Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fear City (1984, Abel Ferrara)


Continuing on with reviews of Abel Ferrara films, the king of "dirty city films", here we have Fear City. I came across a bootleg of this about a year ago when I was into some of Ferrara's other films but never got around to watching it. I started watching his films again recently and was glad that I still had Fear City. From what I had read about it, it seemed similar to a lot of his other films though it boasted a much "bigger" cast then his other early films. By bigger I mean more famous (at least for the time). After the attention Ferrara received for his first two films, Driller Killer and Ms. 45, he was given a bigger budget and well known actors to create this film. I recently read that it was similar to Lucio Fulci's New York Ripper, which also made it a film I had to watch.

Matty Rossi (Tom Berenger) is an ex boxer who now runs a strip club in NYC. Along with his partner Nicky (Jack Scalia), they soon start losing their women one by one to an unknown killer. On the trail of this psycho is police detective Wheeler (Billy Dee Williams) who is not very fond of the club owners. Matty takes matters into his own hands to protect his dancers, especially Loretta (Melanie Griffith), who he is in love with.

Fear City is like a big budget version of Ferrara's earlier two films (Driller Killer and Ms. 45). It has all the sleazy big city locales (strip clubs, dark alleys, etc) you'd expect from Ferrara but also some people you've actually heard of (at least in the 80's). Melanie Griffith appears (right before her breakout role in De Palma's Body Double) mostly naked throughout the film, which is a treat. Berenger is a fun tough guy who has one of the worst hairdo's and leather jackets ever captured on celluloid. Billy Dee Williams is good as a hard nosed cop and also featured are early performances by Rae Dawn Chong, Maria Conchito (before the Alonso) and Ola Ray (Michael Jackson's girlfriend from the Thriller video). Overall, the movie is very dated and a little silly, but sleazy enough to not just be another throwaway 80's crime film. The villain is a little lacking in depth but he excels in weirdness. Overall, worth a watch (if you can find a copy).

Getting a cash advance isn't nearly as sleazy as the strip club in Fear City.

RATING: 3/5

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bad Lieutenant (1992, Abel Ferrara)

Bad Lieutenant is a film I knew nothing about when my friend let me borrow it about a year ago. I hadn't even heard of the name Abel Ferrara so I really had no idea what to expect. Upon first viewing I really didn't know what to make of it. It was just so sleazy and wrong that I kind of pushed it away. I knew I wanted to see it again but I put it on the back burner for another time. I recently had the urge to watch some of Ferrara's films again so it was a perfect time to revisit Bad Lieutenant.

In Bad Lieutenant, Harvey Keitel plays a police lieutenant (I don't think it ever says his character's name) who has some problems. Well, actually he has a lot of problems, namely gambling, drug, alcohol and sex addictions. He takes bribes from crooks, steals drugs from crime scenes and does pretty much every thing he shouldn't do. After a nun is raped, the Lt. tries his hardest to get the nun to reveal who the rapists are, mainly because he needs the reward money for gambling debts.

Bad Lieutenant is such a generic, silly title but it actually fits the film perfectly. Keitel is such a scumbag in this movie and his performance is one of his best, easily on par with his early work with Scorsese (Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Who's That Knocking at My Door and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore). Ferrara excels in creating his usual dirty city setting and the supporting cast are all perfect, including co-screenwriter/Ms. 45 star Zoe Lund (formerly Zoe Tamerlis) as Zoe, the lieutenant's heroin partner. There are some really tough scenes in this film and it stretches the envelope so much that you are pretty much left paralyzed until the film is over. Some of the scenes are so over the top that you can't help but laugh, though it's not because the film is unintentionally funny. I think I was laughing mainly because the subject matter was just so extreme that you either laugh or cry. I don't really know how to explain it, I would just recommend seeing it and judging for yourself. In my opinion though, it is a masterpiece in urban drama.

RATING: 5/5

If you think you can stomach another Abel Ferrara movie after seeing this, why not try watching movies online such as King of New York or Body Snatchers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ms. 45 (1981, Abel Ferrara)

When I think of Abel Ferrara's films, the first word that comes to mind is gritty. From his first film, the Taxi Driver meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre classic Driller Killer to his more well known films featuring such stars as Harvey Keitel and Christopher Walken, they all have a certain feel that just leaves you feeling dirty. Ms. 45, Ferrara's second film, is a perfect example of this.

Ms. 45 is about Thana (Zoe Tamerlis), a mute young woman who works for a clothing designer in NYC. On her way home one day she gets raped, not once but twice!! Talk about shitty luck! She snaps and manages to kill her second rapist who has broken into her apartment. She dismembers him, puts his remains into her fridge and takes his gun (a .45, of course). She then goes out on the street to get vengeance but the point of her killing spree starts to become less defined.

Ms. 45 was an interesting, exploitation film that is also darkly comedic. The extremes Thana goes through to hide evidence to her crimes and keep her identity as the killer a secret is often hilarious. Not that this film doesn't have the look and feel of Ferrara's other, more serious films. It has that dirty city feel that is synonymous with his style and also explores how much a person can take until they snap. In many ways, Ms. 45 is like a companion piece to Driller Killer. They both follow a normal person who slowly starts to go batshit crazy and ends up killing people. The character of Thana actually reminded me a little of Catherine Deneuve in Polanski's Repulsion too, in which they are both quiet, reserved characters who go crazy. Overall, it was an enjoyable film that fits well with Ferrara's classics.

RATING: 4/5


Friday, July 17, 2009

Danger: Diabolik (1968, Mario Bava)


So I was asking around online for more films, similar to Casino Royale and 10th Victim (review coming soon) that exude the look and feel of the 60s. Films with the over the top set designs, psychedelic colors, beautiful women and suave leading men. The first response I got was Danger: Diabolik, a film I had heard of but didn't really know anything about. I looked it up and instantly had to see it.

Danger: Diabolik is about a thief named Diabolik (John Phillip Law) and his girlfriend Eva (Marisa Mell). After stealing $10 million dollars from the government, there is a clampdown on crime in the area, which puts a crime boss named Valmont (Adolfo Celi) into a panic. Valmont strikes a deal with police investigator Ginko (Michel Piccoli) to capture Diabolik for them. In the meantime, Diabolik steals a prized emerald necklace, further enraging the police. Time will only tell if Diabolik's crime spree will continue or if he will be brought to justice.

Though not a spy film, Danger: Diabolik is a great find for the type of movie I was looking for. It has such a great 60s feel. It's such an oddball movie but I loved it. John Phillip Law as Diabolik was perfect - smart, debonair, athletic and dangerous. When you think about how you are rooting for a criminal through the whole movie it might seem weird, but with Diabolik you just can't help it. The bumbling cops and villains in this film are just no match for someone like Diabolik. Bava's direction was perfect for the film and it's stunning how different this is from some of his other films. One thing about Bava is that no matter what the budget (usually low), he always has a great sense of style to add to his films. Ennio Morricone's music score is classic, a nice combo of the big band music of the 60s spy films with a touch of surf that fits the chase scenes perfectly. The more I think about this film, the more I like it and want to watch it again. I really can't think of anything bad about this film. I definitely recommend it.

RATING: 5/5

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Casino Royale (1967, a bunch of directors)


When most folks hear the name Casino Royale they instantly think of the 2nd to last Bond film starring Daniel Craig as Bond (in his debut performance in the role). The fact Casino Royale was finally made into an "official" Bond film so long after the series debuted in 1962 is a funny story. Casino Royale was the first James Bond novel written by Ian Fleming way back in 1953 and unbeknownst to most, it was made into an American TV movie the following year, starring Barry Nelson as Jimmy Bond (an American secret agent) and Peter Lorre as the evil Le Chiffre. When the Bond film series started up in the 60's, they didn't have the rights to Casino Royale so it was never made. But then, at the height of Bond-mania, the owners of the rights decided to cash in on this phenomena and make a film of Casino Royale. Though instead of making a straight forward action film like the rest of the series, they decided to make a spoof of the series featuring the top comedic actors of the time. Being the huge James Bond fan that I was, I stumbled upon Casino Royale browsing through my local video store. I had a book detailing all of the official Bond films, but it left out Casino Royale (and the other unofficial Bond film, Never Say Never Again) so I never even knew it existed. Anyway, I rented it expecting a great 60s Bond films (as the others were) but was very disappointed. I hated it so much and though I have seen the other films in the series all multiple times over the years (at least up through Goldeneye), I didn't revisit Casino Royale until a few years ago.

Casino Royale follows a retired James Bond (David Niven) returning to the secret service after the death of his boss "M" (John Huston). He decides to recruit a whole group of secret agents and have them all go by the name James Bond 007 to throw off their enemies. The main enemy of which is SMERSH and Le Chiffre (Orson Welles), a card player (and magician!?!) who is being funded by SMERSH. One of the new James Bonds, a card expert named Evelyn Tremble (Peter Sellers) is brought in by fellow agent Vesper Lynd (Ursula Andress) to win against Le Chiffre. It is also discovered that a greater evil is out there in the form of James Bond's dorky nephew Jimmy (Woody Allen), who has a plot cooked up of his own.

Casino Royale is definitely not for everyone, especially fans of the more serious Bond films. It is true that the film is silly and not what you would expect, but it is still a brilliant film. What I love most about this film is the feel and the atmosphere. Never have I seen a film so "sixties" as Casino Royale. The set designs, sixties British humor a la The Pink Panther series (which also features Peter Sellers and David Niven) and the hallucinogenic camera work are all just perfect. Normally when a film is as dated as this it becomes distracting, but in the case of Casino Royale, that is what is so great about it. Watching this film almost transports you into that time like few other films can. The cast is all brilliant and the scenes with Woody Allen and Peter Sellers are particularly are hilarious. There are some great action scenes too to appeal to the average Bond fan and some of the most beautiful Bond girls as well. Ursula Andress (who was also in the first Bond film Dr. No) is probably the single most beautiful Bond girl out of the entire series. Barbara Bouchet as Moneypenny and Joanna Pettet as Mata Bond (the illegitimate daughter of James Bond and famous spy Mata Hari) aren't far behind. David Niven plays a great aging, debonair Bond and apparently was Ian Fleming's original choice for Bond. Overall this film is brilliant and easily the best of the 60's spy spoofs I have seen. There is so much going on in this film (there were 5 directors each directing different scenes) that it may take a few watches to absorb it all, but it is well worth it.

RATING: 5/5

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Operation Kid Brother (1967, Alberto De Martino)

Not sure how many times before I've mentioned it, bu I LOVE James Bond. Ever since I was 9 years old, in the summer of 1990, I have been a huge fan. This film here is a spoof of the Bond series featuring original Bond star Sean Connery's brother Neil as well as many actors from the Bond series. I remember a local video store had a VHS copy of a Bond spoof and something is telling me it might have been this. I could be wrong though, considering the number of Bond spoofs from back in the 60s.

The story of this film is not too important (or interesting) but I'll try to sum it up. Neil Connery plays Dr. Connery, the younger brother of an unavailable notable secret agent so he is chosen to help save the world against THANATOS, an evil crime organization led by Beta (Adolfo Celi). Apparently he can read lips and shoot a bow an arrow, very important skills....if you're a deaf Indian.

That's as far as I'll go with the plot because it didn't really keep my attention and I'm sure I missed parts. Though some of the 60s Bond films themselves are a little silly and the plots are sometimes heavy handed, they had more than enough to keep your attention and even marvel at the ingenious characters, gadgets and visuals on display. Operation Kid Brother (aka OK Connery aka Operation Double 007) had very little of any of that. The only real pluses for the film was the cast, which I stated before was comprised of mostly actors from previous James Bond films (Bernard "M" Lee, Lois "Moneypenny" Maxwell, Adolfo "Largo" Celi, Anthony "Professor Dent" Dawson and Daniella "Tatiana Romanova" Bianchi) as well as seeing Sean's younger brother on screen, despite the fact that his voice was dubbed with an American actor. I read online that Neil said he had appendicitis when they were to dub his lines so someone else filled in. I say What the Fuck? The dude probably talks like a girl or Gilbert Gottfried or something and the producers were planning on dubbing him all along. Regardless, I wouldn't waste your time tracking this down unless you are a huge (and by huge I mean HUGE) Bond fan. Not that you'll be able to find a legitimate DVD of it anyway. Oh, this movie was even featured on MST3K, which pretty much sums up the quality of it.

RATING: 2/5

Monday, July 13, 2009

Steven Seagal

As promised, here begins my Steven Seagal reviews. To be honest I had never seen a Steven Seagal film before. I know it sounds impossible and astonishing, but it's the truth. I do remember watching part of one on TV in the early 90's (I think it was Above the Law but I'm not sure), but that's it. I happen to work with two passionate Seagal fans and after hearing them talk about some of his films I just had to give them a shot. I decided to write up a few short reviews, mainly because I think these films can be summed up as such.

Above the Law (1988, Andrew Davis)

In Seagal's debut, he plays an ex CIA agent and Martial Arts master named Nico Toscani. He quit because he didn't agree with certain practices being performed on Vietnamese prisoners by a commanding officer Zagon (Henry Silva). Many years later, Nico is now a cop and gets mixed up with Zagon again as well as a bunch of illegal immigrants and drug dealers.

This was a great debut for Seagal, actually one of my favorites of the ones I watched. Seagal did the most karate (or Aikido) in this one and it was amazing how one blow to the chest and the villains would just fall. Overall a great action film with a decent story and a great villain (Henry Silva).

RATING: 4/5


Hard to Kill (1990, Bruce Malmuth)

Seagal's second film starts off with him as a cop named Mason Storm who is doing a little detective work trying to bust a case involving some mobsters and crooked politicians. After being spotted videotaping a meeting with the criminals, Storm's house is invaded and him, his wife and son are all killed...or so the criminals think. It turns out that Storm is still alive but is in a coma and being held in the hospital under the name John Doe. A British nurse named Andy (Kelly LeBrock) is caring for him and after 7 years, he finally wakes up. He is discovered to be alive by the criminals and is taken into hiding by Andy so that he can regain his strength and after some self acupuncture and a lot of training, Storm is ready to continue where he left off 7 years earlier.

Hard to Kill is a fun movie, though there are a lot of silly parts. Seagal waking up after a 7 year coma with a big burly goatee was hilarious. Why he only grew a goatee I will never know, but it was hilarious. Bill Sadler was great as the villainous politician trying to wipe out Storm and Kelly LeBrock was a perfect heroine for Seagal (they would later marry...and divorce). Not as good as Above the Law, but still watchable.

RATING: 3/5

Marked for Death (1990, Dwight H. Little)

Continuing on we have Marked for Death, the third Seagal film. This time he plays John Hatcher, a DEA agent who decides to retire after his partner is killed. He goes to stay with his sister Melissa (Elizabeth Gracen) and niece Tracey (Danielle Harris) and meets up with his old friend Max (Keith David). Max is disgruntled because he keeps seeing a group of Jamaicans selling drugs to kids at his school where he is a coach. Hatcher ends up killing a few of the Jamaicans, which we find out are part of a voodoo drug dealing gang lead by the evil Screwface (Basil Wallace). Screwface's gang ends up shooting and almost killing his niece, causing Hatcher and Max to seek revenge, which takes them to Jamaica where Screwface has fled.

Marked for Death is a step up from Hard to Kill. The story is more straight forward and Screwface proves to be one mean mofo. The voodoo angle was a little silly in parts, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of the film. Marked for Death definitely had the most bone crunching courtesy of Seagal. It seemed like every villain who attacked him would end up having their arm bent in a way it shouldn't be bent or their spine being snapped (see my "vertabrae cracking" picture a few posts before this one). It was also cool seeing Danielle Harris from Halloween 4 and 5, as well as Rob Zombie's Halloween films (who I met last year) as Seagal's niece.

RATING: 3/5

Out for Justice (1991, John Flynn)

Here, Seagal's fourth film, he plays Gino Felino, an Italian cop working in Brooklyn, where he grew up. He still sees all of the people from his childhood, some good and some bad. One of the bad ones, Richie Madano (William Forsythe, who I also met last year) has turned into a crack-smoking psychopathic murderer who must be stopped. It is now Gino's job to try to find Richie, through a series of lifelong neighbors and bring him to justice.

Out for Justice was probably the best Seagal film I watched, mainly because of William Forsythe. He is such a skilled actor and turned his portrayal of Richie into a very scary, brilliant performance. The scene where he gets out of his car and blows a woman's head off for telling him to move his car was chilling and just wrong. Seagal's performance and faux brooklyn accent was actually quite believable. Lots of violence and shooting and just a great action film.

RATING: 4/5

Under Siege (1992, Andrew Davis)

Under Siege finds Seagal as Casey Ryback, an ex Navy Seal who is now the personal chef for Capt. Adams (Patrick O'Neal) who is heading a group of sailors on a Navy Battleship armed with a bunch of missiles. A band and a playboy playmate (Erica Eleniak) are flown in as a surprise for the Captain's birthday but it turns out the band are actually a bunch of terrorists (led by Tommy Lee Jones) who are in cahoots with some of the sailors to take over the ship. It is now up to Casey to try to take the ship back.

Under Siege had its moments but overall it was a little too much. Seagal is locked in a freezer for the first half of the film and when he gets out the film just takes a little too long to get to it's climax. It wasn't a bad film, but I definitley preferred his earlier movies where Seagal is out fighting crime. Tommy Lee Jones was excellent as Stranix, and ex military man who got screwed over and is now getting revenge.

RATING: 2/5

Fire Down Below (1997, Felix Enriquez Alcala)

Here we have Seagal as an EPA investigator named Jack Taggart investigating Jackson, Kentucky - a small town where his friend and fellow agent was recently found dead. Jack received an anonymous letter from Jackson stating that something is being dumped into their water causing fish and people to die. Jack goes undercover as a handyman passing through town to help the people of Jackson fix anything that needs fixin'. He discovers that local millionaire Orin (Kris Kristofferson) is responsible for dumping the chemicals into the water and must find a way to stop it, without being killed by a bunch of suspicious rednecks.

Fire Down Below was a good addition to Seagal's filmography. It had a solid story and some really good fight/action scenes. Seagal also had a fairly believable southern drawl too. Marg Helgenberger as local misfit Sarah proves to be a decent love interest for Seagal and the performances by other well known actors and/or musicians (Kristofferson, Harry Dean Stanton, Levon Helm, Randy Travis) were also good. Some people might gripe at the "message" of the film and how Seagal movies should be about compound fractures and not messages, but in this film I think there was a good mix of the two.

RATING: 3/5

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Shark Hunter (1979, Enzo G. Castellari)


After reviewing Castellari's Last Shark, I decided it just wouldn't be right if I didn't also review his other Shark movie, The Shark Hunter. Though far from the Jaws ripoff that Last Shark was, it still has it's share of shark attacks and underwater action. This time though, it has the Italian legend Franco Nero in a horrible long blonde wig.

Mike di Donato (Franco Nero) is The Shark Hunter, an Italian recluse (who happens to be an American citizen) living on a Caribbean Island. Mike's family was killed years back so he just kinda keeps to himself, with his Spanish beauty (Patricia/Patrizia Rivera, depending on if you are watching the opening or the ending credits) by his side. He discovers a buried treasure in a sunken plane and attempts to retrieve it, with the aid of a rich vacationer. However a group of thugs (one of which is played by hairy-chested director Enzo Castellari using his given name Girolami) have discovered the treasure too and it becomes a race of who can retrieve the treasure first. Oh yeah, there are also a bunch of scenes of Nero's character punching sharks.

The Shark Hunter is good, silly fun. It has all of Castellari's trademarks - big action, slow motion fight scenes and Franco Nero running a lot and being thrown into puddles. There is also the trademark Guido y Maurizio De Angelis thumping disco score that plays over the scenes with little or no dialogue, which seems to be quite frequent. The story itself is pretty silly but overall it works. There are some scenes of real sharks being killed which kind of sucks, but at least it makes the film sort of believable (bad justification, I know). The fight scenes are good, the characters are all menacing and the underwater photography is decent. Why Nero is dressed up like a hippy I have no idea, I guess it's to enhance his crustiness, but in retrospect it makes his character original. There are flashback scenes of Nero with his normal short hair/mustache combo that we are so used to, but for the most part he looks more like his character in Castellari's Keoma. Nero is probably the most handsome man who ever lived (I am saying this in a non-gay sort of way...but you knew that) so it is a shame that they are trying to make him look gross, but like I said before, at least it's different and who would believe a reclusive shark hunter who looked like a debonair Italian businessman? Well, enough about Nero, I'm starting to sound like a weirdo. If you like Nero and/or Castellari, I would recommend this but if you are looking for a good Jaws-type movie or a big budget underwater film, this ain't it.

By the way, if you are looking for this it is included on the Grindhouse Experience 2 box set, but it looks like a bad vhs transfer. I have an old VHS rental copy that looks way better, so I would suggest that one instead.

RATING: 3/5


Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Terminator (1984, James Cameron)


This review is hard and easy at the same time. How do you successfully review a movie you have loved for half of your life? Many of my reviews are for movies I have just seen for the first time. Movies I am unbiased towards, for the most part. I'll just do the best I can I guess. Back in 1991 when I was about 10 years old, I wanted to see T2 (Terminator 2 for those who are stupid) so badly. Of course my mother wouldn't let me but I did end up catching it on video about a year later. I loved it and begged my mother to let me rent the first one. She was working as a Meat Wrapper in the local supermarket with three foul mouthed guys who told her that The Terminator was not appropriate for her 11 year old son (swearing, nudity, violence and everything else that is great about the movie). Finally I couldn't take it anymore and I tricked my dad into letting me buy a copy for sale at a nearby video store. When my mother found out she was pissed but let me keep it (she was never very good at discipline). Anyway, I watched it. Then watched it again. Then watched it again and again and again and it soon became my favorite movie.

The year is 2029. The world is run by machines who are trying to eliminate the few remaining humans who survived after a nuclear war caused by the machines. One man named John Connor rose up to lead the survivors in a fight against the machines. The machines sent a half man/half machine called a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to the year 1984 to kill John Connor's mother, Sarah (Linda Hamilton) in effect erasing his existence. The humans then sent through a young resistance fighter named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to try to protect Sarah against the Terminator.

The Terminator rules in every possible way. The story is thought provoking (fuck those who gripe about the impossibility of the film's events - it's Science Fiction for Crissakes!), the characters are brilliant and the action is non-stop. The special effects are cutting edge (for the time) and still pack quite a punch, courtesy of the late, great Stan Winston. Seeing it on the big screen, I was really impressed by the car chases and just how loud the movie was, something I'd never felt before watching it on home video. The shotgun blasts, the screeching car tires, the futuristic machines...everything. The relationship between Reese and Sarah is probably the thing I love most about this movie. They are just so perfect together I wish Hamilton and Biehn were in a hundred movies together (or even just two - not counting the criminally deleted scene from T2). Oh yeah...then there's Ah-nold as The Terminator. Easily his best role and you can just tell he doesn't give a shit about anyone or anything other than killing Sarah. Let's also not forget the music - Brad Feidel's electronic score and the cheesy 80's pop songs that I so love, as well as the perfectly-casted supporting actors (Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Bess Motta, Rick Rossovich, Bill Paxton and (of course) Dick Miller). I could go on and on discussing every single thing about this film, but I'll leave it at that. The Terminator rules.

RATING: 5/5

Why Steven Seagal rules....



...nuff said.

(A whole buncha Seagal reviews coming real soon!)

Very Important Day in the Life of Starmummy

So last night, July 10th, 2009 marks a landmark in my life. I was finally able to see what is probably my favorite all time movie on the big screen- THE TERMINATOR. It was at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. I've seen this movie so many times but seeing it on the big screen just adds an element missing from every previous viewing. The explosions, car chases and gun shots were so much louder than I could ever imagine watching it on a TV. Michael Biehn's heroism, Linda Hamilton's beauty and Arnold Schwarzenegger's bigness were even more brilliant than ever before, which I didn't think was possible.

Props to my friend Six String for making the trek with me. Check out his blog, it rules.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Easy Rider (1969, Dennis Hopper)


Now that my Howling marathon has ended, I thought I would treat myself with a real classic. I saw Easy Rider a few times as a teenager and loved it. I've been meaning to check it out again but just hadn't gotten around to it until now. Actually the thing that made me go get this out of the library today was The Byrds. I've been listening to them a lot lately, along with the Easy Rider soundtrack (which features the brilliant Byrds classic I Wasn't Born to Follow and two Roger McGuinn solo songs It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) and Ballad of Easy Rider). Anyway, the mood served me so I popped it into ye ole DVD player and that's that.

Easy Rider, the quintessential biker movie, stars Peter Fonda as Wyatt (aka Captain America) and Dennis Hopper as Billy, two dope smoking bikers who score some cocaine and then turn around to sell it to fund a cross country trek to "find America". Along the way they meet lots of colorful characters, including an alcoholic lawyer (Jack Nicholson), a bunch of rednecks, a hippy commune and two hookers (Karen Black and Toni "Hey Mickey You're So Fine" Basil). As they ride around they see the real America, from the beautiful scenery to the ugly hatred from those who don't understand them.

Easy Rider is a classic and one of the best road movies out there. The characters are all fascinating and the actors portraying them all hit the nail on the head, adding something unique to each situation the two protagonists are involved in. Hopper, Fonda and Nicholson are all perfect for their roles (which they basically created). Many of the small roles in the film are played by local towns people in whatever town they were filming in at the time and it really makes the film feel more genuine and real. This film really has everything - great music, humor, stunning direction, editing and cinematography and several messages meant to be contemplated and interpreted by the viewer.

RATING: 5/5

The Howling: New Moon Rising (1995, Clive Turner)


I survived! The Howling marathon has come to its conclusion with The Howling: New Moon Rising. Like I stated before, I didn't even know this film existed until way after the fact, due to it's limited availability on Region 2 DVD or VHS. I was very surprised that I found a brand new/sealed VHS copy for $2.00. It was like I struck gold. I couldn't figure out why it was so cheap. Maybe it's not that good?

The Howling: New Moon Rising (I'm not typing that again, it's too damn long. Why couldn't they have just called it Howling VII?) takes place right after the events in the sixth film. The bones of a werewolf are found in some redneck town. A mysterious Australian stranger named Ted (Clive Turner) stumbles into town (what's with these people from other countries mysteriously "appearing" in East Asscrack, USA seemingly out of nowhere?) looking for....this sounds really familiar...food and shelter in exchange for work. He gets hired to work at some hillbilly bar where line dancin' and singin' runs rampant. Ted fits right in (despite the fact that he's a long haired Australian who kind of looks like Eric Idle from Monty Python) and is soon cracking (very, very, very bad) jokes with the local yokels. After a bunch of songs and bad jokes, there is a werewolf prowling around, or at least we suspect that's what it is with the nauseatingly bright and blurry POV camera work.

I could go on, but what's the point? This movie sucked so hard. Easily the worst in the series, it actually made me yearn for part III. The acting in this film is some of the worst I have ever seen. Apparently most of the "actors" in this film are actually real people just hired because they were already regulars at the bar that most of the (non) action takes place. If you watch the end credits you'll notice that most of the cast use their real names. I believe there is only one scene with a werewolf (not including flashbacks from parts IV, V and VI, which they unsuccessfully try to tie to this film) and it looks really bad. The fact that the director, producer, writer and star are all the same person (Clive Turner) should have warned me how stinky this giant loaf of a movie would be. The film is half footage of assorted bar patrons performing country songs on the bar's stage. And I'm not talking about normal films that take place in bars where the band is performing in the background and the camera focuses on the main characters. In this, the band is more of a main character than anyone else. Did I mention how bad the acting was? I swear to God I was expecting to see someone holding cue cards on the side of the screen. I don't know why this movie was made but I wish it wasn't. It depressed me how bad it was and now I feel bloated from all of the comfort food I had to consume to make it to the end. I'm going to stop now before I hit something. Don't watch this movie, unless you want to suck.

RATING: 1/5


Howling VI: The Freaks (1991, Hope Perello)


My Howling film festival is nearing the end. For awhile I actually thought that part VI was the final Howling film until I found out that there was a seventh film only released on VHS. The series took an upswing with parts IV and V so hopefully it won't dip back down into the pooper with the final two entries.

Howling VI: The Freaks follows a British drifter named Ian (Brendan Hughes) who stumbles into the rural mid-western town of Canton Bluff in search of day labor and a place to sleep. The local minister, who has lost his faith, offers up a bed and meals if Ian helps him rebuild the church. Ian accepts and then starts gettin' googly eyes from his the preacher's daughter Elizabeth (Michele Matheson) but refuses to get involved with her, despite his desires. We soon find out he's a werewolf (actually we sort of knew from the beginning but whatever) and is kidnapped and put on display by a traveling circus ringleader named R.B. Harker (Bruce Martyn Payne), whose mysterious past is somehow linked to Ian.

Not really your average Werewolf film but then again when you think about it, they have all been pretty out there plot-wise (at least the ones that have plots). This one actually wasn't that bad. The first half was pretty good and the werewolf effects were pretty well done. There were some annoying characters (the sheriff, the mayor and the she/he in the circus) but other than that all of the actors were competent, especially Brendan Hughes as Ian. You really felt bad for him, as silly as that sounds. The movie started running out of steam in the last half but the end fight between the Werewolf and Harker (who proves to be not quite human either) is pretty bitchin'. Overall a decent entry in the series.

RATING: 3/5

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Howling V: The Rebirth (1989, Neil Sundstrom)


Ok I passed the half way mark in the Howling series. We've seen E.T.'s mom, Christopher Lee and a whole slew of other folks battling those hairy MoFos. The series definitely crapped itself early on with parts 2 and 3 but made up for it with part 4, a decent entry. I definitely remember the box for Howling V from my youth but never watched it.

Howling V starts off in a castle in the 15th century with a massacre meant to rid the world of werewolves, but after the last two kill themselves we hear a baby crying, meaning one werewolf survived. Now it is in the present time (or 1989) and a group of seemingly unrelated people, ranging from celebrities, athletes and several other professions, are invited to the re-opening of a castle in Hungary (I think) that has been closed for over 500 years. I'm sure you can guess what castle. After a snow storm prevents them from leaving the castle, it's only a matter of time before a werewolf starts killing off the group one by one.

Very different from the other Howling films, this one is more of a murder mystery and from what I've read online is basically a rehash of the 70's classic Amicus film The Beast Must Die (which I have but haven't watched yet). You see the werewolf throughout the film but only in quick shots and I don't recall any transformation scenes. This may be disappointing for those hoping for a good werewolf movie but I'd still say the film was enjoyable. It started out kind of rough with a bunch of lame character introductions and bad dialogue, but once the film got going, I was totally into it. The actors range from crappy to decent, but the atmosphere is great. The werewolf killings are lacking (you only see the after effects) but not terrible. Overall I'd say it was a decent film, but not really for werewolf fans.

RATING: 3/5


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988, John Hough)


Ok, I am starting to regret this venture. There is no way this series can get worse, right? RIGHT?!? Oh god, please let this film not suck ass. Apparently it is based on the same story (Gary Brandner's novel The Howling) that the first film is based on, though this one is more true to the story. I remember seeing the video box for this a lot as a kid but never saw it until now. Please don't suck. Please don't suck. Please don't suck.

Howling IV starts off with an author Marie Adams (Romy Windsor), who is having strange visions. She eventually goes nuts and ends up in a hospital. She is told by her doctor that she needs to go away to relax, so she goes to stay in a cabin with her husband Richard (Michael T. Weiss), in the rural town of Drago. While there, Marie starts having more visions and hears an animal howling every night. The townfolk all insist there is nothing there to be afraid of while Richard starts getting fed up with Marie's weirdness. He starts having an affair with the local shopkeeper, while Marie gets it in her head that there are werewolves around. She is aided by a fan Janice (Susanne Severeid) and Marie's coworker Tom (Anthony Hamilton). Is she hallucinating or is there really a werewolf out there?

Phew. Luckily this film is not nearly as bad as part III. Starting from scratch and dismissing all previous Howling films, this one gets points for its use of atmosphere over visuals. You don't even see the werewolf really until the last 15 minutes. The transformations scenes, especially the first one was well done and much different than in the other films. In this one, the human's skin all melt off into a puddle of glop and the end result is a werewolf. Also there are some crazy visuals at the end with one of the character's heads as it is tranforming. Its face is pretty much ripped off to make way for the werewolf within. Though a little slow and some of the characters were blah, the film worked overall, with a great finale. One last thing about the film is Michael T. Weiss' mullet and wardrobe consisting of canvas vests. Dude, WTF? The 80s were obviously a time of fashion faux pas but this is extreme.

RATING: 3/5



Howling III: The Marsupials (1987, Phillipe Mora)


Marsupial werewolves? I guess it makes sense since the film takes place in Australia, where there are lots of other marsupials like Kangaroos and Wallabies. Ok, I guess it still doesn't make much sense, but whatever. With the rousing success (*FART*) of Howling II, Phillipe Mora came back to helm the next sequel. It couldn't be any worse than the previous entry, right?

Howling III starts off with a girl named Jerboa Jerboa (Imogen Annesley), a werewolf who escapes from her Australian tribe in the town of Flow (read it backwards....Nilbog anyone?) to the big city of Sydney. She is spotted by a young man named Donny Martin (Leigh Biolos) who is looking for a girl to be in a horror movie he is working on (don't ask). She accepts and gets a part in the movie, while also becoming the man's lover. After a few sessions of hot monkey love, Jerboa starts turning into a werewolf and gets hit by a car. At the hospital, she is discovered to be pregnant. Anyway, some stuff happens and Jerboa is brought back to Flow by three werewolf nuns (don't ask) and then gives birth to the cutest fucking thing I've ever seen. Seriously, I wish my wife was a marsupial werewolf so we could have a little werewolf baby. Donny finds Jerboa and they go off to live in the wilderness, along with a doctor and his werewolf ballerina wife (don't ask).

Howling III - where do I start? I'll start with the good. Imogen Annesley (hot Australian chick) and the cute fucking werewolf baby. That's really it. This movie made my head hurt because of all the stuff they tried to jam into it. I mean, they are in Flow, then they're in Sydney, then they're in a hospital, then they're back in Flow, then they are in a hospital again. Jesus Christ, it wouldn't have surprised me if they took a trip to Gilligan's Island, Disneyworld and then a fucking rocket ship to Mars. Another bad thing about the film was the makeup effects. If you're going to make a horror film with a terrible story, at least make the transformations look cool. Maybe they thought they actually had a good script because the effects were ass. They looked like really bad puppets. And what was up with the sex scenes? They were so covered in sweat it was disgusting. Made me want to take a shower. The cast ranged from decent to annoying (the big bald guy who played Jerboa's rapist werewolf stepfather annoyed the hell out of me, as did the bumbling doctor who was in 75% of the film but contributed nothing to it). So yeah, this movie was actually worse than the Howling II. At least that one made sense. Phillipe Mora should have quit making movies after The Beast Within. Fuck this stupid movie in the ear. I wish I was a time traveling marsupial werewolf so I could go back to 1987 and hide the original negative in my pouch before it could be released.

RATING: 1/5



Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf (1985, Phillipe Mora)



I still remember seeing the video box for Howling II as a kid and its silly subtitle "Your Sister is a Werewolf". I always assumed it was more of a tongue in cheek horror comedy because of this. For the most part, I was wrong (we'll get to the comedic bits a little later). I did watch this about two years ago for the first time, mainly because I liked the first one so much and it had Christopher Lee.

Howling II takes place directly after the events in the first film. Ben White (Reb Brown) is out to find out what really caused his sister Karen's death (played by Dee Wallace in the first film and by some other lady in this one). One of Karen's fellow news reporters Jenny (Annie McEnroe) befriends him and they end up taking a trip to Transylvania after meeting up with a priest named Stefan Crosscoe (Christopher Lee). Crosscoe insists that Karen was a werewolf and that they must travel to Transylvania to destroy the queen werewolf Stirba (Sybil Danning).

Howling II is for the most part a disappointment. The story is silly, the werewolves look ridiculous and the cast is...well, lets talk a little bit about the cast. First of all, Christopher Lee. What the fuck were you thinking? I read that he claims that the biggest regret of his career was turning down the role of Dr. Loomis in Halloween. I'd say he must have forgotten that he was in this movie when he said that. Though I also read that he apologised to Joe Dante (director of The Howling) on the set of Gremlins 2 for being in this film. Lee is fine but the over the top dialogue and overall ridiculousness of his character makes it nothing but laughable. Next up is Reb Brown: Action Hero. Reb uses his boyish good looks here to basically stand around and spout unfunny one liners. Then there are the werewolf trio of Stirba (Sybil Danning), Vlad (Judd "I wonder if this is his real name?" Omen) and Mariana (Marsha A. Hunt). The scenes with the werewolf orgy is absolutely hilarious. They lay in bed scratching, biting and snarling at each other. You really have to see it to believe it. The eroticism of this scene is pretty much void when it shows them all hairy and whatnot. Gasp! It's like every guy's worst nightmare when you finally see a hot girl nekkid and she's all hairy. Gag! (no offense to all you hairy women out there) Moving on, there is also a recurring music video throughout the film of some faux-new wave band singing a song which isn't half bad...until they play the thing 20 times! Actually, now that I think of it the beginning of the film (which starts with the new wave band performing on stage in a club) is VERY reminiscent of the beginning of the David Bowie vampire film The Hunger, though Tony Scott's ultra cool and dark direction is leagues above this film (as is Bauhaus' performance of their classic Bela Lugosi's Dead to this film's unknown band). Also of note is the end credits scene, which shows scenes from the film cut up with (you guessed it) the film's new wave theme song. You can tell the director is having a little fun, showing Danning rip off her top about 20 times. Actually, this end credit scene should have been the movie! Speaking of the director, Phillipe Mora, I think he did a competent job and he definitely added some style to the silly plot (especially the puppet show scenes). I loved his film The Beast Within so I'll admit I was a little disappointed with this one. Oh, the one thing I did like about this film was when the dwarf's eyeballs popped out. Great scene.

RATING: 2/5



Friday, July 3, 2009

The Howling (1981, Joe Dante)


Well B Movie enthusiasts, now begins my Howling marathon. You asked for it and now you're gettin' it. Lets begin with the now classic first entry in The Howling series. I forget when I first heard about this film but I know I was a teenager. I'm not sure if I had heard much about it or just that it was one of the best werewolf films out there. I do remember really liking it and of course being blown away by the transformation scenes.

The Howling begins with Karen White (Dee Wallace), a news reporter who is being stalked by serial killer Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo). She agrees to meet with him at a porno theater, unbeknownst to him that she is wearing a police microphone. After losing communication with the police, Karen is forced to watch a film of a woman being raped before being attacked by Quist. At the nick of time, the cops bust in and kill him, though his body soon disappears from the morgue. Karen and her husband Bill (Christopher Stone) are sent out to a place called "the Colony" by her doctor, a resort meant to help his patients relax. While there, Karen starts hearing and seeing strange things and soon enough she realizes that the town she is in is filled with....well, you know.

The Howling is still one of the greatest werewolf movies ever made. Joe Dante really knows how to make an old-timey monster movie (as he did with Gremlins and Piranha), while still keeping it fresh and using modern themes and effects. The most astonishing thing about the film, as I stated before, is Rob Bottin's unbelievable werewolf transformations. Though not better than Rick Baker's transformation FX in American Werewolf in London (Bottin consulted Baker on the Howling's FX), they go on much longer. The storyline is fun and the actors chosen are all perfect. Dee Wallace and (future hubby) Christopher Stone are excellent as are the rest of the cast (including John Carradine, Patrick Macnee, newcomer Elisabeth Brooks and Dante regulars Dick Miller and Belinda Balaski). Overall, a terrific movie that you can watch over and over again (I've seen it at least five times).

RATING: 5/5



Thursday, July 2, 2009

Second Quarter Review - 2009

Wow, here it is. The year is officially half over. As before, I continued recording my movie watching progress and have a handy dandy list of what movies I watched starting 4/1/09 and ending 6/30/09. I would still be happy to talk to anyone about any of the movies watched and would be happy to review anything if someone has a special request. If anyone has a movie I haven't listed that they'd like to see reviewed (or if you just want to pass along a copy of your favorite/least favorite movie) I'd be happy to give it a watch and review it. I still owe Mykal from Radiation Cinema a review of the At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul disc that he was so kind to send to me. I haven't forgotten, just haven't gotten around to it yet. Anyway, here's the list and I'd love to hear anyone's feedback (good/bad/stupid):

4/2
Cat in the Brain

4/4
Vanishing Point

4/5
Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires
Bloodsucking Freaks
Jess Franco's Count Dracula
Mark of the Devil
Bloody Moon
Four of the Apocalypse

4/9
Beast in Space (unrated)

4/10
Sole Survivor

4/11
Burnt Offerings

4/12
Beyond the Door
H.O.T.S.
The Psychic
Repulsion
Opera

4/18
Slaughter High

4/19
Manhattan Baby
Sinful Dwarf
Lucio Fulci's Zombie
Touch of Death
Mephisto Waltz

4/25
Django Kill

4/26
Unhinged
Loveless
Murder Rock
Conquest
The Wrestler
Shock

5/2
Emergency Squad

5/3
Cop in Blue Jeans
White Dog
Madman
Revolver
28 Weeks Later

5/7
The Cynic, The Rat and the Fist

5/10
Almost Human
Violent Naples
Man From Deep River

5/23
Fistful of Dollars

5/26
Survival Quest

5/27
Beastmaster

5/28
Losin' It

5/31
Navy Seals
Battlestar Galactica

6/4
Rancid - Music Videos

6/7
Star Trek the Motion Picture
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan

6/9
Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock

6/11
Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home

6/12
Malabimba: The Malicious Whore

6/14
Ninth Configuration
Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier
Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country

6/17
Wise Blood

6/18
Ministry - Tapes of Wrath

6/19
Critters

6/21
Critters 2
Critters 3
Critters 4

6/22
Hardcore

6/26
Shivers

6/28
The Last Shark
Piranha
Piranha part Two: The Spawning

6/29
Orca the Killer Whale

The Howling Marathon Begins!


Yes folks, your votes were tallied and at a whopping two votes the winner of my "What Franchise Should I Watch Next?" contest is The Howling. I watched the first Howling film tonight and will try to get through them as quickly as possible. There are 7 films in the series, the last of which (Howling: Bad Moon Rising) is a VHS only release that I picked up for $2.00 still sealed! Keep your eye on the site for the reviews.

P.S. - The pants in the pic above were totally intentional. They are there to symbolize something, I just haven't made up what that is yet.