Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Wild World of Bat Woman (2012, Shout! Factory)

Released last month as part of Shout! Factory's Shout! Select line (only available through their website) is another sought after episode of the classic series Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Originally released on VHS and DVD from Rhino way back in 2001, this episode is finally available again on DVD.

This episode starts out with a short entitled Cheating, which isn't about adultery but about cheating in school.  We meet a boy who realizes that he'd rather cheat then study and ends up bringing his friend down with him.  After he is caught, he realizes the repercussions weren't worth the risk.  After the short we are treated with the excremental classic The Wild World of Bat Woman.  A sad attempt at cashing in on the popular Batman series, this film from 1966 features a crime fighter named Bat Woman who has an army of attractive young women called Bat Girls who are trying to obtain an atom bomb and prevent the evil Rat Fink from stealing it.

The Wild World of Bat Woman is an unwatchable piece of garbage that should never have been committed to celluloid.  The crew of the Satellite of Love (Mike, Crow, Tom Servo) identify this early on and rip the film to shreds.  They comment how the film makes no sense and has scenes that seem like they are pulled from other films.  The intro short Cheating is the real highlight here (and is for many episodes).  Ridiculous 50s educational shorts are always the best material for MST3K and they do this one justice too.  Though not one of the best episodes (I had trouble sitting through the feature), there is enough hilarity to make it worth a watch.

RATING:  7/10

Buy the DVD directly from Shout! Factory HERE

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Girl in Gold Boots (2012, Shout! Factory)

Released last month as part of Shout! Factory's Shout! Select line (only available through their website) is another sought after episode of the classic series Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Originally released in Rhino's MST3K vol. 4 set way back in 2003, this episode is finally available again on DVD.

The Girl in Gold Boots starts off with a drifter named Buz on his way to Hollywood.  He talks a beautiful waitress named Michele with an abusive father to come with him, partially because he is attracted to her and partially because he doesn't have enough gas money to get there.  He promises her that he can get her a job at a dance club in Hollywood where his sister works.  On the way there they meet up with Critter, a singer/guitarist who also has his eyes on the girl.  Once they get to Hollywood, drama ensues and everyone's true colors are revealed.

Mike, Crow and Tom Servo have their work cut out for them with The Girl in Gold Boots.  The film, from B-Movie King Ted V. Mikels, is not only hilariously bad but very watchable.  One problem with some of the MST3K episodes is that the movies the boys are watching are just so unwatchable that it makes sitting through an hour and a half episode tough.  Girl in Gold Boots is an exception and the crew's witticisms are frequent and dead on for most of the film.  Mike even does his own impression of Critter which was one of the funniest things I've seen in the series.  Overall,one of the funniest MST3K episodes I've seen.

RATING:  9/10

Order this DVD directly from Shout! Factory HERE

Fix: The Ministry Movie (2011, Douglas Freel)

When I was a teenager, especially after Nine Inch Nails became really popular, I kept hearing about a band named Ministry.  I knew they were industrial and heard a few of their songs but they weren't really what I was looking for at the time.  Several years later I heard more of their music and became a fan.  Though hated by Ministry frontman Al Jourgensen and most Ministry fans, their debut album With Sympathy is one of my favorite albums of all time (I would probably call it my favorite synth pop album ever made).  I do like their later, harder industrial music a lot too and that is what you hear in Fix: The Ministry Movie.  I've heard rumors about Jourgensen's sordid past but never in great detail (nor could I tell if any of it was even true).  Well, with this new documentary film, I learned that the rumors are true...and they're not pretty.

Fix: The Ministry Movie is mainly a tour documentary featuring backstage and on stage footage of the band from their 1996 Sphinc-tour.  The film also features recent interviews with many of hard rock's biggest names including Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Lemmy (Motorhead), Maynard James Keenan (Tool), David Yow (The Jesus Lizard), Dave Navarro (Jane's Addiction) and more.  The film focuses mainly on frontman Al Jourgensen's wild behavior and drug addiction, as well as how influential his music was and still is.

Only in today's culture where no one's lives are private, especially those with a large following would we ever see a film like Fix.  Nothing is censored, nothing is cut out, nothing is taboo.  Fix graphically shows real life...at least in the world of Al Jourgensen.  We see the artiste shooting heroin, penetrating a cooked turkey about to be served to the road crew, overcome with paranoia and lots of other scary things.  We also hear stories about Jourgensen from those who know him and many of those are just as scary (the worst of which is told by David Yow of The Jesus Lizard who we also see completely naked several times throughout the film).  Fix is shocking, disgusting, raw, honest and brilliant.  The fact Jourgensen allowed this to be released says a lot about him, which you will learn after watching the film.  Just released by CAV/Blairwood Entertainment/Gigantic Pictures, this DVD also comes with a CD of Industrial/Ministry-like songs from former Ministry member Paul Barker featuring Taylor Momsen, Nivek Ogre, Chris Connelly, USSA, Alexis S.F. Marshall and Jeffrey Kinart. 

RATING:  10/10

You can order the DVD/CD/Poster combo or an Ultimate combo with a t shirt HERE

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Girl in Room 2A (1974, William Rose)

Just released from the fine folks at Mondo Macabro is the stylistic, 70s Italian horror film The Girl in Room 2A.  I guess calling it a horror film is somewhat of a broad term since this film has elements from several different genres.  I was unfamiliar with the film when it was announced to be hitting DVD but once I read the interesting plot, I had to check it out.  I was also a fan of the leading lady, Daniela Giordano, from such classics as Bava's Four Times that Night and Sergio Martino's Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key as well as Lady Frankenstein's Rosalba Neri who has a small role. 

The Girl in Room 2A stars Giordano as Margaret Bradley, a young woman who has just been released from prison.  She is offered a room at a local boarding house and soon finds that something odd is going on.  She meets a man whose sister was recently staying at the house and disappeared without a trace.  Together they try to investigate the disappearance but may find themselves at the hands of the red hooded killer and his satanic cult secretly living in the boarding house.  Oh yeah, did I mention that a red hooded killer and his satanic cult are living in the basement killing girls who are impure?

The Girl in Room 2A, as I hinted in my first paragraph, isn't just your typical Italian horror movie.  It has elements of a giallo, supernatural horror, satanic horror and murder mystery all wrapped up into one sleazy little package.  Giordano is stunning as our damsel in distress and the rest of the cast are all competent.  There were some nice kills in the film, especially in the first 10 minutes, and a lot of brooding atmosphere.  My one gripe about the film itself is the soundtrack.  There were scenes where the music being played sounded more like army music (lots of brass and drum rolls) than a subtle complementary score.  Though there were some slow spots I found myself pretty engrossed in the story at the halfway point, which is always a good sign and the ending didn't disappoint.  Mondo Macabro's DVD looks and sounds great.  There are a few scenes where the language switches from English to Italian with English Subtitles but this didn't impair my viewing pleasure.  You can also choose to watch the whole film in Italian with English subs so that's probably the way to go.  Also included on the disc is a lengthy interview with Giordano, a trailer and biography info.

RATING:  8/10

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

American Reel (2003, Mark Archer)

The world lost a great actor in 2009 with the passing of David Carradine.  Known by most from the TV series Kung Fu, Carradine was in pretty much every type of film out there over his 40+ year career.  My favorites were definitely his work with Roger Corman in the 70s (Death Race 2000 especially).  In American Reel (recently released on DVD by MVD), Carradine plays the role of a singer/songwriter, a role he had played before in Bound for Glory (in which he played Woody Guthrie), only this time he wrote his own songs.

American Reel is the story of a singer named James Lee Springer (Carradine).  Springer had a chance at fame and fortune many years ago but blew it because of his refusal to sell out.  Now, Springer gets another chance with a song he wrote many years ago inexplicably finding its way to the top of the charts.  Without a full length record to sell and the refusal to make music videos, it seems like history may repeat itself.  Along for the ride are Springer's long time manager (Michael Maloney) and comedienne/personal assistant (Mariel Hemingway).

American Reel is fortunate to have a story that is original.  It's not often that we get to see the story of how someone became famous late in their career.  Some of the situations Carradine's character is put into (making a credit card commercial) are a little ridiculous but he does his best to make it work.  The supporting cast are ok but some of the dialogue isn't very well written (or acted).  Carradine's songs are decent folk rock numbers and you can tell he has been playing music for a long time.  Overall the film was a mixed bag that I wouldn't recommend to everyone but definitely would to Carradine fans even just to hear the man's heart poured out over his music.

RATING:  6/10


Friday, April 6, 2012

Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011, Alex Stapleton)

I can't remember when I first heard of Roger Corman.  I had seen the name and probably identified it with his old black and white monster pictures.  It wasn't until I got into horror movies and then exploitation movies that I noticed his name repeatedly popping up.  This wasn't just one little niche of films all being produced by the same guy either.  It was horror, action, sci-fi, sexploitation, WIP films, biker films, comedies, etc.  Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, just released by Anchor Bay Entertainment, perfectly demonstrates the wide range of films he was responsible for and also how important and influential he was on modern day independent cinema...and even today's blockbusters.

Director Alex Stapleton follows Corman's career from his meager start to his current day productions for the SyFy channel.  What's in between though is where the film excels.  Just how many famous careers he started in the film business is discussed as is his knack for making his budgets as low as possible to guarantee not to lose money.  We see in depth interviews from big names like Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich and Robert DeNiro as well as lesser known directors and actors, most of whom have worked for Corman in the past.

Corman's World is a touching tribute to one of the most important (and underrated) film makers of all time.  Influencing so many genres of modern cinema, it is great to see him finally getting the recognition he deserves.  Corman's World is a great mixture of interviews with Corman himself, his wife and fellow producer Julie Corman, various directors and actors who have worked with him and some modern day film makers who found inspiration in his work.  Besides the big names listed above, we also get input from Pam Grier, Eli Roth, Jonathan Demme, Gale Anne Hurd, Joe Dante, Allan Arkush, Dick Miller, Bruce Dern, William Shatner and more.  We also get lots of footage from Corman's films including The Intruder, The Big Bird Cage, Piranha, Dinoshark, his various Edgar Allen Poe films and many more. Included as bonus features on both the DVD and Blu Ray are trailers, extended interviews and personal messages from the folks interviewed to Roger Corman. 

RATING:  10/10

X - The Unheard Music (1986, W.T. Morgan)

I will start this review off the way I like to when talking about a subject that has some nostalgic value.  X was one of those bands I heard a lot about when I was younger and tried to get into but it took awhile for it to click with me.  I remember buying their More Fun in the New World LP at the Grafton Flea Market in Grafton, MA when I was probably 14 or so for $1.00.  I brought it home expecting a nice slice of fast punk but was confused by the political anthems, some of which were more mid tempo or even (gasp!) slow.  I wouldn't say I hated it but I put it aside and didn't listen to it again.  Probably about a year later I received a copy of X's Los Angeles/Wild Gift CD for Christmas and though I liked some of the songs, they were still not exactly what I was looking for at the time.  It took a few years when I saw The Decline of Western Civilization and the purchase of their Under the Big Black Sun album before X really clicked with me.  I went back and revisited their other albums and suddenly I felt like I really got it.  X - The Unheard Music is a documentary of the film released when they were at the height of their brilliance that has recently found its way to DVD and Blu Ray courtesy of MVD.

X were one of the most popular bands in the late 70s/early 80s L.A. punk scene, along with The Dickies, The Germs, The Alleycats and many more.  Before the scene became dominated by Hardcore bands like Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, Wasted Youth, the L.A. punk scene, much like the early NY/CBGB punk scene, adopted the punk mentality but each band had a different approach and sound.  X took their love of rockabilly and country music and sped up the tempos making a melodic, furious sound highlighted by Billy Zoom's rockabilly guitar solos and bassist John Doe and Exene's harmony vocals.  Top it all off with one of the most talented drummers, D.J. Bonebrake, and you have a band at the top of their game.  The Unheard Music chronicles how the band started, where they were headed and just what made them so great.

The Unheard Music is one of the most personal accounts of a musical group that I have seen in the form of a documentary.  Not like the posthumous documentaries sprinkled with interviews of band members and hangers on, The Unheard Music is a fly on the wall look into the band at the height of their popularity.  Though X had a few hits and are considered legends now, they never received the popularity that everyone expected (and that they deserved).  Each band member proves to be an interesting character, something a lot of band documentaries are missing, and we get to see their private lives up close and personal.  The most memorable moments in the film include Exene talking about the death of her sister and D.J. explaining his "polyrhythmic" drumming method.  In closing, this film should be seen by anyone who likes a good rock documentary (or any documentary), especially fans of the band or punk rock.  The Unheard Music features new interviews with the band and film makers.  Also included is a reproduction of Exene's Unheard Music songbook.

RATING:  10/10

Purchase the DVD HERE

Purchase the Blu Ray HERE

Winner for the Corman's World documentary on Blu-Ray announcement

Thanks to all who left comments about their favorite Corman film.  It's always fun to hear about which crazy Corman film captured the hearts of my readers.  After careful consideration, I decided to choose six string, whose funny reference to Erin "Joanie" Moran in Galaxy of Terror cracked me up.

Congrats to six string and thanks again for everyone who entered.  Hopefully I'll have some more contests soon!