Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The horror... the HORROR!

Pop song  "Chinese Food" and its video features Alison Gold, a blonde teeny-bopper, what looks like her schoolmates, and Patrice Wilson, the freak who helped bring Rebecca Black's "Friday" to the world. Usually, music videos are posted to my Cinema Steve blog, but this is so awful it could only belong here.

I like Chinese food, but this song may well put me off it for a while.  And one has to wonder if Panda Express will be filing suit over the damage done to their brand.....

Saturday, June 1, 2013

We all have to start somewhere....

Hangmen (1987)
Hangmen Starring: Rick Washburne, Keith Bogard, Jake Lamotta, and Sandra Bullock
Director: J. Christian Ingvordson

When renegade CIA operatives target a government agent (Washburne), his teenage son (Bogard) and his son's girlfriend (Bullock), they find their violent tendencies are exceeded only by the Vietnam veterans who rally to defend their old war-comrade.

"Hangmen" is bad on every level. Bad photography (marked by waaay too many extreme close-ups and dull long shots); lame action scenes that rely on slow motion and lots of blood-spurting squibs (and which illustrate the importance of the foley artist and sound effects t in movie making); a script so nonsensical that even the filmmakers couldn't keep track of what was supposed to be going on from one scene to the next (it's rare to see a movie so totally free of continuity control); and dialogue that was exceeded in its horribleness only by the acting of those delivering it.

This movie's remarkable for having a plot that is less interesting than most 1st-person shooters, and a bodycount that is compreble to them. It's also a landmark film in that never have such a concentration of inept renegade CIA agents been assembled in one movie for the purpose of killing people for no real reason while pointlessly disguised as New York City cops, ambulance drivers, or firemen. Finally, the film is also noteworthy for featuring a young Sandra Bullock as the hapless girlfriend of our hero-by-happenstance. While she is by far the best actor featured, her performance either illustrates that the director of the film was the George Lucas of his day (he could coax a bad performance out of anyone), or that acting is like any craft... the more you practice, the better you get.

(Note to Bullock fans: One DVD editions of "Hangmen" has her as the only actor featured on the cover, and it gives her top billing. Don't be fooled. She is a supporting actress here, with an important but small role.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dull film made worse by insipid dubbing

Spirits of Bruce Lee (aka "Angry Tiger" ) (1973) 
Starring: Michael Chan 
Director: Shang Lang
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

 When his brother is robbed and murdered while buying jade in Thailand, jeweler and kick-ass martial artist Chen-Wai Chang (Chan) sets out to find and punish his killers.

"Spirits of Bruce Lee" is a waste of time and space. It's populated by uninteresting characters portrayed by handsome but unremarkable actors and actresses, and it moves at a glacial pace from predictable plot point to predictable plot point. Even in 1973 this boring and overlong film must have been a sleep-aid for some, and a welcome make-out opportunities for teenagers at drive-ins and second-run movie houses. The only way to get through this movie without boredom killing you as dead as Bruce Lee--barring making out or dozing off--would be to consume copious amounts of spirits (Bruce Lee Spirits or otherwise.)

 This film is one of the few in this set that has no qualities that give any reason for you to watch it. It's possible the original Chinese version is slightly better than what comes across in this obnoxiously dubbed film that features one of the greatest collection of annoying voices to ever be assembled in one place, but even it can't possibly be worth the time it takes to watch. It's rare that I think Godfrey Ho adding some random ninjas could improve a film, but I think taht would have been the only thing that could have saved this paint-by-numbers, half-assed martial arts melodrama..

By the way, can someone explaine the "Brucespoitation" thing to me? Did movie-going martial arts fans in the mid- to late 1970s really go to see any piece of crap that had Bruce Lee's name in the title? This movie can't be described as a tribute to Bruce Lee (or even anyone who was involved with making it it's so awful), nor does there seem to be any similarities to any of the movies Lee made plot-wise or theme-wise--except in a single, minor point that one really has to stretch to even consider a similarity. I simply don't get the selling point.

Monday, May 6, 2013

'Skinned Alive' will disappoint almost everyone

Skinned Alive (1990)
Starring: Scott Spiegel, Susan Rothacker, Mary Jackson, Floyd Ewing Jr., Lester Clark, and Barbara Katrz-Norrod
Director: John Killough
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

When a family of crazy cannibalistic taxidermists (Jackson, Rothacker, and Spiegel) are stranded over night in a small town, they see no reason to stop their ongoing killing spree.

"Skinned Alive" is a clumsily constructed horror comedy that features a talented cast doing their best with a weak script and a special effects crew that either didn't have enough money or enough skill to stretch the money for decent gore effects. There are only two instances in the film that will have you squirming in your seat due to the splatter/ick factor... and that's entirely too few for what this movie seems to want to be.

And the fact I say "seems to want to be" illustrates the biggest problem with "Skinned Alive", Watching it, I got the sense it wanted to be a cross between "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Spider Baby", but it lacks cohesion, so I'm really sure if that's what writer/director Killough was going for, or if that just my mind trying to bring order to the chaos.

If you're looking for a gory splatter-fest, "Skinned Alive" does not deliver. It doesn't even deliver on the promise of the title, as the only person who comes close to being "Skinned Alive" is a character who inexplicably kept coming back from the dead, in a manner that I couldn't determine whether it was supposed to be a joke or just a symptom of bad continuity. IF you looking for an intense and horrific viewing experience, "Skinned Alive" won't satisfy you either, because it unfolds in an entirely too random fashion, with too many characters being present for no good reason and the pace being too choppy and uneven for any tension to build in the film. The only possible audience for this film who will be satisfied are those looking for a Bad Movie Night experience; that this movie is perfect for.

With the horror falling flat, many of jokes being so lame they can't even be described as un-funny, the overall package of this film is pretty bad, despite the fact that most of the featured actors do a good job in the sense that they are hamming it up big time. Those over-the-top performances make the film more fun to watch than it otherwise might have been... and why it would be a nice addition to a Bad Movie Night. (Producer J.R. Bookwalter would have done everyone a favor if he had made this film part of the "Bad Movie Police" line-up from a few years ago. He might even have found that endeavor to be more successful than it was if he had.)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Day of the Turkey Review:
The Swamp of Ravens

A series of events (followed by a fabulous Thanksgiving Day spent with friends) kept me from writing as many reviews as I had planned today, but I should be able to get this one in under the wire, before Thanksgiving Day turns into Black Friday.

The Swamp of Ravens (1974)
Starring: Ramiro Oliveros and Fernando Sancho
Director: Manuel Cano
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

A mad doctor is exploring gene therapy to "cure" the condition known as death and to show its relation to evolution. Or something like that...

"The Swamp of Ravens" is an atmospheric film that sets out to be a modern-day take on the Frankenstein legend, with its protagonist being some sort of medical doctor or scientist bent on identifying the factor that separates life from death. Sadly, its story is so muddled, the motivations of the characters so confused, and the characters so ill-defined that you're going to be left wondering what the heck you've just watched by the time its over.

For example, the scientist SEEMS to have accomplished some sort of scientific breakthrough, given that his assistant is apparently a re-animated corpse... and the "failures" he tosses in the titular swamp outside his secret research shack are likewise undead and lurking just below the surface. Or are they? Are the presence of zombies in the muddy waters just figments of the mad doctor's imagination? They kill a vagrant, so maybe not. But then why isn't he trying to figure out what's animating them?.Is he trying to make the soul/awareness of his subjects stay with the body beyond death? Whether the writers knew or not, you won't by the time the film is over.

Although the film has plenty of atmospheric shots and stylistically presented violence, the creepiness of it all is undermined by perhaps one of the most wildly inappropriate soundtracks I've ever come across. Have you ever seen one of those British sex/manners comedies like the "Carry On" series? Well, that is where this music belongs, not in a film about a mad doctor who is a sexual sadist who turns his girlfriend into a test subject in a fit of jealousy. So, as far as the technical aspects of the film go, it's one point its favor and five points against.

Oh... a minor nitpick: There are no ravens in the film. The swamp in question seems to be home to a flock of turkey buzzards, but no ravens. Still, the shots of the buzzards are pretty creepy... and I suppose "The Swamp of Turkey Buzzards" doesn't make for a very attractive title.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween: Guru the Mad Monk

As part of this year's wrap-up this year's 31 Nights of Halloween at Cinema Steve, here's a film you  should be happy to not have seen.

Guru the Mad Monk (1970)
Starring: Neil Flannigan, Judith Israel, Jacqueline Webb, Jack Spencer, and Paul Lieber
Director: Andy Milligan
Rating: Two of Ten Stars

An innocent woman (Israel) gets trapped in the web of lies, murder, and madness spun by the priest in charge of an isolated church and prison (Flannigan) and the vampire witch that is his ally (Webb).

"Guru the Mad Monk" might have been suitable Halloween viewing if you were looking to have a Bad Movie Fest as part of your celebration. It's got a creepy location, a hunchbacked assistant to a vile villain, witchcraft, a vampire, a damsel in distress... everything you need for a classic cheesy horror movie.

Unfortunately, the director took these elements and made one of the dullest movies you ever will have suffered through if you check it out. It has a few moments of tension and growing horror, but invariably those are ruined by weird cut-aways, awful dialogue, or the atrocious acting on the part of the cast--which are so bad that I was starting to think that Judith Israel was a great actress, until I took a step back and realized she only seemed to be because everyone else around her is so awful. She's passable... but given the rest of the cast, she seems like she could out-act any Hepburn you care to mention.

The Two Stars I've given it are perhaps generous, but they are based on the occasional bit of creepiness that the film manages to conjure up, as well as the unintentional comedy (mingled with a glimmer of horror or two) that we're treated to in the films final 10 minutes when we discover exactly how unhinged the title character really is. Getting to those 10 minutes means sitting through 40 minutes of unevenly paced, badly acted dreck.. and only the most motivated or desperate to be entertained viewers will make it that far.

"Guru the Mad Monk" is one of the films featured in the "Pure Terror" 50-movie DVD set. As such, it's harmless filler that you can save for last.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The film that launched a thousand riots

The Innocence of Muslims (aka "Desert Warriors" and "The Innocence of Bin Laden") (2012)
Starring: A Bunch of Really Terrible Actors
Director: Alan Roberts
Rating: Zero of Ten Stars

After a Christian doctor's cilinic is looted by an angry Muslim mob in Egypt, he reflects on the life of the Muslim prophet Mohammad (or something like that).

Muslim movie critics don't stand for no shitty biographical movies about their beloved prophet, as demonstrated by the burning of American embassies and the brutal rape and murder of an American diplomat. Their rage is completely misdirected, but understandable... not so much because a religious figure is put in a bad light, but because this film is so awful that I feel awkward even referring to it as a film. I don't think I've seen so much incompetent directing, badly framed scenes, horrible green-screen use, bad sound mixing, awful dialogue, and craptacular acting crammed into 13 minutes ever before.

Seriously... this is a film that should be viewed by no one. To describe it as amateurish is an insult to amateurs. I've seen at least one person say "It's like Ed Wood decided he hated Muslims"... and I have to disagree. Even on his worst day, Ed Wood showed more skill as a writer and a filmmaker as anyone involved with "Innocence of Muslims".

In fairness, all I've seen is the 13-minute highlight reel/preview that was posted to YouTube... but if this is the best bits of the film, I think 13 minutes is all I'd be able to stand.

In the entire thing, there's only one scene that is remotely well done--the one where young Mohammad is being seduced (?) by some woman who may or may not be doing it to drive away demons. (And I think the only reason I find the scene appealing is because it's so strange.)

Even that 13-minute preview is inept, assuming it was put together in an effort to promote the film and not intended to just be a collection of disjointed nonsense.

Ultimately. though, the most noteworthy thing about this piece of garbage is that it features what is perhaps the smallest "mob" ever put into a movie.

I'm not even going to bother embedding the YouTube video in this post. If you want to see for yourself what has psychopaths in the Middle East and Asia all stirred up, you can go there and do a search for yourself. However, I think you should just take my word for it and spend those minutes taking a walk or petting your cat or cleaning your bathroom. Any one of those activities will be more worthwhile than watching highlights from "Innocence of Muslims".