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January 1, 2020

A Binge too Far #8: Jack Frost duo (1997 – 2000)

The titular killer snowman from Jack Frost (1997).
This column is reserved for (somewhat) popular films that I had not seen previously, but this time I made an exception and re-visited the Jack Frost duo (1997 – 2000) for the purposes of the Christmas spirit. Because, you know, who doesn’t love a murderous snowman?

Reviews:
Jack Frost (1997) VHS box art.

Jack Frost (1997)

During a snowy winter night, the titular serial killer [Scott MacDonald from Jarhead (2005)] is transferred from prison to medical facilities in order to become a guinea pig of a scheduled experiment. Combining the forces of the weather and his own evil nature he manages to kill the guards and escape, but a terrible accident mutate him into a snowman creature. He is now after the people that caused him his troubles and will murder his way into destroying them.

Based upon a story by Michael Cooney (who also penned the screenplay and directed) and Jeremy Paige, this is boasting hilarious one-liners and it combines the Christmas spirit with inventive snowman kills. It is actually so much fun that I couldn’t help thinking that Troma would love to have done a movie like this. Also starring Shannon Elizabeth, who later became famous via American Pie (1999).

Jack Frost 2... (2000) DVD box art.
Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman (2000)

Jack Frost (the voice is provided by returning Scott MacDonald) returns in order to get revenge from the people that wronged him and this time he has for support his little snow children as well that are as much murderous.

Writer/director Michael Cooney returns with an insane sequel in which the kills become even more inventive than those of the original. Some primitive CGI are employed as well (mostly in the form of mutant snow children) but the main work is still achieved by the aid of good old-fashioned practical effects (something that was becoming a rarity already in early 2000s low budget genre cinema). The snowman looks more menacing than the first time around which is mostly due to its appearance resembling the original film’s poster which was not the case in the first film. The end result resembles an homage to Critters (1986), Child’s Play (1988), and The Blob (1958), and as such it is very welcome.

Conclusion:


While nowhere near as good as I remembered them from when I first watched them almost twenty years ago, the Jack Frost (1997 – 2000) films are a worthy addition to b-movie outrageousness and more than fun enough to guarantee an entertaining one-view experience. There is a sequence during the sequel’s end credits that left the door open for another sequel that would feature a gigantic snowman, and that was indeed the intention of Michael Cooney, but – much to our disappointment – the plans failed to materialize.

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December 1, 2019

Static Age #7

Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) in a frame from Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974 - 1975)
This Static Age is focusing on Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974 – 1975) which lasted for one season only and 20 episodes in total. It continues the story of the two well-known TV-movies that became a phenomenon and bears the same aesthetics. Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin, who played the same character in the movies as well) is a reporter who investigates a series of crimes or events in Chicago that may be or may be not supernatural. The only issue I have with the series is that in most episodes the conclusion is lasting for only a few seconds, and you may miss something if you blink; but that was a common thing in television series back then anyway.

The first episode, called ‘The Ripper’, is pretty much a rehash of the first film, but this should be expected as viewers that had not seen the films would have wanted a bit of familiarizing. ‘The Zombie’ is about voodoo and the resurrection of the dead, although the most jaw-dropping scene is the one in which the protagonist puts a female reporter in the trunk of his car, in order to get rid of her after the suggestion of a police officer; man, the 1970s were weird. ‘They Have Been, They Are, They Will Be…’ is a very clever episode about a series of murders of both humans and animals whose bone marrow is missing, what could possibly be the connection between those hideous crimes and a series of metal deposits thefts by an invisible force? ‘The Vampire’ is an excellent episode about a super strong female vampire. ‘The Werewolf’ is set on a ship and it is about a – you guessed it – werewolf that causes mayhem for no apparent reason; Paul Naschy would be proud. ‘Firefall’ is about the ghost of a gangster that has a taste for classical music and a series of bizarre explosions that trouble the protagonist. ‘The Devil’s Platform’ is about a dog that is involved in a political conspiracy that includes several suspicious explosions (and maybe a bit of good old-fashioned Satanism). ‘Bad Medicine’ is a really boring episode about a Native American that can turn into a crow, and the connection he may have with some stolen diamonds. ‘The Spanish Moss Murders’ is about a sleep clinic that accidentally unleashed a Cajun monster that lurks in Chicago’s wells. ‘The Energy Eater’ is about the eponymous ghost that feeds on the energy of a hospital that was built upon its grave. ‘Horror in the Heights’ is about swastikas that mysteriously appeared in the walls of a Jewish neighborhood, while its streets are terrorized by a demon that can be transformed into your most-trusted person. ‘Mr. R.I.N.G.’ is about an A.I. anthropomorphic robot that is malfunctioning and quite accidentally kills people. ‘Primal Scream’ is about an ape that goes into a killing spree. ‘The Trevi Collection’ is about a series of murders that are happening in the fashion world (it was so fashionable back then anyway) that may be connected to witchcraft. ‘Chopper’ is about a headless biker ghost that is beheading its victims with a sword! ‘Demon in Lace’ is a particularly scary episode about a succubus. ‘Legacy of Terror’ is about a bunch of Aztecs that remove the hearts of their victims. ‘The Knightly Murders’ is about a medieval museum that when it is about to be turned into a discothèque, a knight is resurrected and kills people. ‘The Youth Killer’ is about a lady that sacrifices people to ancient Greek gods in order to stay young and beautiful. The final episode, ‘The Sentry’, is one of the best, and it is about a human-sized reptile monster that is killing construction workers in a miles-long underground tunnel site.

And now, let’s switch our focus towards some recent shows…

Black Mirror - Season 5
The 5th season of renowned British series Black Mirror (2011 – ongoing) consists of 3 masterful episodes. ‘Striking Vipers’ is about two childhood friends that have moved on with their lives, until they meet again within an updated version of their favorite video game, in which instead of fighting they discover their sexuality, that is being gay and having an attraction for each other. ‘Smithereens’ is about a bitter man (that is high in intelligence and low on income), that kidnaps a man, but it will take a while for the authorities to figure out his motives. ‘Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too’ is about pop star Ashley O (the gorgeous, real-life pop star Miley Cyrus) and her evil aunt that controls her life and career via the aid of pills and manipulation, but it is also about fandom and how it can save the people it worships. Highly recommended.

Genny Savastano (Salvatore Esposito) in Gomorrah
The 4th season of Gomorrah (2014 – ongoing) continues from where the last one ended, with Genny Savastano (Salvatore Esposito) mourning the death of his childhood friend Ciro and haunted by nightmares. Additionally, with pretty much all the older crime bosses dead as well, the landscape of power and control in Naples and its provinces will change, with Genny’s messenger Patrizia (Cristiana Dell’Anna) now appointed the head of his businesses, while help from the gangster’s broader family will be sought; that is, in order for the crime boss to purse more high profile projects, such as the construction of an airport and other endeavors that require influence in the Italian government. Italy’s ultra-successful series continues its drama of backstabbing and murder, proving that the illicit businessmen are no different at all to employees of a company that try to put each other down if only to merely win a little more money, and the only reason we don’t get to sympathize with the gangsters, is because we – the civilians – are as much terrible human beings as they are. Combining art-house sensibilities and the practicality of the television format, this is a unique experience that is highly recommended to all fans of the genre.

Set in a world where superheroes are a commodity, generating millions from appearing in movies and saving the world in general, the 1st season of The Boys (2019 – ongoing) is about store clerk Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) who lost the love of his life by one of the costume-wearing freaks. He is approached by mystery man and overall tough guy Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) who wants to take down the Supes and have them pay for all the collateral damage they cause and expose the life of excess that they live in secret. After so much superhero mythology from Marvel and DC and the billions they made for the film industry, it was inevitable that something like this would get made, namely a high profile comedy with glorious special effects and splatter. What’s more, the soundtrack employs classics such as ‘Neat, Neat, Neat’ by The Damned, and ‘Cherry Bomb’ by The Runaways. It is fun, and maybe more so than many of the myriad brand superhero series that are out there right now. Simon Pegg plays the protagonist’s father.

Iron Fist - Season 2
Set in New York, the 2nd (and thankfully final) season of Marvel’s Iron Fist (2017 – 2018) is only barely better than the previous one and it finds the eponymous superhero, battling Chinese organized criminals, as well as the scum that have taken over his father’s company, while employing martial arts and his superpowers. The main arch villain is Davos (Sacha Dhawan), essentially another iron fisted (a double one at that) warrior with whom the protagonist was affiliated in the past. A strong contester for becoming Netflix worst series ever.

In the 5th season of Peaky Blinders (2013 – ongoing) the titular gang’s head, Thomas Shelby (Cillian Murphy) doubts himself in regards of his power and control, and goes as far as having suicidal thoughts. Taking place amidst the Wall Street Clash and the impact this has, the Black Country criminals get involved with politics (taking a socialist stance in particular, of all things), but their problems come in the form of Billy Boys, a Scottish gang of criminals that is known for backing up fascists, as well as putting their dead enemies on a cross. The series, taking the approach that tells us that the other gangsters are worse than the protagonist ones creates the expected interesting dramaturgy, but not much else. So, will the good bad guys win the baddie bad guys this time around? On a final note, the soundtrack is excellent as always, and aside of the title song (Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s ‘Red Right Hand’), it also includes Black Sabbath’s ‘Planet Caravan’.

And finally, please allow me to speak a word or two about some recent mainstream films…

Dark Phoenix (2019)
Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) develops unmatchable powers and becomes the titular menace in Marvel’s Dark Phoenix (2019), and it is now up to the X-Men, and Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) in particular, to control her before she becomes a greater danger to herself and others. This is nowhere near as bad as mainstream reviewers wanted you to believe it is, and it is quite unfair that it didn’t do well at the box-office (it grossed $252.4 million, on a $200 million budget), because in reality it is an excellent superhero drama that is very often enjoyable too. Sure, the special effects are the standard stuff you expect from this sort of thing and they had me thinking that they could have been achieved by any of Marvel’s TV series on half the budget the present film had, but what we have here is still above average.

Distributed by Blumhouse, The Gallows (2015) is awful, but clocking at 80 minutes (including end credits) it is short enough to not become a torturous experience. An introductory video lets us know that during a school play in 1993 tragedy ensued leaving one actor hanged. Fast forward to the present day (i.e. 2013), a bunch of students of the same school attempt to perform the same stage-play, and as it is to be expected by such fare, the consequences will be deadly. This employs the dreadful ‘found footage’ format, which is fine for 1 minute long Instagram videos (especially when the subject matter is cute cats or funny dogs), but it is simply way too boring when it is stretched to feature length. I really don’t understand how this blending of conventional narrative with amateur video aesthetics could appeal to anybody, but what do I know, as the film grossed $43 million on a $100,000 budget, which means that – you guessed it – a sequel is in the works. Maybe the best thing about it is the validation that happy endings are now passé.

Iron Sky: The Coming Race (2019)
A sequel to the same-titled film 2012, Iron Sky: The Coming Race (2019) is set twenty years later and after the near extinction of human kind which resulted to the inhabitation of a base in the moon that was previously under Nazi ownership. If you find plots about evil Nazis that were secretly refuging in the dark side of the moon (and why should you not, if you tend to like fare that is similar to the usual SyFy material), you may like this, but I couldn’t help myself thinking that all this massive budget (17 million euros – the film does indeed look like a super-production) was wasted on crap like this. The best thing about it is Udo Kier, playing once again a German.

Happily married couple of successful professionals Scott (Michael Ealy) and Annie (Meagan Good) buy a house from Charlie Peck (Dennis Quaid), in The Intruder (2019), but the problem is that the seller has a sketchy past and will not let go of his house at any cost, even if this means murder. Although it is actually well-cast, this standard thriller is laughable at times (the plot is often unbelievable) and the end result is nearly unwatchable.

Ma (2019) poster
The titular middle-aged lady (Octavia Spencer) in Blumhouse Productions’ Ma (2019) lures a bunch of teenagers from the local high school to party at her house, but it soon becomes apparent that her motives are not that innocent. Inducting discussion about bullying and its consequences as well as being left out and the desire to fit in, this horror film is both intelligent and entertaining. Plus it stars Diana Silvers (quite possibly her generation’s cutest girl) and Juliette Lewis (actually her generation’s hottest woman). Made on a modest budget of $5 million, this proved a winner at the box-office as it went on to gross $60.6 million.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) poster
The titular superhero (Tom Holland, excellently cast, despite complaints by many fans) of Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) travels to Europe, where he will fight with (at first) and against (finally) Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal), assisted of course by the ever-knowledgeable Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). This is tedious at times (at over 2 hours long it is oftentimes boring) but the fights are Marvel-ous and they feature the best CGI money can buy, which only makes sense when your budget is $160 million.

Crawl (2019) poster
Ultimately though, the coolest film of the year is Crawl (2019), which is set in Florida, amidst a Category 5 hurricane. The story is focusing on Haley (a very gorgeous Kaya Scodelario), who ignores the police’s orders and goes on a mission to save her estranged father Dave (Barry Pepper); the duo will join forces in order to fight against the many hungry alligators. Produced by Alexandre Aja (who also directed), Sam Raimi (no introduction needed), and Craig J. Flores, this is expectedly full of impressive visuals, but what was not expected was that a little ‘nature attacks’ horror flick that cost $13.5 million to make, would gross $88.5 million! If you fancy crocodile movies, you really can’t find anything better these days, and the crocodiles do indeed look amazing here.


There really is no plot to speak of in writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019), which is essentially a movie about 1969 (a setting) and not much else. However, the cast is great (Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen, and so many others) and the overall aesthetics employed are so pleasing, that you can’t take your eyes of it for its two and a half hours. The ending is bananas as well.

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November 28, 2019

Thankskilling (2009) Movie Review

I did notice that this film was reviewed back in 2011. But as Thanksgiving is upon us (hopefully I upload this on the holiday proper), I thought it might be a good time to revisit this gem. And by gem I mean pile of crap that gives me the proper excuse to start my holiday drinking early.

Here’s the breakdown (and I don’t mean mine after watching this). Five unlucky college kids are headed home for Thanksgiving break. On the way, they’re gonna go party somewhere because reasons, then go home for the holiday. Unfortunately, Johnny’s Jeep breaks down and they’re all stranded for the night. But that’s okay! We have camping gear (why again?) and beer. Let’s just drink and be young and free and do what we want because we’re in college!

Unfortunately, again, the breakdown strands them in Crawberg, the infamous town where, in 1621, some jack ass pilgrim raped a local Indian chief’s daughter. The chief calls a curse down upon the white man via a murderous turkey (okkaaaay). In fact, all whites are in danger now as the bird slaughters his way through the population. And every 505 years, it will rise again to kill any white folks that cross its path.

And because math sucks harder than your mom trying to earn enough cash for that Gucci handbag she’s always wanted, no one wants to wait that long. Cue the local redneck’s dog who pees on the dollar store decoration - I mean, ancient tribal totem pole - thereby resurrecting said turkey a tad early.

I mean, wouldn’t you rise from the dark realm if someone peed on your grave, or sacred lawn ornament? I think you would.

Now officially pissed on, and off, the turkey is hell bent on finding the closest white people he can to exact revenge, murder, and some convenient bestiality (yes, that’s what I said) to fulfill the Indian curse.

Will the kids survive long enough to end the terror? Do we care? Probably not.

It's NOT a phase! I'm a hooman on the inside!
Here’s what’s wrong with this movie. I don’t mind horror and comedy together, but when the writers want to fit in every fucking *winkwink* and nod and pointed finger, acknowledging they’re in a movie or ridiculous reasoning or cliched theme/character, it honestly worsens the whole thing. Once you’ve jammed that 47th elbow to the ribs over yet another double entendre or trope, no one gives a shit about how clever and funny you are(n’t).

Along with that are the cliched characters: jock, fat slob, slut, nerd, and good girl. Not to mention the redneck, the clueless sheriff dad, and the father who only loves his son when he’s first string quarterback. Let’s not forget the gratuitous boobie shot and the big boobie Pilgrim attached to them (played by porn actress Wanda Lust) who’s chased down, bouncing titties and all, and killed after the curse is first created.

And if all that wasn’t ham-fisted enough for you, after the turkey is defeated, he’s thrown on top of some radioactive waste, that just happens to be in an open garbage can out in the middle of the woods (because where else would it be). That, naturally, brings our dastardly villain back to life so he can keep killing. Well, at least one more character before our virginal heroine chops off its head and throws it on the fire.

Fin, where the credits tell us “to be continued…in space.”

I think I rolled my eyes so hard that I kinked my optic nerve.

Mama?

Now, all that said, as I was writing up this review, I actually found a few redeeming aspects. The original music ain’t half bad. Add in those turkey gobbling noises, and it’s rather amusing. The kills are epic. Practical effects, nice and sloppy with the gore. The killer turkey is obviously a hand puppet, which is hilarious. Seems impossible, but any low budget CGI would have made this flick worse, so the practical effects and character are very much appreciated. But the main saving grace of this movie is it’s just over an hour long.

There aren’t a lot of Thanksgiving horror films out there so we have to take what we can get. And while this isn’t a great film, I appreciate the creators taking the time to show some horror love to an underrepresented, and many times overlooked, holiday.

1.5 hatchets (out of 5)





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November 20, 2019

Movie Review: SHHHH (2018)

I understand the appeal of horror and comedy mashing it up. I also understand the absolute HATRED of the mixed genre, because it’s either very good or fucking awful. I’m gonna have to go with the latter for my review of this flick.

SHHHH stars James Henderson as Harris, a struggling film maker in Los Angeles (how original and unexpected.) While trying to make ends meet with his job at a crappy video store—do those still exist?—he spends most of his spare time, when not making movies, with his mom at the theater. They love to go see films together, even lesbian vampires feeling each other up and licking each other’s nipples. And while they do have fun, there’s always some asshole ruining the experience: the food wrapper crinkler, the guy on his phone the whole time, the talkers, the super tall people who sit RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU despite all the other empty seats...it’s enough to drive Harris to murder.

Movie Review: Space Boobs in Space (2017)

I actually volunteered to review this. I just don’t know who I am anymore...

Space Boobs in Space begins with a blonde, busty, plastic-bustier wearing crew person, I guess, reviewing a missive from...wherever. The message is pretty clear: don’t watch the file we’ve included on this disc.

THEN WHY INCLUDE IT???

Anyway, she watches it. It’s basically a copy of an alien talk show, Space Talk, hosted by the green skinned Zee Zee Poof. This particular episode is all about the film, Space Boobs in Space, a collaboration between her species and Earthlings. But not just that! Included are a handful of short films, again made with the Earthlings, as well as interviews with cast and crew.

SBiS tells us the alien race is desperate for human breast milk because their own green titty drink makes them live longer with less fine lines and wrinkles. They’ve had to curb their sexual reproduction, for crying out loud! They lure Earthlings to their planet where they reap the benefits of Earth’s dirty pillows and in exchange, Earth gets the Irilidian green boobie juice and all its health benefits.

The short films in between the talk show’s interviews include: "Operate" (a woman hires a hooker to play the game, Operation, against her hoo-ha), "A Killer Deal" (real estate agent trying to sell some land to Jason Voorhees), "Horror Hands" (woman gets a call from a killer in her house then her hands create dramatic music with everything she touches), "Cheesecake" (woman eating cheesecake seductively in a bathtub shot exploitation style), "Horror of Sandy Creek" (guy filming a documentary about a mud monster), "Ghosted" (dead woman helps living woman NOT become a victim), and finally "Lapdance at the Gates of Hell" (stripper gives vampire a lapdance).

Then we return to the opening mammary madame, she finishes watching the file, grabs some kind of laser rifle, and walks off screen.

I, uh...yeah.

Oh, wait. Can't forget the final wrap up with Grand Dame Muff Tit (Ming Vase Dynasty) with 10 minutes of absolutely annoying, useless, rage-inducing filler of bullshit just so she can have more screen time (that's my guess anyway because there's nothing funny or entertaining about it at all).

The entire premise is completely ridiculous, silly, asinine, campy, tongue-in-cheek, satirical, and boobilicious. But there’s no nudity. If you’re looking for full-frontal, simulated sex, or anything above PG-13, you won’t find it here. I couldn’t find a lot of info on the cast of SBiS but I’m 98% sure they’re all Burlesque performers. It’s all about the tease and the titillation, not the reveal.

Starring actresses like Dee Flowered (also one of the writers), Pandora Disaster, Tittiana Sprinkles, and Cocquette De Jour, you just KNOW this is gonna be fun. Mostly, anyway.

While the acting is horrendous, especially from Ming Vase Dynasty (the lone drag queen as far as I could tell), the stories were mostly enjoyable. My favorite had to be "A Killer Deal". Best acting and probably the funniest premise of all the shorts. "Ghosted" was a little predictable and "Horror Hands" just made me shake my head. The rest were pretty good.

The overall film’s pace was decent but it did start to slow down around the Mud Monster vignette. I found myself getting a bit bored as the same style played out over and over in each section (short, major film, talk show). I mean it’s nice to have ice cream every night but what would be even better is to throw in a brownie or maybe some pie (heh) every now and again.

Overall, this was kind of fun to watch. The jokes were silly, the ideas playful, and the titties WERE glorious. 

2.5 hatchets (out of 5)


(Sorry - can't find a trailer anywhere for this. It's basically just on Amazon Prime.)




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November 1, 2019

A Binge too Far #7: Nazi propaganda documentary duo (1935 – 1940)

Adolf Hitler in a frame from The Triumph of the Will (1935)
When it comes to real life horrors, it is pretty impossible to think of anything worse than the Nazis; the terror and torture they spread through war crimes and more is unmatchable, history has shown. It was inevitable then that the Nazis would make for perfect cinematic villains. The brief Nazisploitation phenomenon is one of my favorite exploitation film subgenres. But whilst that damned momentum of genre film history has been covered to death, not much has been said about actual Nazi cinema; yes, the films that the actual German Social-Nationalist was poisoning the world with. To be honest, I’m not interested in it either, but I thought I’d take a brief look at it, and I picked the two most well-known documentaries and my views are shared bellow.

The Triumph of the Will (1935) poster
The Triumph of the Will (1935)

This was directed by actress-turned-filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl (one of the first women directors) and it is about the well-documented rally of the Nazi party that took place in Nuremberg, Germany (if they only knew that the same city would become their nemesis, via the famous trials).

It is exhausting at almost two hours long (I mean, how many Nazi marches can one see?), but it is admittedly well-shot (no expenses were spared) and quite megalomaniac (not unlike the Nazi party’s leader) at least for a 1930s documentary subject. Repetitive as it is, the words that are uttered by the leaders of the Nazi party are simply stomach-churning. It had me thinking that Hitler was a charismatic leader, but obviously a terrible abomination of a human being that seemed psychotic.

You will notice that among the many members of the Nazi party that take the microphone (Rudolph Hess being the most ‘popular’ of them) many are missing, because this was shot after the Night of the Long Knifes, during which several party members were murdered.

Considering the artistry with which Riefenstahl work and the methods with which she creates powerful images (although the subject matter was powerful enough anyway), this became one of the most inspirational propaganda films ever made. Yes, what it propagandizes is terrible and despicable, but the way it does it is really astounding. Just imagine such a film for humanist ideas, although one could argue that good ideas wouldn’t need to be propagandized.

The Eternal Jew (1940) poster.
The Eternal Jew (1940)

Directed by loyal Nazi filmmaker Fritz Hippler (he was a prominent member of the Propaganda Ministry of the Third Reich), this hour-long documentary, as you might have already guessed from the title, is about the Jews in general, and how those are a problem for the Aryan race in particular.

In order to be able to see it, you’ll have to have a strong enough stomach as you’ll get to see Jewish migration compared to rat infestation and hear astounding claims such as the one in which the Jews are described as “a race of parasites”.

What is really worrying about several of the doc’s arguments is how many of them are still popular among alt-right politicians, such as the claim that Jews are all about making money by buying and selling stuff, without really producing anything.

The end result is basically a collage of images of Jewish people (mainly filmed at ghettos in Poland, shortly after that country was invaded by the Nazis) accompanied by an unintentionally hilarious narration by actor Harry Geise that presents tampered data that would only be believed today by far-right wing sympathizers.

Conclusion


Emetic and vile, The Triumph of the Will (1935) – ordered to be made by Adolf Hitler, and The Eternal Jew (1940) – ordered to be made by Joseph Goebbels, rank amongst the most disgusting pieces of celluloid that I have ever seen, and they can be recommended to nobody other than academics with an interest in the atrocities of the Third Reich. This is also the only way to screen both films in Germany, as although they are not banned per se, they can only be shown for educational purposes.

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October 1, 2019

Static Age #6

Frame from Planet of the Apes (1974)
Based upon the successful same-titled sci-fi movie series Planet of the Apes (1974), created by Anthony Wilson, consists of one season (14 episodes in total) and finds two astronauts landing in a futuristic version of planet Earth, where the apes rule it. Featuring guest performances by people such as Marc Singer and William Smith. It may be episodic (as most genre television was back in the 1970s) and quite formulaic (there is even an episode about horse race, promptly titled ‘The Horse Race’), but it delivers what the fans want, so you can’t really argue with that. With so many episodes focusing on the human protagonists trying to impress the apes (and even going as far as performing D.I.Y. surgery by simply following the advice of a medical book written by humans once upon a time ago), this is not really about humans and apes, but rather about politics, power, slavery, and methods of governance. Some of the politics though are a bit problematic, especially when some of the apes are portrayed to be as cruel as the Nazis via their questionable interrogation methods (see ‘The Interrogation’ episode). It all really comes down to the emetic theory that in the future, apes might run the planet, despite how much smarter and capable humans supposedly are (as per ‘The Cure’ episode).

And now, let’s talk a little bit about some recent shows…

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018) poster art
Set in 1984, Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead) is a young video game engineer who is programming the titular interactive video game in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018), based upon the same-titled book. And pretty much like the game and book themselves, on which you can choose your own adventure, so can the hero via the employment of reality-altering drugs and so can you at the touch of a button. Netflix’s first interactive movie takes you inside the action as you make decisions for the main characters (at some point you are somewhat jokingly involved as a controller of the script as well), but the algorithm does not exactly work. You will find yourself going back and forth, watching the same scenes again and again, not unlike in a not very well developed video game. I got bored making decisions every few minutes about things that don’t really matter (and essentially about an uninteresting story about schizophrenia) and lead to nowhere, and after spending a meaningless two hours of my life I quitted, which could well be because I never liked video games in the first place, and the film is the closest thing to one that you can get. Fans of this sort of thing may have a blast, but I hope Black Mirror (2011 – present) does not materialize another idea like this again.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina - Season 2
Feminism and Satanism go hand to hand on the 2nd season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018 – ongoing) in which we follow the adventures of the titular witch (Kiernan Shipka) as she grows up, changes her hair, and becomes a woman. It is a female empowerment story really, and for once the spells heard in the show are well researched rather than gibberish. Sabrina utters “I kneel before none”, the most liberating and empowering one-liner in the history of television. The soundtrack is again amazing and it includes The Sex Pistols’ ‘Submission’ and Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’. Small screen favorite, William B. Davis also shows up in a bit part.

Created by Alexander Cary and with Luc Besson credited as one of the executive producers, the 2nd (and final) season of Taken (2017 – 2018), finds its male lead Bryan Mills (Clive Standen, a bit miscast), escaping from a Mexican prison where he was left off in the previous season’s finale, and upon returning to the U.S. he will commit himself to a variety of cases against hard criminals, the majority of them connected with the murder of his sister. The whole series are more enjoyable and captivating than they have any right to be. The ‘Absalom’ episode, in which the protagonist team tries to capture a trafficking ring of underage prostitutes, is particularly amazing.

The Deuce - Season 2
Pretty much like its predecessor, the 2nd season of The Deuce (2017 – ongoing) is not so much about a story (sure, there is one, of sorts, about the Martino brothers – both played by James Franco – that try to make it in a seedy New York), but rather an era. Said era is the 1970s New York’s The Deuce and the evolution of pornography along with the several elements that went along with it, such as crime and prostitution. The streets were shoddy, the people were some characters indeed, the drugs were aplenty, everybody was smoking pretty much anywhere they wanted to, many bottles were opened and had their liquid poisons consumed, and there was nothing the cops could do about it. And guess what, this glamorous decadence with punk rock and disco music in its background seems much more romantic, honest, and fun, than what Disney has turned New York into these days. This is not nostalgia; it’s just a simple fact that even pimps are much more valuable members of society than tourist middle class pigs. Considering that I currently write a book about 1960s and 1970s, this series almost seem tailor-made for me, and it is actually my favorite show in the history of television. Also, it would have been way too easy to turn this into a gangster soap opera, but the producers opted against it; sure, mob was a big part of pretty much all businesses on 42nd Street, but they were only a piece of the puzzle, that era had so many more colorful elements about it, and the series explores them all. Featuring the music of U.K. punk rock geniuses The Damned and U.S. punk rock sensation The Ramones.

Mindhunter - Season 2
Creator Joe Penhall’s 2nd season of Mindhunter (2017 – ongoing), now available on Netflix, finds agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), along with academic sidekick Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv), deep in the F.B.I. vaults, coming up with the term ‘serial killer’ and developing a methodology with which the law forces could decipher murders. In order to do that they meet and interview several – now infamous – serial killers, and try to catch others. Elegant and creepy, this is a masterwork, and because it totals a mere 9 episodes, there is no excuse for ‘true crime’ aficionados to not see it. Some episodes were directed by David Fincher and Blondie’s ‘Call Me’ is employed in a scene as well.


Following the death of his kingpin father, Genny Savastano (Salvatore Esposito), finds himself with an criminal empire in his hands, in the 3rd season of Gomorrah (2014 – ongoing), while his childhood friend Ciro Di Marzio (Marco D’Amore), disappointed of his criminal family, flees to Bulgaria, in order to pursue further underworld escapades (he gets involved with human trafficking in particular, but he later proves to be a pimp with a heart of gold). Roberto Saviano’s seminal semi-titled book in which he told his adventures from the time when he infiltrated the organized crime of Naples still holds today as it remains the basis for Italy’s most popular television series. They may be a bit difficult to swallow for people that are not familiar with current Italian cinema (for example, the performances are a bit different from what they would possibly be in an American production), and the mood may be a bit too dark for casual viewers, but this is still a masterwork. The soundtrack by Mokadelic is often inappropriate (for instance, the Euro-trash disco music that is often employed is matches the thug aesthetics much better), but it gives identity to the show and it is one of the elements that separate it from the rest of the current gangster shows. Whereas other gangster epics were all about the family ties, this is about crime itself and doesn’t seem to hold family ties any great respect or to give them too much of a relevance. Slow burn but fascinating this is offering an accurate look at the world of Camorra. Each episode ends on a cliffhanger, making you eager to play the next one.

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September 1, 2019

A Binge too Far #6: Psycho Cop duo (1989 – 1993)

Robert R. Shafer as Psycho Cop (1989).
It was inevitable that after the indie success of Maniac Cop (1988) rip-offs and imitations would flood the market, and so it happened. But whereas that slasher classic was the work of masters and/or talented people in front and behind the camera, such as Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell, and William Lusting and Larry Cohen, the Psycho Cop duo (1989 – 1993) almost seems like the work of amateurs.
Psycho Cop (1989) poster.

Psycho Cop (1989)

Six vacationing college students (that as is so often the case in 1980s slashers, appear to be much too old to still be in school, yet all of them are so dumb that I guess they could probably still be students after missing an exam too many) are terrorized by a – you guessed it – psycho cop (Robert R. Shafer, in an unintentionally comedic performance), who is offing them one by one for no other reason than him probably being a Satanist (we see him messing around with a pentagram or two).

Writer/director Wallace Potts (he had previously helmed a couple of adult films) is offering some of the silliest dialogues you’ll ever get to hear, and the experience of watching the film is actually torturous, as at even 87 minutes, it feels much longer. However, for reasons I cannot determine, the end result actually resembles a real movie of sorts, which wasn’t the case with most of the similar straight-to-video product from the era. If there is one winning element here is the soundtrack by Alex Parker and Keyth Pisani, which is above average for this kind of thing.

Psycho Cop 2 (1993) poster.
Psycho Cop 2 (1993)

Improving upon the original, this sequel is about a bunch of yuppies that organize an afterhours party with alcohol, drugs, and strippers (Julie Strain is involved, and introduced as Penthouse Pet of the Year), that will become damned by the stalking of the titular man of law (returning Robert R. Shafer, unintentionally funny as always). Whereas the original was tame (and you didn’t actually know why the psycho cop would kill the main cast since they didn’t really offend his typical-for-1980s conservative sensibilities) this one is full of sex and nudity, which is something that gives some sort of motive to film’s villain (you know, the whole sex and death angle that is prevalent in many low budget horror movies from that era). However director Adam Rifkin (credited here as Rif Coogan) doesn’t offer much more other than a rebellious finale that is both fitting and empowering.

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