Friday, December 28, 2012

"Fortress" - - Don't Dream . . .or Watch While You Have The Flu

The first movie I'm reviewing is coming out of our Wal-Mart 8 Movie Action Pack. It's the 1992 sci-fi thriller "Fortress" starring Christopher Lambert and . . .well that's when it gets hard.

See, when I watch movies like this, or movies in general, I like to go in blind. I'm the guy who rents movies without reading the back because when you do it gives too much away. Imagine if you saw Terminator 2 knowing nothing about it: no ads, no trailers, the only thing you know is from what you saw in Terminator. You would spend the first half hour thinking the T-800 is trying to kill John Connor. The movie is actually set up to make you think he's the bad guy until John Connor runs into the T-800 in the hallway of the mall.

Since apparently no one allows embedding anymore, here's a Lego version of the scene.

Anyways, the point is, going in blind is the best way to see a movie like this because well, because it is. A guy gets thrown into a prison. That's all I'm going to tell you.

This movie is grim. Like Motherless grim. I don't know if it was because I had the flu while watching it, but I felt totally hopeless. Christopher Lambert is an OK actor, but there are enough crazy characters surrounding him to distract you from his odd accent and robotic delivery. This movie has everything to make a viewer uncomfortable: male nudity, male rape, mind rape, female rape, mouth rape (by a robot), unavoidable pain, horrifying psychological torture, the list goes on and on. This movie is dark.

But it's good.

It's not Running Man good, but it's good. If you go in blind you won't know what's coming next. Not much in an M. Night Shyamalan way but in a Hunger Games way. "Oh they set the whole forest on fire, wow I didn't expect that but it makes sense" kinda way. I'm a Stuart Gordon fan, and the opening shot alone of a bleak dystopian future really sets the tone for the movie. It shows some bums in an alleyway, then the camera slowly zooms up to show a futuristic soldier overlooking the street, and then the camera pans up a bit more to show we are at a US border crossing; and the good guys are trying to leave the country. A nice progression of subtle steps, and that's pretty much all the backstory we get and really all that we need. World building doesn't need exposition when it's done this well. So I recommend this movie for anyone who likes bleak sci-fi with a little bit of hammy action thrown in. It's not one that you need to go out of your way to track down, but if you see it on TV or it's cheap, pick it up.

Imagine drinking cold medicine all day and watching this at three in the morning. God I hate having the flu.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"Sideshow" - - Dull and Disappointing

"Have you seen enough?"

Yes. Yes I have.

I have to admit: I'm a fan of movies like "Sideshow." Carnivals are creepy, sideshows are terrifying . . .I mean, OK I know they don't have the "freaks" any more, but as a kid there was always that shadow of terror that crept over me when I walked past those dirty multicolored curtains hiding the world’s biggest alligator or other freaks of nature.

 I am also terrified of movies where people mutate or turn into things. Whether it's the Island of Dr. Moreau, or zombie movies, or Something Wicked This Way Comes, whatever. The idea of trapping a human in the mind of a beast is, to me, one of the most disturbing ideas in horror.

 So when I started up "Sideshow" I was like "Hell yeah!"

 The movie starts off with a guy on the run from the freaks. Then he falls down and starts crawling away and the leader of the freaks says: "Crawling on your belly? That's a fitting place for you!"

 Oh shit! This guy is going to turn into a snake and the movie just started!

"I was once a man! Oncsssssssss a man!"

Oh that's hideous! Wait . . .he's not a snake . . .he's . . .he's just holding a snake. That's not a punishment, that's a religion in the Ozarks.

"But he looks like a monster," you say. "Clearly he has been turned into a beast!'

Well, here's what he looked like when we first see him:

"You can turn me into a beast, but please, don't make me change my shirt!"

From the looks of it, in the process of turning him into half man/half man holding a snake, the sideshow freaks took the time to apply some Neosporin to those nasty claw marks because he's fully healed by the time we see him as part of the show.

Almost every other transformation is given away in the trailer: The girl who wants a hot body is given a hot body BUT NO FACE dun dun dun!

Sideshow, starring Kyra Sedgwick

While another girl is turned into a . . .tiny girl in a jar.

"So, you know, you're still DTF, right?"

The guy in the wheelchair, what's his punishment?

Well, that makes sense. I've known a few people in wheelchairs throughout my life, and every single one of them would give up their freedom and humanity to be able to jump and have a bitchin' nose ring.

"I wish the carnival would come to my town . . ."

The bully character turns into what is described as what is inside his soul or some other bullshit. You can tell my patience is wearing thin because for each one of these lame transformations I have to add a photo and then describe it in a way that is more entertaining than the actual film. So the bully, the bad guy of the group of teens who is constantly harassing people, making fun of the freaks, and just acting like General Douchebag, what do you think his "inner being" is?

If you guessed anything other than Squeakie the Human Canary then congratulations, you did not write the script for "Sideshow."

The make up, wow, he looks exactly like a canary!

Finally we are left with the hero, the morally neutral character of the film. So what's his punishment?

Listen, I watched this movie twice: once to review it and a second time finding the clips and pics to post the review and that ending still doesn't make sense. Also in the above clip you'll see all the other sideshow freaks like Digestina, who puts stuff in a green juice to eat them. But does a person fall into the juice and slowly dissolves away? Of course not, that would be stupid.
"Sideshow" was boring. It was slow (most of those transformations don't happen until the last half hour) and painful to watch. In the end, I think people who find themselves watching this film were cosmically doomed to find themselves in a place and time when "Sideshow" was on.

And that, my friends, is the cruelest punishment of all.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Live Animals" - - Disturbing On No Many Levels

A man, our protagonist, is tied down to a chair. Behind him stand a few goons dressed in all black. They cradle their weapons but are ready at any moment to gun down their captive if he tries to escape. The villain stands in front of the helpless hero. He gloats. The villain implies rape. The hero is helpless, facing violation in ways we hope we never have to go through ourselves. The villain leans over and begins rubbing the hero's thighs.

He squirms.

We squirm.

But the scene I'm describing isn't from the movie "Live Animals," it's from the new James Bond film "Skyfall." I saw that movie opening weekend and the theater was fairly packed. But when that scene played out, the theater was dead quiet other than the sound of the male viewers, myself included, shifting uncomfortably in their seats.

So what's my point? It's that "Live Animals" is not nearly as disturbing as it should be,

"Live Animals" is basically an Asylum version of "Hostel." A bunch of young adults are kidnapped and stored in a horse stable where they are humiliated and tortured with the end result being one guys tongue getting ripped out and one woman sold into sex slavery. Then the remaining prisoners break free and make stupid decisions and run around with guns shooting people. Been there, done that.

There's a drawn out sequence where the woman who is going to be sold is propped up like a piece of meat as a potential buyer circles her. In between the lewd comments, I started to think back to that scene in "Skyfall." Basically, when torture porn is out-grossed out by a mainstream PG-13 film, you've got problems. Most of the audience of these types of films are male, so why not give them something to make them feel really uncomfortable i.e. male rape. Sure, the female rape may give the sickos in the audience some illicit thrill, but male rape makes your whole audience uncomfortable. In my review of Fortress I point out that the threat of male rape (and robot rape) made the movie realistically uncomfortable.

As I write this post I may seem like I'm a huge advocate of male rape. I'm not. But I am an advocate of a movie being what it is. A horror movie should be scary, a comedy should be funny, action movies should be compelling, and torture porn should be terrifying. "Live Animals" wasn't. I commend them for making a movie for $6000 (according to a poster on IMDB who claims to have worked on the film, and that budget doesn't seem too far off). The movie was boring, yes, and the acting was below average. But if it had been terrifying, if it had made me look over my shoulder before I shut off the light, then all the cheap cinematography and boring parts would be excusable.

And to me, male rape and being turned into a sex slave is more terrifying than seeing another helpless woman turned into one. One scenario is a porn video. The other one, well that makes you squirm in your seat.

"Real Talk" - - My Abcessed Tooth


So in my first post, a review for the move Fortress I talked about me being sick with the flu.
If you're a fan of this blog that's just something you will have to expect. I get sick. A lot.
I just had an abscessed tooth and that's why I haven't posted lately. I'll spare you the gross details and just say they drained 6 fluid ounces of snail-grey infected pus from my tooth. While I was recovering I didn't feel up to posting but I did watch some good and not so good movies and I'll be posting those reviews soon.

Friday, November 30, 2012

"The Howling 4: The Original Nightmare" - - Just Goo It

Ever wonder what a werewolf movie would be like without werewolves? I know I haven't. But The Howling 4: The Original Nightmare was made anyways.

For the first, oh, hour and 10 minutes, there are no werewolves shown or even talked about. What is going on during that period of time then, you ask because you talk out loud to blogs. Well, there's ghosts! Because what's a werewolf movie without ghosts, right!?

Despite the fact that the main character hears howling every night, and every day walks up to someone and says "I hear an odd noise last night. I heard . . .a howling." there are NO WEREWOLVES until the last 15 minutes.

And then they are everywhere. But before the werewolves invade we are treated to one the longest, most disgusting, and most ridiculous werewolf transformation scenes filmed.

As opposed to all those realistic werewolf transformation films we saw in Health Class.

I think if, in between man and wolf, you turn into a puddle of goo, you're not a werewolf. You're a weregoo that turns INTO a werewolf! Also, do they have to go through this disgusting process every single time, or do lifelong werewolves get an EZ Pass and just shift from man to monster? If not, who cleans up the piles of goo every morning?

Anyways, once the werewolves do show up, there's about 15 minutes of running around being chased by actors with sharp teeth and pale skin but they are not vampires!

"I vant to suck your blood . . .or turn you into goo, either or."

In the end, there's a showdown in the old town bell tower where they meet this guy:

"Does anyone know how to get to Fraggle Rock?"

Oh but the Howling 4 needs more than just a grotesque looking guy, right? I mean what's a werewolf movie without a scene where a man rips his own face off?

"You were right, Janice. There are werewolves . . .just not until the last 15 minutes."

At the end of that clip, you can hear one of the women say "We must destroy them according to the legend!" So silver bullets. right?

Nope! They blow them up!

*As bad as this movie was, it was better than the last werewolf movie I watched called Night Terror. The werewolf in that also didn't show up until the end, and they killed it by hitting it with a car.

Werewolves are actually one of the scariest movie monsters but for some reason they have the highest suck ratio as far as their films go. For every 8 Howlings there's one "Dog Soldiers."

Now that is how you make a werewolf movie. And there actually are 8 Howling movies, including "The Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf"


So that's why my sister's bed was always covered in goo!

"Foolish" - - "I don't think P knew what movie we were making."

Foolish is a movie that fails so hard, even the Closed Captioning has some serious issues. Now, I get that whoever did the Closed Captioning for this may not be up on the latest street slang, but at this point who doesn't know the proper way to spell it is "Nigga?" Either A) Racists or B) People who shouldn't be captioning a Master P film.

In the next scene, all the the captions just read "Oooga Booga" and "Where da white wimmin!!!"

The movie itself is a mixture of stand-up comedy from "Foolish Waise" aka Eddie Griffin as himself and a bizarre mafia subplot that is dropped in the middle of the second act. In fact, the last half hour of the movie is a stand up set so the entire plot is dropped at that point.

In between we get: Foolish talking to ghosts, Foolish chasing his girlfriend around with a baseball bat, Foolish talking about getting another girl pregnant six years ago (which is only noteworthy because the actress they chose for the part, but we'll get to that later), and Master P acting how you would expect him to act: badly.

I think Eddie Griffin is funny. I know that Master P sucks. Going into this film, I figured the two would balance each other out for a purely mediocre film. So why did it cross the Rubicon into the land of unwatchable (It took me three days to watch it after falling asleep twice)?

Well, for that we have to go to the director's commentary, where we learn such gems as:

1) Master P personally funded the film, so he had himself put in as a co-star but would only be on set for 15 minutes at a time. His limited availability caused whole chunks of the mafia subplot to be taken out but . . .

2) P put the mafia subplot into the script in the first place. It was originally a semi-biographical story of Eddie Griffin's life until Master P said he would fund the film. Between the two competing narratives there were 15 rewrites of the script (including one where they shoot a man to death in the second scene. What a laugh riot!)

3) P insisted that he have a romantic scene with every female, leaving Eddie with no love interest.

4) P hated shooting outside, where at one point the director had to argue with him to get him to stand outside for an establishing shot. The scene had to be shot in 5 minutes.

5) Foolish's ex, the one he had a relationship with 6 years ago was supposed to be played by Lela Rochon but on the first day she was on set her and Master P got in a "disagreement" (the director tiptoed around what happened, but I assumed he tried to make her say "uhnnnn"). The character is a lawyer who helps them set up their own comedy club. While the director is trying to recast the part, Master P shows up with a girl who looks barely 18 and says "Here's the new actress!" An 18 year old lawyer. Who Foolish got pregnant 6 years ago.

"Clap if you don't know how to make a movie!"

In the original script, it was based on the real life exploits of Eddie Griffin's days in the clubs. But as the title changed from "Tears of a Clown" to "Foolish," the highs and lows of Eddie's story got lost. It was at the point when Master P changed the name of the film that the director lamented "I don't think P knew what movie we were making." It turns out Eddie did, in real life, have huge fights with his girlfriend and in turn smashed up his own car with a baseball bat. Compelling stuff. I'd watch that movie.

But P wanted a scene where they did a home invasion wearing "funny masks." (The director stated this was one scene P insisted having in the film.) There was supposed to be a scene where Master P boxed Mike Tyson . . .why?

Although, watching Master P get punched in the face would have made this movie my favorite film of all time.

Monday, November 19, 2012

"The Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver" -- . . . .and then Hitler showed up to save the day!

This is not the dumbest part of this movie.

No, scenes like that are not the worst parts of this movie. In fact, the worst part was there weren't enough of them.
The intro to the movie is a spoof of The Silent of the Lambs, and in that part it is successful. It's not very funny, but it works as a parody where it makes subtle changes to the overly serious Hannibal Lecter scene. >
Next, we find The Gingerdead Man (ok I'm shortening that to G-Man) breaking into a time machine lab and traveling back to 1976 and that's where the movie really derails.

About 10 minutes in.

I get it, it's a goofy comedy/horror. I'm not judging it on its cheesiness or bad CGI or any of that because that stuff comes with the territory, But the next hour and 20 minutes is a "parody" of Carrie, as in it is the plot of Carrie.

Instead of seeing a killer confectionary, we see the trials and tribulations of a young outcast girl with telekinesis who falls in love with shoe rental guy, makes enemies with the reigning Roller Boogie queen, gets yelled at by her weird Aunt (who honestly I thought was a man and was going to be a parody of Psycho), and gets pig blood dumped on her, at which point The Gingerdead Man shows up and the movie enters its final act.

There were some cool deaths, like when G-Man hooks a hose up to some acid during a bikini car wash . . .

Or maybe she got bit by a werewolf

There were some funny lines, and some laughingly bad effects but to get to those you had to watch 20 minutes of melodrama The G-Man killed somebody and then back to 20 more minutes of teen angst set to a terrible faux-70's soundtrack that played over and over again.

And then Hitler shows up! Oh, you wacky movie you, I never would have expected that. But by the time he does (he's a good guy in this by the way) the movie has lost all it's charm for me. I did laugh when Jeffrey Dahmer jumped into a time portal screaming "Canibonga!" in spite of myself though.

This movie could have been better. That's the worst thing I can say about it; this movie disappointed me. It wasn't as funny or crazy as the premise allowed or the title promised. To simply use the plot of Carrie without making it a parody is lazy and lazy filmmaking is boring.

Good acting, hot chicks, some nice death scenes, fun villain + Terrible, boring plot = terrible, boring movie.

*Also, here's a tip for future film writers: Actors love scenes where they get to lay in bed, because what's better than showing up to work to lie down for 8 hours? It takes a long time to shoot even the shortest scenes. So before you write a script where 90% of the cast spends every scene in rollerskates, make sure you have a good enough plot to justify their discomfort. Just a tip.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Convict 762" -- More like 76Booo!

"and . . .(looks around the room to make sure he's not hiding in the recording booth) Billy Drago." I can imagine Billy cornering the trailer narrator and saying "You tell anyone I'm in that film and I'll cut your throat!"

Yeah, this movie was lame. I won't worry about giving away plot points in this review like I avoided with my review of Fortress, but if you don't like spoilers, I'll give you some advance warning.

No, I lied. Convict 762 is a ghost. I think.

Here's the set-up: A spaceship crew (like Alien) has to land on a hostile planet (like Alien) where they encounter a hostile element (like Alien) that kills them one by one (like Baby Geniuses 2). The whole "mystery" of this movie is who is Convict 762? Is it the handsome guy who beats them up and runs away, or the weird looking old guy who beats them up and runs away?

Decisions, decisions.

The whole movie is set up so you don't know who Convict 762 is, but it could have been easily solved by just, I don't know, making the prisoners remove their clothes and look for tattoos.

OK, the more I write the more I'm remembering. The movie is them constantly fact checking these two men's stories, and the computer is like "Yep, that's the right guy. He really is a guard." but then at the end he's 762! And then there's this NSFW scene of the captain and one of the prisoners getting it on with some hot monkey sex . . .

Sorry, so sorry for that. Wrong video. But why does it have "convict 762" in it's search terms? Why would anyone . . .out of all the search terms . . .

If you got off on that video, you are on a government watch list now.

How many times did they show his back? 3? 4? But it's not until the end of the sex scene (which was hot before Alex Jones decided to re-dub it) that we see the DUN DUN DUN 762 tattoo on his back. And that's pretty much this whole move in a nutshell. It's all about misdirection, even if the misdirection directly contradicts what you have just seen two seconds earlier.

This movie isn't even so bad it's good; it's just lame. And boring. It had no sense of space. You never knew where the characters are at in relation to each other. When you look at effective horror/slasher/suspense movies there is a sense of location: here is the kitchen, here's the storage bay, here's the cockpit, etc. so when we see something happening in one location we know if the character we are watching is in danger as well, how far away rescue is, and so on. Alien did this well, hell the House on Haunted Hill remake did it well. It's not rocket science and on a low budget film with limited locations it should be easier. But sometimes in Convict 762 I didn't know they were off of the ship until they were banging on the airlock to get in.

So in Convict 762 a ghost? I don't know. Was it the guy from the sex scene with the 762 tattooed on his back? No. He actually just had that number on his back because Convict 762 scarred it on him, but then the other prisoner, the old weirdo,  earlier in the film was casting was a spell to kill Convict 762  (or something, he was just yelling "I'm going to kill Convict 762" and spreading dust around himself for two minutes straight) but then at the end HE'S Convict 762 but then at the very very end you see a video of the old weirdo explaining that YOU are Convict 762!!!!

No, I'm not making that up.

This is worse than the controversial Inception ending where I found out I was the top.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Video Vandals

Welcome to the first post of the Video Vandals. I have the flu so I'm going to make this brief. Each week we'll be reviewing movies that are either direct to DVD, had limited theater releases, or are so old you probably forgot they existed. Now, if my knowledge of blogs is correct, this intro will appear on the bottom of any future posts, so I don't even know why I'm writing this!