauge either. I'm guessing this would have been more original back in the 60's, but then again, there's probably a gajillion Twilight Zone episodes with this plot. That's right, Carnival of Souls shares the same ending...with Night of the Meek!...

The character of Mary is interesting, and she's pretty well developed. The other characters are just there, with the one having the most screentime being the sorta-perv 'ladies man' Linden, who's a bit of a dick.

It's an absolute crime against reality that this was Candace Hilligoss' only leading role  At least she's absolutely full front and centre in Carnival of Souls. And apparently she even wrote a treatment for a sequel. Curiouser and curiouser! That's something that I really want to see!

There is one tiiiny little possible problem with her performance at the end. When she's being chased by the ghouls, it looks like she's laughing. Also, in the ending, when the crashed car is dredged out of the lake, the bodies inside won't stop moving! Although that might be because they're still half-submerged in water, and it's doing the moving, but it looks like the actresses couldn't keep still.

The only thing I outright didn't like about the film is when Mary's playing a tune on the organ that makes the priest furious at her, asking for her immediate resignation. For one, how can one make or find organ music 'profane'? And the music played in the scene isn't all that eerie, to be honest, and it definitely doesn't sound 'sacrilegious'. The scene just makes the priest come across as a crazy moron, rather than reflect any sort of change in Mary.

The scoring is decent, but the organ music never sounded eerie to me, and sometimes the score does a bit too much of the talking, like when Mary first phases out of reality. I feel the scene would have been better if they'd kept the music quieter and more low-key, or not included any at all

I didn't find Carnival of Souls to be a great film, but it's definitely a decent watch, and it can be creepy at times. I recommend it...

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Thoughts on Bloodsport 3 (1997), The Naked Jungle (1954) and Rush Hour 3 (2007)

Hi all. I'm here today with some quick thoughts on a few crappy films. Why just thoughts, and not full reviews? Well I saw these movies years ago, and while I still very much remember what's bad about them, I'd still want to rewatch it if I was going to write a proper review of it, and I do NOT want to do that!

Bloodsport 3

I'm talking about this before Bloodsport 2 because I want my review of that to be my final word on the series, rather than following a review for a great film with one for the boring piece of shit sequel!

In Bloodsport 3, winner of the Kumite (underground fighting championship) Alex Cardo (Daniel Bernhardt) is just livin' life when his friend and mentor Sun (James Hong) is murdered by a ruthless crime-lord (John Rhys-Davies)...

First I'll get the positives out of the way. The return of Pat Morita as Mr. Leung is cool, and a nice bit of continuity, although he's not in the film nearly enough. I like that the mentor character is the Kumite judge from the previous film, and the film has a framing device akin to the one in Bloodsport 2.

As for the negatives, this film is BORING! It drags on interminably, it pointlessly kills off Sun, the whole movie is pretty much Alex training, even though he was already akin to a god in martial arts in Bloodsport 2 (and the training he receives is crazy, like having deadly arrows shot at his head, or having to manhandle cobras!), there's a baffling part with magic, Sun's death scene is just bizarre, it pointlessly introduces a daughter of Sun's, which comes completely out of nowhere, never having been seen or mentioned until this film, and the ending moral is stupid!

The fight scenes are decent from what I remember, but they have no soul or heart to them. And they come so late in the movie that you'll likely have stopped caring at that point.

The acting is pretty eh. Daniel Bernhardt is a good actor when not in Bloodsport 4, John Rhys-Davies is decent as the villain, and the main female character is a real looker if I remember correctly, and the actress is good, again, if I remember correctly-Maybe she's actually awful and I just can't remember. Can't say I particularly care enough to find out. And finally, the actor playing the brute of the film for the final opponent is ok. He's huge, but has zero presence.

The Bloodsport sequels really run the gamut, don't they! We've got a great movie (2), an entertainingly bad one (4), and a painfully bad one (3). My advice is watch Bloodsport 2, and stay far, FAR away from this awful sequel!

The Naked Jungle

Woo! The original killer ant movie!...And unfortunately it's a dud.

Leningen (Charlton Heston), a plantation owner in South America, has been sent a mail-order bride (Eleanor Parker) by his brother, and Leningen is frosty towards her, wanting nothing to do with her. Gradually, they get closer**, but their new marriage might not last that long, given the stirring of the Marabunta in the forest-Army ants!...

I don't like this film for a number of reasons. One is that the character of Leningen is an annoying, sexist, asshole! For various reasons, but the one I remember most is when all of his plantation's workers are leaving en masse in some boats (the only way to leave the plantation, I think) because of the soon-approaching army ants. Leningen gives a speech and chews them out, then when they all go back inside, he says to Joanna "They'll stay tonight out of shame, and they'll stay tomorrow because I'm going to destroy the boats." What an asshole!

From what I remember, the character of Joanna is decent-ish. Nothing special, nor does she rise to the occasion and make this movie watchable.

The romance is pretty crappy. It's barely there, and there's barely a moment when Leningen likes Joanna (**'Gradually they inch closer'-But only by a freakin' inch!)

The killer ants aren't even mentioned until the hour point! Yeah, it takes a whole hour for killer ants to be even brought up in a killer ant movie!

And when the killer ants show up, things don't get better. They get much worse!

You see, the reason why stuff like MacGyver-Trumbo's World, and Marabunta (Legion of Fire: Killer Ants! to you Americans) are effective is that they're set in isolated locations with only a bare handful of characters, so the threat of millions of killer ants is immense. However, in The Naked Jungle, literally everyone at the entire plantation is on hand to fight the killer ants. Way to crush all suspense from the movie! There isn't a fun climax at all. The hundreds of workers just kill the ants with ease and that's it!

The acting is pretty meh. The hypocritical jerkass dickhead Charlton Heston is very stiff and weird in the way he looks and talks as the insanely unlikeable Leningen.

Ultimately, this movie tried to be two genres in one, and because of that, and other reasons, it failed, big time.

Oh, and if anyone would like to tell me that I'm a popcorn fool for expecting killer ants when I should instead be watching a 'marvelous treatise on the intricacies of male and female interactions, and the dominant power of nature and man's struggle therein', none of that matters when the movie sucks! And newsflash, you know what the source material for this movie is about? Killer fucking ants! And it lacked many of the movie's problems. Thank God MacGyver took inspiration from there, not this dreck!...

Rush Hour 3

Wow, 3 really is the cursed number when it comes to films. Superman III, Spiderman 3, The Dark Knight Rises, Iron Man 3, and countless others, including *grr* Rush Hour 3! *grits teeth*

Detectives Carter (Chris Tucker) and Lee (Jackie Chan) are back for a third outing to find the would-be Triad assassins who tried to kill Lee's old friend Council (now ambassador) Han, and are after a mysterious list...

My biggest problem with Rush Hour 3 is that the film is just plain mean-spirited  Not only are Carter and Lee at each-other's throats at the start of the movie, thanks to a trite in-between-movie 'break-up', but remember Isabella from Rush Hour 2? According to this movie, at some point between the two films, Carter accidentally shot her in the neck, crippling her physically and mentally. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! COMEDY! HAHAHAHAHThat's not fucking funny!

The comedy's mostly lame and unfunny, and borderline disturbing! I swear I am not joking when I say that there's a scene where Carter and Lee are anally raped by Roman Polanski! The two are detained at an airport by French police, who don't want them on their turf, so Polanski does an extreme cavity search. The scene would have been uncomfortable enough if there was just a normal actor in the role of the spiteful French cop, but the fact that it's played by Roman Polanski, supposed Very Bad Thing, and statutory rapist, just tints the film poorly

There are overused jokes like the 'Who/Hu' one, which I probably would chuckle at if in a better movie, and if Carter didn't literally draw his gun at the unarmed man he's caught in a misunderstanding of words with!...Ok, I don't think that actually happens, but given other scenes in the movie, can you blame me for remembering the scene that way?!

The stupidest scene by far is when Carter and Lee are trying to chase down a car or something, and they get in a taxi with a guy who doesn't like Americans all that much...And Carter pulls out his gun, points it at the cabbie's head, and makes him sing the Star-Spangled Banner as he drives! What the hell kind-of world is this movie set in, because it sure ain't the real world!

There are some funny scenes, and decent aspects here, like when Carter stumbles into a burlesque dressing room and pretends to be a flamboyant instructor so he can see some French bootay, and I like that Carter now fully understands Chinese. And I also dug the return of Soo Yung, now older, although I dug that less once I found out that it was a different actress.

The acting is also still good. Jackie Chan is great, as is Chris Tucker, who some find to be an annoying actor, but I find him hilarious, and here is almost no exception.

I don't recommend Rush Hour 3. It's pointless, annoying, unfunny, unpleasant, and the movie was even too lazy to come up with an original song for the duo to groove to at the end, and instead reuses Edwin Starr's War from the first movie.

So that's my thoughts on a few films. Avoid all three of them if you can!...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The NeverEnding Story (1984)

The NeverEnding Story is one of THE landmark fantasy films of not only the 80's, but all time!...and I only saw it last night on TV. Yeah, I suck, don't I! I've seen Krull, and all four Deathstalker films, yet I haven't seen this?!

Bastian Balthazar Bux is an imaginative kid, but also sad from the recent death of his mother, and persecuted by bullies. One day, he escapes them by hiding in an old run-down book store, where he finds out about strange book The Neverending Story...which he promptly steals (you're a dick, Bastian!). He starts reading the adventure of warrior Atreyu in his quest to save the land of Fantasia from destruction by a mysterious being known as The Nothing. At first, Bastian is simply enthralled by the story, but soon enough, he comes to realize that the book is more than just a story...

Author of the book Michael Ende was none too happy with this adaptation, as it only covers the first half/third of the story, dumbs down certain characters a bit, and doesn't even include certain ones. Ende was angry enough to file a lawsuit against the production company responsible for the film. I understand why he was pissed off (especially given that the movie lacks the reason why the story's even called The NeverEnding Story), but I myself prefer the film's take for a couple of reasons. 1, This still tells a complete, well-rounded and thoughtful story, 2, It's more interesting having the only villain of the film be the borderline Eldritch abomination The Nothing rather than also having a human bad guy, and Three, I just like the plot better this way, without the rest of what's in the book.

However, this is not an adaptation withough issues. For one, the ending is really abrupt!...And doubly stupid. Most glaring is the complete absence of Bastian's father, and the book-keeper after their respective scenes! We don't even find out their names (the same goes for the rest of Bastian's), and the names are a bit of an aspect in the book (Bastian Balthazar Bux, Carl Conrad Coreander). When it comes to those characters, the movie is really lacking.

And speaking of names, with the climax, where the hell does Moonchild come from? It's the name of Bastian's dead mother, but the movie neglects to tell us this (not that you can even hear the name all that well thanks to the music, and the storm)! Though I suppose this doesn't pose an issue if you don't know about that from the book, because in that case you're probably just assuming that Bastian made up the name himself from his night-time surroundings.

Bastian isn't in this movie a whole lot, as he's just reading the story, rather than directly involved in the action. While he's technically the lead, Atreyu is by default the main character, as the majority of the movie focuses on him. As for Bastian, whenever he's onscreen, I found myself face-palming a lot. Due to the bully harassment, he's late for school. It's dumb that he doesn't just go into the classroom and say that, but ok, I'll bite, he can wait for the next class to start...But he never does! He goes into a musty attic and reads the Neverending Story until school's over. And then does he leave when he sees everyone else doing the same? Hell no, he goes back up into the damn attic! And he stays there all night! What the hell, you dumb kid?!

That's enough of the negatives. Onto the good aspects of this movie. The plot is very good! The Nothing is a good concept, and it's much better than a goofy villain mugging for the camera ever could be. There are some fantastic dramatic scenes, like the one with Atreyu and the Rockbiter, and the loss of Artax (which is also pretty funny actually, given the way the horse looks throughout the scene).

The acting is fine all-round. Noah Hathaway is very good as the Native American Indian warrior Atreyu. There's just one tiny problem, though...HE'S FUCKING WHITE! And there's also the fact that his exit from the movie is very abrupt. The moment the Empress starts talking to Bastian, Atreyu's just gone. The next and last time we see him is a brief cameo from afar.

Barret Oliver is ok as Bastian. He doesn't do enough in the story to be an interesting or well-rounded character, as far as I'm concerned.

The rest of the cast (including a terribly dubbed Deep Roy) are fine, especially Alan Oppenheimer as many characters, mainly Falkor the Luck Dragon, who's adorable!...And looks nothing like a damn dragon! When I was a kid, I always thought he was a flying dog!

The creature designs are very good, and extremely creative! The effects, minus sub-par green-screen work, are all very good. The effects can look a little animatronic-y at times, but it''s still light years better than CGI.

All in all, I absolutely recommend The NeverEnding Story! Why did this movie have to end?! Couldn't they have at least made sequels?!...oh wait, they did, and they were awful. *sigh*...

Friday, April 4, 2014

Crackdown Mission-Uncut and Censored Comparison

Back in 2011, I talked at length about the damn-near lost Pierre Kirby film, Crackdown Mission (who he is and what IFD is is explained in that link). The film is actually mildly easy to locate on German DVD, but, and this is a big but, there is no English language track! (and what we have is the German equivalent to the English dub for Andreas Schnaas' Violent Shit III). Unless this DVD company is being a dick and withholding it, then the English track is either sitting in a moldy basement in China gathering dust, or it literally doesn't exist anymore, which is a damn shame. Especially since this plot is the most unique Kirby ever got! I mean, he was in Thunder of the Gigantic Serpent, but he never actually met the serpent, as it was in Movie A, whereas he was in Movie B, but here, we have Ted Fast himself battling a satanic cult of evil doctors (who seem to have actual supernatural powers to boot)!

While this movie isn't too hard to track down, there's absurdly little information about it on the interwebs. It's crazy obscure! There are only three reviews of it on the entire internet, and two of them are in German, so unless there's a deep dark Pierre Kirby rabbit hole 100 Google pages into a keyword search, or I'm literally the only English person in the world with a review for Crackdown Mission! God, I really hope it's the former!

Unfortunately, the DVD company decided to censor the Crackdown Mission DVD of all nudity and violence. I've no idea why, seeing as how the action here isn't all that violent at all. Was the re-edit done by a 'moral guardian' who just plain hated action? Thankfully they've released a re-issue DVD which is uncut (so says the cover, which is how I was clued in), so I'm here to provide a comparison. What did the first DVD print remove, and what's the complete film like?...

Before I get to that, a refresher on the plot. Crackdown Mission is about what I mentioned above, but that's only the IFD Movie B segment. The rest (i.e. the remaining three-and-a-half quarters) is an Asian take on Ms. 45 (which I never mentioned in my original review, as it slipped my mind).

The uncut version opens up with the traditional IFD opening-a Columbia logo ripoff with a Star Wars theme. Following that is the first major difference between DVD's. In this version, we see the whole opening sex-scene, wherein, 1, there's more nudity (WOOOOOOO!), and 2, it's shown that the double-murder wasn't caused by an intruder as I always thought, but rather the woman poisoning the guy, then killing herself.

Next, there's an extra rape scene, which given its placement in the story makes this more of an obvious Ms. 45 knock-off than it otherwise would be (the woman gets raped in an alleyway, goes home distraught, and gets raped by a burglar who's robbing her apartment). This scene explains why right after, the woman starts crying. In the censored version, her demeanor comes out of nowhere.

Most of the second rape scene is also kaput in the censored version, as is the burglar getting his head smashed in with the lamp/ornament/whatever the woman uses. It goes from her grabbing it, to a rough edit to her hiding an iron under the bed for no reason, then going outside her apartment and loooking at the stairwell while etheral cackling is in the air. Along with other scenes, this is why I originally though this was a possession movie rather than a Ms. 45 rape-revenge flick, as in the cut version, it seems like the thief escapes, then 'turns into ghostly whispers' as I put in in 2011. In the uncut version, we see her take the iron and beating the thief/rapist to death with it, hence her hiding it aftwerwards. We also see her landlady coming up to see what all the commotion is about, and in the process, saying the main character's name-Audrey. FINALLY! I spent the entirety of my review calling her Woman because as far as I could tell, her name is never uttered once.

More uncut footage has Audrey hiding the body (for God's sake, these German distributors must have been pussies! 2001: A Space Oddysey is rated G, and it has more graphic stuff on display than this movie has when uncut!)

The next excised scene has Audrey dismembering the thief's body. Remember how in my original review, I mention certain scenes that are in negative coulour for no reason? Same applies for this, and here, it's reminding me of the Crazy Fat Ethel movies.

I'll just quickly go over the rest of the 'extensions' to Movie A here. There are no quick cuts away when people get shot, and in the cut version, there are several scenes of Audrey throwing shopping in the trash for no reason. But in the uncut DVD, we know that she's disposing of a body. Doesn't make the film feel any less aimless and dull though.

Now finally, we come to the excised Pierre Kirby footage! YES! The years of waiting are finally over!

These scenes are badass! Pierre Kirby not only proves himself to be my second favourite action hero with just a scant seven minutes of fighting at most, but his karate moves are a sight to behold as well. They're pretty cool, and impressive too.

I imagine this came once the ninja boom died, so instead of multi-coloured samurai, it's instead about a bunch of people in regular clothes beating the shit out of each-other. Kinda dull compared to neon pink and fleuro yellow ninjas, but it hardly matters.

There's one particularly goofy moment during the fight with some guy, and Paul John Stanners (who I sorta mistook for playing another character last time), where Kirby throws hay, fucking HAY at some guy, and it throws off his aim! I am so not even kidding. Whether it be deus-ex-machina acorns, or trusty berets, this is one action hero who always has the right stuff on hand to save his skin!

By the way, still no idea if Kirby does do a 'Six bullets or only five' routine with Edowan Bersma's villain at the end, but I swear he does! The way he looks when talking just screams Dirty Harry to me!

Movie B as a whole suffers less from excised footage than Movie A, but that's rather understandable, as Movie B is less than twenty minutes long. Dammit, Universe, you're a cruel dick!

Ultimately, there's twelve minutes of extra footage here, and it's definitely wecome for those who actually want to properly see Pierre Kirby's most elusive (technically) film. Is it worth tracking down this film for the IFD footage, despite the boring rape movie? Sure, why not. Maybe the English track does still exist, and if the movie gets enough attention, maybe the company will release a new DVD with the original English track. Though that's just wishful thinking on my part. But the guy was only in nine movies, so I really do hope that they're all complete someday. R.I.P. Pierre Kirby...