Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Orca (1977, Michael Anderson)

Orca...just another Jaws ripoff, right? It would definitely appear so based on the poster. When I was a young kid I loved the Jaws movies. I would watch them every time they were on TV. I remember seeing the VHS box for this film Orca about a killer whale at Fast Forward Video on Cochituate Rd. in Wayland, MA (R.I.P.). It looked very Jaws-like and eventually I decided I would give it a go. I remember being bored and disappointed by it and shutting it off half way through. It wasn't until years later that I caught it on TV that I watched the whole thing, but was still disappointed that it wasn't just like Jaws.

Orca is the story of a salty sea dog named Nolan (Richard Harris) and his crew. After a run in with a male killer whale, he and his crew decide to capture it to sell to a zoo. Things don't go as planned and Nolan accidentally kills a pregnant female Orca and its fetus. Little does he know that killer whales are one of the most intelligent animals in the world, maybe more so than humans (definitely smarter than some humans I know). They are monogamous and will go to any extreme to get revenge if something happens to their mate. Soon, Nolan and his crew find themselves terrorized by the whale and must figure out the right thing to do.

Orca is unfortunately labeled as a Jaws ripoff though it is much more than that. I wouldn't be surprised if it was inspired by Jaws or if the film was green lighted after the success of Jaws. Other than the whole killer fish (or mammal in this case) thing, the films are completely different. Jaws is really just a killing machine while Orca is an intelligent animal that is actually the victim. Richard Harris does an excellent job in this film and it is amazing how deep his character is. You'd think he'd be just a money hungry fisherman but he is completely aware of his situation and actually feels sorry for the animal. The real point of the film is actually Nolan trying to find peace with himself and right the wrongs he has caused. Like I said, very far from a Jaws ripoff. The other actors all do a great job, especially Charlotte Rampling as the whale expert trying to help Nolan do what's right. Orca is also notable for being among the first films for both Bo Derek and Robert Carradine. The film itself is excellent, the special effects are great as is the cinematography. The arctic climax is a real treat on the eyes and Ennio Morricone's score is both beautiful and haunting, about as opposite as you c0uld get from John William's terrifying Jaws score. Just a really great, misunderstood film.


Piranha part Two: The Spawning (1981, James Cameron)

How could I review the classic Piranha without also reviewing it's retarded little brother, Piranha part Two: The Spawning? I couldn't. I will start off with the film's most notable factoid, that it was future Titanic director James Cameron's directorial debut. Other than that, the only thing most people know about this film is that the piranha can now fly...and that it sucks. Now I'm not saying I agree with that last thing, but when this film comes up it's usually to bash it. I actually saw this film shortly after the first Piranha at least 10 years ago, mainly because it was a horror film directed by James Cameron and I liked the first Piranha. I remember thinking it was pretty crappy at the time.

Piranha part Two: The Spawning starts off very similarly to the first Piranha film...SKINNY DIPPING. As with the first, this horny couple succumb to the horror that are piranha. Soon after, at a nearby hotel resort, a diving student is found all munched up and his diving instructor Anne Kimbrough (Tricia O'Neil) goes searching for what may have caused it. One of her other students, Tyler (Steve Marachuk) accompanies her and Anne's ex-husband Steve (Lance Henriksen), the local sheriff, begins his own investigation too. It is soon discovered to be a mutant strain of flying piranha that are causing the deaths and they must convince the resort's owner Raoul (Ted Richert) that his guests are all in danger.

Piranha part Two is an interesting movie, to say the least. Let's start with the bad. Like the first one, the film makers try to add comedic touches to the film, including a stuttering chef, a gold digging lady vacationer and a horny old lady trying to seduce a life guard. Sounds pretty bad, huh? It is. But you know what, and here's the surprise...I LOVED the rest of the movie. Really loved it. It was silly of course (flying piranha? C'mon!), but in a really fun, b movie way. The piranha actually looked really cool and fuck me could they rip a person apart. The scenes of the piranha flying looked a little cheesy but the gory makeup effects (courtesy of Lucio Fulci's Zombie/City of the Living Dead/The Beyond FX mastermind Giannetto De Rossi) were stomach-churningly brilliant. Totally viscious and disgusting and awesome. People just get ripped apart and holes bitten out of them. It's great. One of my favorite Italian composers, Stelvio Cipriani, does the score for the film too (under the obviously Americanized pseudonym Steve Powder) building tension in all the right places. All of the lead actors are great and Cameron's direction is well done too. I actually read that Cameron filmed all of the scenes but was not allowed to edit or see any of the footage by producer Ovidio G. Assonitis (is it me or does his last name sound like a medical term for butt cancer?). I will always hold Cameron close to my heart for directing one of my favorite films (The Terminator of course) so I keep telling myself that some unnamed director shot all of the (un)funny parts and Cameron filmed the rest. Anyway, I really liked this movie and will definitely watch it again.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Piranha (1978, Joe Dante)

Fresh off the heels of my Great White/Last Jaws/Last Shark/Windsurfing Shark/whatever review is another killer fish movie. This one is less of a Jaws ripoff then a film inspired by the whole Jaws craze of the 70's. I came across this one when I was a teenager and it's actually been at least 10 years since the last time I watched it.

Piranha begins with a promiscuous couple gettin' nekkid and going swimming in a pool at an old abandoned research laboratory, you know cause that sounds safe. They are then eaten alive by a school of killer piranha being bred in the pool. An investigator (Heather Menzies) and a local man (Bradford Dillman) seek out the missing couple, but find much more than they were expecting. As it turns out, the research lab was creating a mutant strain of indestructible piranha which have accidentally been drained out into a local river which flows through a summer camp and a resort. Will they be able to warn those in danger before the piranha have the biggest feast of their lives?

Piranha is a tongue in cheek monster movie directed by Joe Dante of Gremlins and The Howling fame. Executive producer and B movie king Roger Corman called it his take on Jaws. The film definitely accomplishes what it set out to, being a comedic horror film. I did like the film but I felt it took a little too much time getting to what everyone is waiting for - the piranha massacre. The comedy is not for everyone and though I could appreciate it, I would have preferred a straight up horror film. Piranha's cast is excellent overall, especially Corman regulars Paul Bartel, Dick Miller and the (still stunning) Barbara Steele. The Piranha effects are also well done and pretty ferocious, courtesy of a young crew including Rob Bottin, who would later wow us horrorhounds with his incredible Howling werewolf transformation and out of this world alien creatures in John Carpenter's The Thing. In closing, if you're looking for a bloody killer fish movie that doesn't take itself seriously, look no further.


The Last Shark (1981, Enzo G. Castellari)

Wait, is it Great White or The Last Shark? Well, it's both. The disc that I watched was a Swedish import with the title Jättehajen: Vindsurfarnas Skräck (which I think translates to The Giant Shark: Windsurf in Fear...or maybe not), but the film itself (luckily it was in English) had the title The Last Shark. Mostly known as being a Jaws ripoff (Spielberg actually sued the film makers because of the numerous similarities, which caused it to be pulled from U.S. theaters), this film is also known as The Last Jaws, Jaws Returns and (its original Italian title) L'ultimo squalo. I had seen the poster above, which I would have to say is one of the scariest movie posters ever (despite the fact it's basically a ripoff of the Jaws poster - surprise surprise), in a magazine pictorial of some one's horror collection and it stuck with me. I then read a review on the Basement of Ghoulish Decadence blog and found out that the movie was the same as the one in the movie poster.

The Last Shark is the story of a coastal town terrorized by a shark. Why it's called the Last Shark, I have no idea. But anyway, it first strikes when a windsurfer (hence the Vindsurfarnas in the title - and you thought I made that up?) is doing some sweet moves and is suddenly shot up in the air as if surfing over a landmine. How a fucking shark can do that I can't really tell you. I'll just use the excuse I give my kids when I don't know the answer: "maybe it's magic?" Anyway, his surfboard turns up in pieces and it is determined to be a shark by local sailor Hamer (Vic Morrow). The local Police chief (James Franciscus) joins Hamer in a shark hunt after his daughter is attacked. Also on the hunt for the shark is the town mayor (Joshua Sinclair) and a fame-hungry news reporter (Giancarlo Prete).

I will start by saying that there are many aspects of this film that are obviously influenced by Jaws. The chief of police, the crusty shark hunter (who even dresses like Quint, the crusty shark hunter from Jaws) and of course the killer shark. The chief's wife even looks like Brody's wife in Jaws. I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting. I actually feel the same way about this film that I do about Beyond the Door, which if you read my review is an Italian Exorcist ripoff. The thing about these two films is that they actually have some great scenes, but it is sometimes hard to appreciate them when other parts of the films are just so blatantly copied from the films they are cashing in on. One of the deaths in this film, where a character is bitten in half, is better than any of the deaths in Jaws or any of its sequels. I was sitting there screaming "FUCK YEAH" with my 9 month old daughter staring at me (calm down, she doesn't know what I'm saying) and clapping at the screen (I was clapping, not her). There were a few other really cool scenes that I enjoyed too. The shark they used in the main shots was kind of stiff looking and most of the other times you saw the shark it was obviously just stock footage. The acting was decent and you could definitely tell that it was a Castellari film, mainly because the cast featured many of the same actors in his other films (Giancarlo Prete, Joshua Sinclair, Badass Romano Pupo) and featured music by the De Angelis brothers. Overall it was a decent movie that was fun...if you can get past the whole Jaws thing.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Shameless Advertisement (in other words, buy my shit!)

Ok, so I hate the fact that I am doing this (actually I don't at all). I am selling off some of my DVDs and I figured I'd let all of you know about it, in case I may be getting rid of something you folks are looking for. Click HERE to view my ebay auctions. I may be adding some more tonight and possibly tomorrow.

I am doing this because I need the money so do me a favor and don't ask me to end an auction early or try to make me an offer before the auction ends. Thanx.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Shivers (1975, David Cronenberg)

For those of you (in the U.S.) interested in David Cronenberg's first film Shivers (aka They Came from Within), you may have noticed how hard it is to find. After some searching, I was finally able to see it. It's been out of print here for awhile but after seeing a good number of Cronenberg's little features and reading some good reviews, I had to find it. Actually I had two separate co-workers tell me that they saw it on a horror channel on cable and that it was my type of movie.

Shivers takes place in a modern high rise apartment complex, which is totally self sufficient. It has its own dentist, doctor's office, pharmacy, convenience store....and slug-like killer parasites. Created to be a substitute for a human organ, these parasites cause the host to become a sex crazed maniac, causing them to spread like wild fire. Soon the whole hotel is infested and it is up to the resident doctor (Paul Hampton) and his nurse (Lynn Lowry) to try to stop it.

This film was well worth the search. A little silly in parts, but overall an effectively slimey horror film. The special effects are amazing for the time (courtesy of Joe Blasco), including lots of "how the fuck did they do that" under the skin effects. The parasites themselves are also pretty nasty things and look great. The film moves along at a good pace and the acting is all pretty decent. Despite all of these great aspects of the film, the best part was definitely Barbara Steele's lesbian scene. Steele, the beauty from such classics as Black Sunday, 8 1/2 and Pit and the Pendulum, looks beautiful and has one of the most uncomfortable parasite scenes. Still makes me squirm...or should I say - SHIVER?


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hardcore (1979, Paul Schrader)

Here's another movie I had never heard of two days ago. I spotted it yesterday and decided to give it a shot. I know this sounds weird but all of the components making up the film just seemed good enough to give it a blind watch. Not that I rarely watch movies I know little about, but this one just seemed like a sure thing. George C. Scott and Peter Boyle are always great to watch and I knew a film written and directed by Paul Schrader about going underground in the porn industry would be something I'd like. Not that I'm really into porn or anything, it's just the whole seedy, dark underground thing that I'm attracted to.

George C. Scott plays Jake VanDorn, a religious businessman and single father of a teenage girl named Kristin (Ilah Davis). Kristin goes away on a trip to California with her church but mysteriously disappears. Jake hires a shady private detective (Peter Boyle) to find his daughter but realizes that to find her, he is going to have to do it himself. Jake goes undercover as a porno director and befriends a stripper who may hold the key to those responsible for his daughter's disappearance.

I was right about this film being a worthy watch, despite my lack of knowledge about it. I just knew that the components were too strong to end in disappointment. In fact I was blown away by George C. Scott's performance in this film. The scene where he is forced to watch his daughter in the porno is some of the best acting I have ever seen. Boyle is great too as the bumbling private dick, as is Season Hubley as the stripper/prostitute Niki. Schrader's story is well written and heart breaking and his direction nails (pun intended) the seedy adult underground perfectly. Everything about the locales are perfect. The story begins in a rural town and the people, scenery and houses just look so real. Everything down to the decorations on the walls inside Jake's house are so authentic that it really impressed me. Then when Jake travels to the city, the whole atmosphere and characters seem very genuine. My only real gripe with the film was that I thought the very end could have had a little more of a twist, but overall the film is a winner.


Vote For What You Want Me to Review Next!

So I'm trying to decide which movie series I want to review next. I have several lined up. Say, how about everyone leaves comments on which of the below choices I should choose and the winner will be fortunate enough to be graced with my movie reviews! I figure I'll let you folks vote for a few days and that's what I'll watch this weekend. In the meantime I'll be adding a few single reviews here and there to tide you (or rather me) over.

Choose one of the following film franchises for me to review and post a comment with your choice:

-The Howling
-Children of the Corn
-Friday the 13th
-____________ (pick one not listed)

Critters 4 (1992, Rupert Harvey)

Critters 4 I saw a loooong time ago. It was right after it came out on video, probably around '92 or '93. I had loved the first two so much and couldn't seem to have any luck renting the third that when I saw this I had to pick it up. I remember being really disappointed and a little confused (not having seen the third one) but I had really wanted to see it again. The main thing that really sparked my interest in seeing it again was when I read that Brad Dourif was in it.

At the end of Critters 3 - WARNING! SPOILER FOR CRITTERS 3! DON'T READ ON IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN CRITTERS 3 - Charlie (Don Keith Opper) is about to destroy the final two Crite eggs when he gets a message from Ug, who is now some space counselor, that it is illegal to make an alien species extinct and that he needs to place the eggs into a rocket ship to be sent back into space. Charlie accidentally gets stuck in the spaceship and takes a trip with the eggs to the great beyond. Meanwhile, about 50 years or so goes by and another passing spaceship comes across Charlie (who hasn't aged at all) and the remaining eggs, which have now hatched and laid more eggs. The crew must fight to stay alive while finding a way to destroy the last of the Crites.

I'll admit that I wasn't too impressed with part 4. Even Brad Dourif couldn't save it. The movie didn't suck but it wasn't as good as I was hoping. It was definitely influenced by Alien, though nowhere near as good. Angela Bassett is good in an early role (not to mention it showed her bum and side boob) and actually the whole cast was competent. As with part 3, there was too much time developing the characters when the only really interesting ones in the movie were the Critters. In fact, the Critters in this film were hilarious and pretty much saved the movie from being a big pile of suck. The setting was different and the story decent but overall the characters just couldn't keep my attention. I was also disappointed with what they did with the Ug character. I remember that bothering me the first time I watched it too and it still bothered me. So, in closing a good try but it didn't really come through.


Critters 3 (1991, Leonardo DiCaprio)

Critters 3 is a movie that has eluded me for a very, very long time. It's one of those movies that you'd see all the time at the video store but when you'd go to rent it, it would be checked out. Then next time you went, they'd have it but you wouldn't be in the mood for it. This film is notable mostly for being Leonardo DiCaprio's first film, something I doubt he's too proud of considering his current fame. I actually remember DiCaprio back then from the TV show Growing Pains (as the new character brought in to keep the show fresh) and from the short lived Parenthood TV show. But anyway, so here it is about 18 years later and I am finally able to see it.

Critters 3 takes place a few years after part 2. Two young kids, Annie (Aimee Brooks) and Johnny (Christian and Joseph Cousins) are coming back from vacation with their widowed father (John Calvin). They get a flat tire and stop at a Rest Stop to fix it. The kids go off to explore and meet a boy named Josh (Leonardo DiCaprio). While trying to retrieve a lost frisbee, they stumble across a weirdo named Charlie (Don Opper), one of the survivors from the first two Critters films. Charlie warns them about the Critters, who just happen to have laid eggs close by. Somehow (I forget this part), the eggs end up underneath their car as they travel back to the city. The apartment building they return to is a shithole and the landlord is trying to make everyone move out so he can build a mini mall. Of course the Critters hatch and start killing off the tenants while the landlord, who happens to be Josh's father, brings Josh to get the tenants to move out. They end up trapped in the apartment and must band together to destroy the Crites, before they themselves become lunch.

Critters 3 is a step down from the first two, as far as storyline goes. The characters are a little silly, especially the guido maintenance man (I have never cheered so loudly for a character to die as I did when he got devoured by Critters) and the overweight neighbor Rosalie (who gets a chunk bitten out of her leg but is barely phased). There are some really slow parts in the film, but overall it was still decent. The thing that really caught me off guard about the movie was character development. They spend way too much time telling the back story of the characters and seeing them interact. I commend the filmmakers for trying to make the characters not your typical one dimensional morons, but it made the film a little slow. I mean, movies like Critters 3 should have one dimensional morons as characters, right? Overall, it wasn't bad but not great either.


Agree with this review? Need another viewing of Critters 3 to be sure?  Watch the film online and be sure to have your say in the comments section.

Critters 2: The Main Course (1988, Mick Garris)

Critters and Critters 2 are films that I have loved since childhood. Critters 2 has a very special place in my heart for being the first film I can remember seeing with a topless woman. Ah, memories. I used to rent the film over and over again from my local video store, The Movie Hut, Wayland, MA (R.I.P.). It wasn't just for that though, I loved seeing those little Critters fuck shit up.

Critters 2 takes place 2 years after the first one. Brad Brown (Scott Grimes) returns to Grover's Bend to visit his grandmother for Easter. The locals are not too pleased to see him after the whole Critter incident nearly ruined their town. Everyone is still trying to forget the past when a bunch of Crite eggs are found and sold to the local church for their Easter Egg Hunt. Needless to say, the eggs hatch and once again the town must try to survive against these evil space bastards. Once again, the bounty hunters come back to try to save the Earth from the Crites.

Critters 2 is as good as the first Critters, which is rare for a sequel - especially a horror sequel from the 80s. The Critters are more fierce than before and there are many more of them, which increases the mayhem. There are many funny parts and the scene where the Critters take over the burger joint is hilarious. Once again, all of the characters are great, the Critters effects and the PG-13 gore (including a twitching bloody skeleton that got steamrolled by the Critters) are all masterfully done. It was good to see some of the cast from the first reappear too.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Critters (1986, Stephen Herek)

I honestly have no idea where I first heard of Critters. I remember I was probably around 10 or so and I stumbled upon this film and Critters 2. I loved them both and used to watch them all the time. It wouldn't be a surprise to me if this series of films was inspired by (the similarly titled) Gremlins, but it is safe to say that Critters is far from a Gremlins ripoff. More of an inspiration to see how mean a bunch of little creatures can be.

Critters takes place in the small Midwestern town of Grover's Bend. The Brown family, who own a small farm in Grover's Bend, are your typical family. Jay the strict father (Billy Green Bush), sweet mother Helen (Dee Wallace Stone), rebellious daughter April (Nadine Van der Velde) and trouble maker Brad (Scott Grimes). An alien spaceship lands in Grover's Bend and it's inhabitants, small furry (and very deadly) creatures called Crites, take over the Brown farm. A couple of Intergalactic Bounty Hunters, Ug and Lee (get it, Ugly) are hot on the Crites trail. Hopefully they can save the Browns....and the world.

Critters simply rules. It's as great a combination of a sci-fi/horror/action/comedy as you're going to find. The story is great, the characters are all likable and the Critters themselves are one mean bunch of fuckers. They are also pretty funny too. The Chiodo Brothers, who created Killer Klowns from Outer Space, do a great job of making these little bastards come to life and wreak havoc.


Star Trek Rating Redux

Ok, I'll admit it. I was a little wrapped up in this whole Star Trek thing. Upon reflection, I realized that I was a little too enthusiastic about the films when I wrote my reviews so I decided to reassess them and lower a few of the ratings. I realized that some of the films I gave a 4 or 5 rating really deserved a 3 or 4 rating. I guess with such a limitation of ratings, I forget that a 5/5 should really be reserved for movies that really move me or blow me away. I contemplated changing my rating system to maybe 1-10, but that would be a lot of work. I feel that if I try to be consistent and careful, the 1-5 scale can still be successful.

On that note, Live Long and Perspire!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wise Blood (1979, John Huston)

Ah, Brad Dourif. The ever talented thespian who unfortunately has spent a good percentage of the last twenty years in B movie hell. As happy as I am to see him pop up in some of the crap that I watch, I still think it is a shame that he's not in more higher profile films. I guess it must be hard going anywhere but down after being nominated for an Oscar on your first film at the age of 25. Though even after Dourif started showing up in horror and sci-fi movies, he made a nice niche for himself, especially as the voice of horror icon Chucky in the Child's Play series (check out my reviews of the whole series!). Dourif's other notable roles in these genres include the Gemini Killer in Exorcist III, Dr. Gediman in Alien Resurrection and Sheriff Brackett in Rob Zombie's Halloween. Wise Blood is an older film that Dourif made, directed by the great John Huston. I had read about the film about a year ago but couldn't seem to find a copy of it until Criterion released it on DVD, which is when I knew I had to see it.

Wise Blood tells the story of Hazel Motes (Brad Dourif), a young man coming back from the war to find that his old home is abandoned. He travels into the city and, after being told repeatedly that he looks like a preacher, decides to start the first Church without Christ. He buys a car to live in and to stand on to preach to those who will listen. After becoming fixated on a blind preacher (Harry Dean Stanton) and his daughter, Hazel moves into the house they are living in. Hazel also happens upon a young, dim-witted man (Dan Shor) who will go to any extreme just to find a friend. After a series of tragic events, Motes finally realizes what he really believes in.

Wise Blood is a movie overflowing with talent. Pretty much every character in the film is mesmerizing and it definitely carries the story along. Dourif as Hazel Motes is brilliant and creepy at the same time. Huston's direction is great and the rural setting fits the tone of the film perfectly. The film itself is thought provoking and the events at the end of the film are both disturbing and heart-breaking. This film is definitely original and I have yet to see anything quite like it.


Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991, Nicholas Meyer)

Here we are, the end of the Star Trek films featuring all of the original crew. I have been impressed for the most part with the whole series, at least much more than I had expected. I never had a problem with Star Trek it just wasn't something I ever really got into. From what I've read, Part 6 seems to be considered one of the better entries of the series, and though the cast is visibly getting a little old for this, they still manage to kick some butt (and get their butts kicked too).

The Klingons are soon to become an extinct breed if they cannot find help from other planets. The Federation, who have been at war with the Klingons have decided to help. Shortly before retiring, the original crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise try to be civil with the Klingons and invite them on board their ship for dinner. After the Klingons return to their ship, they are suddenly fired upon by the Enterprise and two mysterious assassins come aboard and start shooting the Klingons. The crew of the Enterprise has no idea what has happened and beam Kirk and Bones aboard to try to help. They are then arrested by the Klingon General Chang (Christopher Plummer), found guilty by the Klingon court and banished to a slave colony. The remaining crew of the Enterprise must find out who really fired on the Klingon ship and prove that Kirk and Bones are innocent.

The Undiscovered Country was a great end to the original Star Trek series. As I previously stated, the crew are looking pretty old and it's good that they knew when to quit. That being said, this movie has lots of action, especially the scenes with Kirk and Bones on the slave colony. They must travel through arctic conditions and get their asses kicked by alien inmates. The whole whodunnit/wrongfully accused plot works very well and the film's special effects are very impressive. It's also great that Nicholas Meyer, the director of Wrath of Khan, returned for this film, one of the most action packed since Khan.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989, William Shatner)

Continuing on with my Star Trek reviews is probably the least liked in the original series. Seems that William Shatner was jealous of Leonard Nimoy directing parts 3 and 4 so he decided to direct one himself. I still remember when this film came out. It was 1989, the year of Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Licence to Kill and a few other blockbusters. I had an issue of Starlog magazine which had posters of all these movies and I remember pulling out the Star Trek V poster and giving it to my older sister's friend, who taped it to her bedroom door.

Star Trek V begins with Kirk, Spock and Bones having a leisurely camping trip away from the troubles of outer space. After teaching Spock "Row Row Row Your Boat", the Enterprise stops by to pick them up for an emergency voyage. It seems that a Klingon, Romulan and Federation leader have been kidnapped on Planet Nimbus III and the Enterprise stops in to save them. It turns out to be a trap set by Spock's half brother Sybok in order to hijack a ship to travel to a mysterious planet Sha Ka Ree to find...well, you'll have to watch it to see why. Oh yeah, there's also a Klingon ship hunting the Enterprise to get revenge on Kirk for killing their leader in part 3.

Star Trek V was a surprising treat for me. I expected a silly sequel but was actually really impressed with pretty much everything about this film. I thought it was actually better than parts 3 and 4. The story reminded me a lot of another one of my favorites The Black Hole (see my review) with its themes about exploring the unexplored. Shatner's direction was competent and actually seemed pretty accomplished to me. The characters were all interesting and I just really enjoyed the film.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Malabimba: The Malicious Whore (1979, Andrea Bianchi)

What's the matter? Were you expecting Star Trek 5? Well tough shit. I needed a break from the Shat. What better choice than the X Rated Version of the Italian sleazefest Malabimba? I had been reading about this film a lot recently and how another film that I plan on watching soon, Satan's Baby Doll, is supposedly a remake or something of Malabimba. Apparently they both star Mariangela Giordano too.

Malabimba is the story of the Karoli family, who live in a castle far removed from the outside world. Widower Andrea Karoli (Enzo Fisichella) is having trouble with his 16 year old daughter Bimba (Katell Laennec) She has recently been disrespectful, foul mouthed and started using her stuffed animals as sex toys. Woah! Caught you off guard, didn't I? In the meantime, Andrea's brother Adolpho is confined to a wheelchair and his wife Nais (the voluptuous Patrizia Webley) keeps trying to seduce Andrea. Is Bimba just going through a rough puberty, due to the fact she's never left the castle grounds or was she possessed by some perverted, teddy bear-humping spirit?

Calling this film "kind of sleazy" is like calling the Queen of England "kind of English" or calling my ass "kind of hairy". Definitely made me feel dirty after watching it. The character of Bimba is a very raunchy character who says the unspeakable and does the undoable. But you know what, the film was actually kind of fun. It was easy to follow and I didn't get bored once during the whole film. The women in the film are all attractive and easy on the eyes and some of the situations that (literally) arise from the movie are enough to make me blush. There were parts of the film that were definitely influenced by The Exorcist, but overall this film is definitely it's own perverted self.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986, Leonard Nimoy)

Star Trek traveling back in time? Can they do that? Hey, why not? Kirk and crew do all kinds of wacky shit, what's a little time travel going to hurt? I noticed something strange about this movie. The female lead is played by Catherine Hicks, the mom from Child's Play and also the Mom from the show Seventh Heaven with Stephen Collins who played Decker from the first Star Trek film. Crazy, huh?

The Voyage Home begins shortly after The Search for Spock and is the final chapter in a trilogy starting with the Wrath of Khan. Spock is finally becoming his old self again and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are all back together. On their return home to Earth, they learn that a space probe is causing devastating weather preventing them from landing on their home planet. The only way to make contact with the probe and try to stop it from fucking up Earth is the call of the humpback whale, which has become extinct in the 23rd century. The crew must travel back in time to 1986 to try to retrieve some whales to save the planet.

Definitely a far out plot, but the film doesn't disappoint. In fact, it's very enjoyable and funny. Though the action of the previous two films is pretty non-existent, following the Enterprise crew through San Francisco 1986 is a riot. There are lots of jokes and one liners that work for the film, including my favorite one "Well, a double dumb ass on you!". Overall, not a perfect film and the plot is definitely silly, but the movie is still fun and very watchable.


Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984, Leonard Nimoy)

Initially I had heard that Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock were the best of the original series. I later read of a Star Trek curse where the even number Star Trek films were good (parts 2, 4 & 6), while the odd number ones sucked (1, 3 & 5). I was very skeptical of this curse considering how much I loved part 1. Continuing on with the original Star Trek series...

The Search for Spock picks up right after the events from the Wrath of Khan. Spock is dead (hope you are reading this before watching Wrath of Khan) and it is revealed that before he died he mind melded with Dr. McCoy. To save McCoy and with the chance of bringing Spock back to life, they need he to travel to Spock's home planet Vulcan. Kirk and the crew steal the Enterprise to make the trip, but they must first retrieve Spock's body from the Genesis planet. All seems well until a group of ruthless Klingons fuck things up.

Search for Spock is a decent film and a good continuation to the story that began with Wrath of Khan. Though not as good as Khan (or the first film), it definitely holds up. There are some nice special effects and a good storyline. The real thing that makes this film so good is the Klingons. Christopher Lloyd plays the lead Klingon and he proves to a dastardly bastard. His showdown with Kirk is great. John Laroquette also plays one of the Klingons but I didn't even recognize him until I watched the credits.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982, Nicholas Meyer)

Of course after enjoying Star Trek The Motion Picture so much, I had to watch part II. I have been hearing about certain scenes from this film for a long time (earworms being the one that came up the most) and knew it was time to finally see it. I remember in grade school kids talking about it and how gruesome it was for a Star Trek movie.

The Wrath of Khan follows the crew of the Enterprise reuniting again after a training exercise turns into a real mission to save the crew of another ship from the evil Khan. It is soon discovered that Khan not only wants to steal a powerful device called The Genesis which has the ability to create and destroy life, but also to avenge his exile 15 years ago by Kirk. Khan will stop at nothing to carry out his dastardly plans, no matter who he must kill to do so.

The Wrath of Khan is an excellent follow up to the first film and most people's favorite film of the series. Though I wouldn't say I necessarily liked it better than the first film, I did really enjoy it and thought it was a fun action packed adventure. There was lots of action, a great story, some nice bloody effects and creatures. I would say where the first film excelled as a science fiction film, The Wrath of Khan excelled as an action film. Overall a great follow up. Next up, The Search for Spock.....


Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979, Robert Wise)

What better time to watch the first Star Trek movie then now? Not only is the new Star Trek movie currently in theaters but I have been watching lots of classic Sci Fi movies lately. As I've stated before, my favorite period of Sci Fi films is the post Star Wars era of the late 70s/early 80s and Star Trek TMP definitely fits here. I remember watching this film on TV when I was younger (I remember drawing the crew members with crayons in my little kiddie sketch book) and for some reason never got around to watching the rest of the series. When I first started getting into more sci fi stuff (after the religious experience of Battle Beyond the Stars), I planned on watching this movie again and finally just got around to it.

Star Trek The Motion Picture takes place a few years after the original series ended. The Enterprise, the spaceship from the original series, has been revamped and is now under control of Captain Will Decker (Stephen Collins). Most of the original crew is back on the ship and, when a mysterious entity is heading towards Earth, the original captain, James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is sent to takeover for Decker as the new captain. Kirk also has the ship's old doctor, Bones McCoy (DeForest Kelley) return. The last remaining member of the original crew, Spock (Leonard Nimoy) also returns to join his old friends. The crew of the Enterprise learn that this mysterious ship is threatening to destroy all of the humans on Earth so they must find out who or what is in charge of the ship and try to stop it from wiping out the human race.

I was hesitant about this film because of its legacy of being a snoozefest and not nearly as good as some of the sequels, namely part II, the Wrath of Khan. I must say that I have no idea why people don't like this film. I actually thought it was brilliant. The effects were great, the characters were interesting and fun to watch, the story was engaging and the ending was thought provoking and moving. This film to me was very much a classic and should be treated as such. There were some slow parts but I think the film as a whole was flawless. I really enjoyed the rivalry between Decker and Kirk and the chemistry between Decker and Ilia, one of the shipmates. I would definitely recommend this film to any Sci Fi fan (assuming there is a Sci Fi fan in the world who hasn't seen it) and will definitely rewatch it.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980, Jimmy T. Murakami)

Battle Beyond the Stars is a film I never should have heard of. I was watching the old Corman Classics DVD of Rock N' Roll High School because I am a huge Ramones fan and for some strange reason (and I never do this) decided to watch the trailers on the disc. I hate trailers and skip them at every chance I get (though I'll admit that there is some charm to trailers on an old VHS tape). Even when I go to the theater, I show up late to miss the previews. Anyway, I don't remember how many trailers there were or what the other ones were, but one of them really stood out. See I used to like Sci Fi films as a kid and even still enjoy them every once in awhile. I don't really believe in signs but I feel that some other-worldly force may have been responsible for me seeing that trailer. Regardless, it was an important moment in my life, exposing me to more films that I probably would never have seen or had any interest in (The Black Hole, Battlestar Galactica, Logan's Run, etc) and urged me to go back and revisit some classics (The Last Starfighter and Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Coincidentally, this film was released in West Germany on the day I was born. Hows that for coincidence?

Battle Beyond the Stars is the story of Shad (Richard Thomas), a young inhabitant of the planet Akir. Shad must travel across the galaxy to recruit mercenaries to fight the evil space ruler, Sador (John Saxon), who has threatened the people of Akir. Among those that Shad recruits are Cowboy (George Peppard) - a space cowboy of course, Gelt (Robert Vaughn) - a wanted man with nothing to live for, Saint-Exmin (Sybil Danning), an Amazonian Valkyrie, among others.

The plot for Battle Beyond the Stars may sound familiar, mainly because it is a remake of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (which also inspired the Magnificent Seven). In fact, Robert Vaughn's character in this film is nearly identical to the character he played in Magnificent Seven. The planet Akir and its townspeople, the Akira, are obviously named after Akira Kurosawa. Other than that, this film is quite original, from its far out alien creatures to its colorful cast of characters. Producer Roger Corman has said that this was his attempt to make a Star Wars type film and there are some similarities to that film as well (the spaceships particularly), though it is still very much its own entity. I don't think George Lucas would make a spaceship with boobs. Roger Corman on the other hand....Overall, I'll admit that this film is flawed, silly, a little stupid and ridiculous at points. Plus the special effects are ok but not great and some of the makeup/costumes are laughable. But it was my destiny to praise this film and praise I will. I feel connected to this film like none other, like it's a part of me or something. It's flaws and silliness make it the perfect little film that it is.