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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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August 1, 2019

Static Age #5

The Day of the Triffids (1981) frame from the credit sequence.
As the present column is still in its infancy, moderations are still happening in order to make it as enjoyable as possible, and you will now notice that the film and book sections have gone, and we’ll be focusing on television exclusively. Have fun!

The Day of the Triffids (1981) DVD.
The spotlight of this Static Age’s goes to The Day of the Triffids (1981), directed by Ken Hannam and produced by David Maloney for BBC, which is considered somewhat of a classic of its kind (i.e. 1980s U.K. event television), but I found it to be quite amateurish. However, it is only 6 episodes long (25 minutes each), so it never becomes too tiresome.

I also caught up with the following recent shows…

SyFy’s 4th season of Channel Zero (2016 – 2018) is called The Dream Door and it is about a young couple whose crisis may be going through an emotional crisis (mainly due to the woman’s anxiety attacks and other such psychological issues), but the sex is still good, and they happen to move to a house that the guy inherited from his parents, which is the same that he grew up at. What’s weird though is that soon a strange door appears at their basement that wasn’t there before. It takes them some time to open it and they’ll wish they never had. Terror and fear in this creepy fuck written by Nick Antosca and directed by E.L. Katz, which is easily the best season of the series so far. Featuring a hideous clown that is as good with acrobatics as he is with murdering and that may or may not be real, along with the acting services of terror film legend Barbara Crampton, this is one that should not be missed.

Black Mirror - Season 4
Creator Charlie Brooker’s masterful 4th season of Black Mirror (2011 – present) proves once again that what we have here is the Twilight Zone for the millennial generation. ‘USS Callister’ is about Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons) who by using D.N.A. sample drags his colleagues to a digital world where he’s the boss and bully. ‘Arkangel’, directed by Jodie Foster, is about the titular company that is implanting chips to our kids’ heads in order for our god-like presence to control them at all times. ‘Crocodile’ is about Mia Nolan (the gorgeous Andrea Riseborough) who commits a series of murders out of necessity, but the emerging surveillance technology may be on her tail. ‘Hang the DJ’ is basically a love story set in the world of a match-making program; it is a favorite episode amongst fans, but I found it boring. ‘Metalhead’ is about a robot dog that hunts a woman. ‘Black Museum’ is an anthology episode and it works surprisingly well.

Creator Jonathan E. Steinberg’s 2nd season of Human Target (2010 – 2011) explores further adventures of bodyguard-for-hire Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) and his sidekicks, and is even more formulaic than its sophomore outing, albeit a bit more watchable due to that factor, featuring several action stunts (including fights, explosions, and shootouts) as well the mandatory attractive women that is the staple in such supposedly ‘cool’ fare. The ‘Dead Head’ episode employs Motorhead’s famous ‘Ace of Spades’ tune. ‘The Other Side of the Mall’ episode employs Joey Ramone’s ‘What a Wonderful World’ cover. The overall excellent ‘Kill Bob’ episode employs The Prodigy’s ‘Breathe’.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina - Season 1
While watching the 1st season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018 – present) I had constant debates with my wife on whether the series are pro-Satan (my opinion) or feminist (her opinion), but now that I write those lines I think that we might be both very right. Based upon the famous Archie comics, this is about the titular teenage semi-witch (Kiernan Shipka), who finds herself involved in all sorts of Gothic adventures that are reminiscent of the best works of Tim Burton (yeah, those from the 1990s). The soundtrack is amazing too, and includes classics such as Blondie’s ‘Atomic’, The Ronette’s ‘Be My Baby’, and Velvet Underground’s ‘Venus in Furs’.

Masters of Science Fiction - Season 1
The 1st (and sole) season of Masters of Science Fiction (2007) is hosted by Professor Stephen Hawking and consists of 6 anthology episodes. ‘A Clean Escape’ is based upon a short story by John Kessel (adapted for the screen by Sam Egan and directed by Mark Rydell, and it is set in a post-apocalypse world while it focuses in the weird relationship between a psychiatrist (Judy Davis) and her patient (Sam Waterston). ‘The Awakening’ is about an alien invasion and it is featuring Terry O’Quinn and William B. Davis. ‘Jerry was a Man’ is based upon a short story by Robert A. Heinlein (adapted for the screen by Michael Tolkin, who also directed) and is about a trial that will determine whether a robot with human D.N.A. is a person or a thing; Malcolm McDowell plays the robot’s creator. ‘Little Brother’ is about a Kafka-like trial set in outer space; starring John Hurt. ‘Watchbird’ is set in a futuristic world in which drones that resemble small spaceships prevent killings with their laser guns. ‘The Discarded’ is based upon a short story by Harlan Ellison (adapted for the screen by him and John Olson, and directed by Jonathan Frakes) and it is about alien misfits; starring John Hurt.

Blade: The Series - Season 1
Created by David S. Goyer, the 1st (and sole) season of Blade: The Series (2006) is about the titular Marvel semi-vampire (played by rapper Sticky Fingaz) that hunts bad vampires, and it consists of 12 episodes, the first of which is of feature length. The series are nowhere near as good as the feature that inspired them, but still very enjoyable viewing fare. The final battle is quite epic too. Bear in mind though that the show is particularly gory and is also featuring the occasional glimpse of a boob, so you may not want your kids to see it.

Also created by David S. Goyer (and Daniel Cerone), the 1st (and sole) season of Constantine (2014 – 2015) is about the adventures of the titular British antihero-like exorcist (Matt Ryan) who has to face a variety of demons. I didn’t like the feature film that spawned these series, so I don’t know why I signed up for this, but I quite liked it (the special effects in particular, are amazing) and it is even somewhat scary at places (it mostly resembles a modern horror film, rather than a superhero one, despite it being a DC Comics production). It’s fun seeing all these church lunatics going berserk with devil possessions and all. Renowned director Neil Marshall directs two episodes.

Shootouts and car crashes are aplenty in the 1st season of Taken (2017 – 2018), an actioner created by Luc Besson and Alexander Cary, based upon the same-titled hit film from 2008. The story here concerns ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills (Clive Standen) whose sister is killed and he is now out for revenge. In the meanwhile he will undertake several other cases, ranging from Islamic terrorism suspects to convicted serial killers. It is overall much better than I was expecting it to be.

Jessica Jones - Season 3
The ultra-gorgeous and as powerful titular hero (Krysten Ritter) of Jessica Jones (2015 – 2019) returns in the series’ 3rd and final season, in which she will search for Trish Walker (Rachel Taylor) who has gone missing, amidst a perfect neo-noir backdrop. Once she is found (in the second episode, or so), it becomes apparent that all she really want despite her lousy job as a television saleswoman, is to re-connect with her sister, and in order to do that she will go as far as to become a super-hero of sorts herself. The problem really arises when the mighty duo will have to team against demented serial killer Gregory Sallinger (an excellent Jeremy Bobb). This is Marvel’s best series so far, and it is a pity it got cancelled.

The 2nd season of Westworld (2016 – present) takes us back to the titular western movie-like amusement park in which human visitors have fun at the expense of human-like robots. This season starts from where the previous one left, namely the rebellion of the robots, and how the humans try via the aid of armed soldiers to restore the supposed order. Nowhere near as entertaining as the first season, this is one of those shows that are intelligent enough to make you think about big questions in regard to life and control, but it just not too much fun as a sci-fi vehicle. Being as philosophical as these series are, expectedly they offer more questions than answers. The movies were very exciting, this show not so much. J.J. Abrams is one of the executive producers and the cast is stellar (Jeffrey Wright and Ed Harris return and they are particularly outstanding).


Stranger Things - Season 3
It is impossible to say anything about creators Duffer brothers’ 3rd season of Stranger Things (2016 – present) without revealing any spoilers, so since I am convinced that pretty much everybody will sooner or later catch up with Netflix’s best show yet, I will say nothing about its plot. Set in the mid-1980s and with cultural references to boot (from awesome music to amazing toys and from ancient household devises to obsolete cars) this a retro movie fan’s wet dream, although it also comes with several cool monsters (the CGI are much better this time around), essentially creating an unmatched entertainment event. Event series such as these should be better with each season and this one achieves just that by being the best one yet. And yes, Winona Ryder is still the most attractive woman in the universe. Highly recommended.

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July 1, 2019

A Binge too Far #5: The Beastmaster trilogy (1982 – 1996)

Dar (Marc Singer) and a tiger, in a frame from The Beastmaster (1982)
I sincerely don’t like the ‘sword and sandal’ genre, but since I was in the mood of catching up with it a little bit, I thought I’d give a shot at some classics; thereby I present you my views on The Beastmaster trilogy (1982 – 1996).
The Beastmaster (1982) poster

The Beastmaster (1982)

A king’s son, Dar (TV actor Marc Singer), is hunted by baddie priest Maax [Rip Torn, later in Men in Black (1997)] and has to flee away from his father’s kingdom and live with another family. When his father is murdered by savages, the male lead will discover that he communicates with animals so well that he can use them to ploy his revenge; therefore the title.

Shot in deserted valleys just outside California (doubling for epic locations from another time) by renowned cinematographer John Alcott [A Clockwork Orange (1971)], this looks way better than it has any right to (the budget was a mere $9 million). Its PG rating and humor reveal that it is indeed entertainment for the whole family (I mean, how could it not be with all those adorable cute animals leading the thing?), but the occasional boob glimpse (Tanya Roberts is here) makes this one for the whore family as well.

Written by Don Coscarelli (who also directed) and Paul Pepperman (based upon Andre Norton’s novel, albeit sans credit), this was a big box-office success (it grossed $14.1 million) and became a TV favorite as well, therefore a franchise was born.

Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal...
Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991)

The protagonist’s evil half-brother Arklon (Wings Hauser, no introduction needed) and his ally (and equally evil) witch Lyranna [Sarah Douglas from Superman (1978)] travel into the future (via a time portal) and arrive in present day Los Angeles in particular where they plot to purchase a neutron bomb. Dar (a now aged Marc Singer, looking ridiculous in hero attire) and his animal friends must stop them.

The Back to the Future trilogy (1985 – 1990) was a big thing back then, and this is the approach employed here by the story (it was written by Jim Wynorski and R.J. Robertson and it was turned into the screenplay by that same duo and Sylvio Tabet, Ken Hauser, and Doug Miles) and the promotional materials (I mean, check out the font and colors of the film’s title). This approach is nothing unusual in the world of exploitation cinema, and the faults of this particular entry is its running time, which although it is a bit shorter than the first film, it is still much too long for its own good.

This is probably because by that stage, the straight-to-video guys took over, and other than the aforementioned people involved with the script (a few of them need to introduction), you should note that this was shot by Rohn Schmidt [The Terror Within (1989)], edited by Adam Bernardi [Ghoulies Go to College (1990)], directed by Sylvio Tabet (the franchise’s producer; Jim Wynorski was originally slated to directed, but plans changed at the last moment, leading to a court battle), and  stars Robert Z’Dar [Maniac Cop (1988)], proving that things could indeed get cheaper. In an amazing meta moment, a theater marquee is advertising the current film! Made on a $6 million budget, it grossed less than $1 million, becoming essentially a flop.
Beastmaster III: The Eye of...

Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus (1996)

Baddie Lord Agon [David Warner from John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (1994)] kidnaps King Tal [Casper Van Dien from Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow (1999)], and now it is up to the poor guy’s brother and titular hero Dar (Marc Singer, looking surprisingly in good form) and his friend Seth (Tony Todd, looking much too elegant to be here) to save the day. Will they make it against the titular monster (Michael Deak, a monster never looked that much like a guy-in-a-suit since the glorious 1950s)?

By 1996 the straight-to-television had taken over, as this was directed by Gabrielle Beaumont (a craftsman that has worked exclusively for the small screen), and it comes complete with sill sound effects and laughable sets; hell, even the soundtrack by Jan Hammer is outrageously bad. And, I didn’t get the bromance finale at all, were the two male leads supposed to be gay? Thankfully, it is much shorter than the previous two entries.

Conclusion


Consisting of a good film and two monster dogs, Beastmaster is a classic franchise of its kind, so if you are a fan of the genre you should definitely check it out, although you probably already have. In 1999 the Beastmaster was turned into a TV series that lasted for 3 seasons, but this is a story that I will not be telling.

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June 1, 2019

Static Age #4

Jack Torrance (Steve Weber) in a frame from Mick Garris' The Shining (1997)
As nowadays I resort more and more to streaming rather than physical media, I decided to accompany the text mostly with relevant art and posters, rather than DVD and BD box-art, and I hope you enjoy!

The Shining (1997) DVD box art.
This Static Age’s spotlight goes to The Shining (1997) which is about recovering alcoholic writer Jack Torrance (Steven Weber) who moves temporarily with his wife (Rebecca De Mornay) and son (Wil Horneff) to an abandoned hotel in order to find inspiration for his next novel. However, what he finds is his personal demons that drive him mad as he becomes more and more dangerous for himself and his family. Based upon Stephen King’s legendary same-titled novel, this consists of 3 feature length episodes that were directed by his go-to guy Mick Garris, and they may be much more faithful to the source material than you-know which classic, but they’re not anywhere near as exciting.

I also caught up with the following recent shows…

Created and written by Nick Antosca, and based upon the ‘Search and Rescue’ story by Kerry Hammond, the 3nd season of Channel Zero (2016 – present) is about young woman Alice Woods (Olivia Luccardi) who just moved into a small American town in which people disappear during a series of happenings that may all be due to the superficial presence of some mysterious staircases. Starring Rutger Hauer, and featuring Riz Ortolani’s theme song from Cannibal Holocaust (1980), SyFy’s original terror series are offering one more winner season.

Black Mirror - Season 3
The 3rd season of Black Mirror (2011 – present) anthological series is offering three more horror stories/episodes inspired by the dangers of technology. The first episode, ‘Nosedive’ is about a gorgeous woman (Bryce Dallas Howard) who wants to increase her social media rating and popularity and in order to achieve that she is forcing herself into a fake world of likability and pretensions, so terrifying in fact, that it may ultimately destroy her, in what has to be one of the series’ most intimidating stories, due to the fact that we’re not actually too far away from becoming the world it depicts. ‘Playtest’ is about American traveller Cooper Redfield (Wyatt Russell), who ends up penniless in England, where he takes a job as a game tester, only to find out that his worse fears will come to life and then some. ‘Shut Up and Dance’ is about several seemingly random people that get cyber-bullied into a scheme during which they would have to complete several tasks (as ordered by an unknown messenger on their mobile phones) if they want their secrets to remain secret. ‘San Junipero’ is an interracial lesbian love story, and I can only wish it would have been better, because as it is, it is the weakest entry in this season. ‘Men Against Fire’ is about soldiers fighting against some creatures called roaches (resembling a cross between vampires and zombies) and it is as awesome as it sounds. ‘Hated in the Nation’ is a feature-length masterpiece about an online game the hashtag of which allows you to vote for the public figure you would like to see dying next, and afterwards it employs technologically enhanced bees to do the dirty work.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 5
The 5th season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013 – present) kicks-off with a double episode in which the titular heroes find themselves entrapped in a spaceship in outer space, and from then on a variety of adventures ensue, in what has to be the darker season of the series so far and for that we should be thankful. Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) is a nerdy doll, as always. Plus, the season finale is so spectacular that would be worthy enough of a Marvel movie.

Powerless - Season 1
Created by Ben Queen, the 1st season of DC’s Powerless (2017) is set in a world where superheroes and super-criminals leave a lot of collateral damage behind them, and a company on the verge of bankruptcy is offering protection and prevention solutions, when young and ambitious Emily Locke (Vanessa Hudgens) is hired in a top managerial position with dreams of changing the viability of the company, the behavior of the stuff, and maybe the world itself. This satire of superhero movies comes at the right time as the market is literally saturated by them (even if the only real competitors are the Marvel and DC properties), but its low budget, short running time, awful CGI, caricature characters (the stupid boss, the moody secretary, the funny black guy, the funny Indian guy, etc.), and standard jokes doomed it into failure, and it was canceled after this, its initial season. This is a throwback to awful 1990s television and we didn’t really need one. Adam West makes a very welcome cameo though.

Human Target - Season 1
Created by Jonathan E. Steinberg, the 1st season of DC’s Human Target (2010 – 2011) is about undercover bodyguard Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), who is assigned undercover to the most dangerous cases, involving breathtaking stunts. This is an all-around enjoyable action show that never fails to captivate its audience. McG was an executive producer. The show’s finale (an origin story of sorts, really) included a guest appearance by Armand Assante, but many other episodes benefit from guest appearances as well, by stars such as Lennie James, Mitch Pileggi, and William B. Davis.

The Day of the Triffids - Season 1
Based upon the same-titled Sci-Fi book, The Day of the Triffids (2009), directed by Nick Copus, is about a planetary event that blinds most of the Earth’s population, while in the meantime, the large and dangerous titular carnivorous plants escape from their facilities and prey among the human living. Radio producer/journalist Jo Playton (Joely Richardson) and Dr. Bill Masen (Dougray Scott) come to the rescue, but will they make it in this post-apocalyptic world? This television event (two feature length episodes) may be a bit rough around the edges (for example the CGI are really poor), but it is still captivating entertainment for fans of fantastic cinema. Although not exactly a masterful update, it thankfully comes with some clever casting choices (Brian Cox and Jason Priestley, for example).

But I also caught up with a few mainstream films as well…

Glass (2019) bored me to tears, and although it is not the only M. Night Shyamalan film that did so, it was the first Blumhouse Productions fare to achieve that, and I just hope the two don’t work together again. Sure, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis deliver winner performances, but right now they are both at their top of the game and they do this sort of thing in pretty much every film with which they are involved, so this cannot be enough of a reason for you to watch this. As far as superhero movies go, this is pretentious and formulaic, and you should pass.

Happy Death Day 2U (2019)
Blumhouse Production’s Happy Death Day 2U (2019), directed by Christopher Landon, returns to the original’s formula (albeit, a very original one at that), as we once again see the university’s promiscuous girl (the absolutely gorgeous Jessica Rothe) and her scientist nerd friends, trapped in another time loop, in which they will die several times, until the figure out a way to escape death once and for all. Combining comedy, commercial cinematography, and all around Americanisms, this is a joy to watch, as it is both quite unique within the slasher genre, and entertaining too.

Marvel’s Captain Marvel (2019) directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, is about the titular superhero (the gorgeous Brie Larson), who as she finds her own powers has to fight her ex-trainer and super-villain Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and a horde of evil green aliens that resemble Nosferatu the vampire. Set for the most part in the 1990s, this is full of fun references to that decade, both technological (I really didn’t miss the computers of that era) and cultural (I really missed Garbage and Nine Inch Nails). The film’s build-up is very slow and boring, but the ending is quite satisfying. Oh, and Samuel L. Jackson is in it for a lot of its running time, instead of doing just his usual cameo.

Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976)
And when I get bored by the mainstream stuff I catch up with (on those rare occasions that I do catch up with them, that is), I quickly resort back to exploitation favorites, and this time my relief was found in writer/director Jimmy Wang Yu’s unsurpassable Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976), a masterwork of martial arts, featuring a flying guillotine master against an one-armed boxer! This is grindhouse gold, and you should watch it immediately, in the unlikely case that you have not already done so.

And finally, I enriched my bookshelf with the following books…

Roberto Curti’s Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker (2017, McFarland) is an excellent and lengthy study of the Italian genre film maestro’s life and career, taking us from film to film and featuring critical analysis as well as interview excerpts from interviews with several of the master’s collaborators. Although I am not a big fan of Freda’s work (I only enjoy an occasional title of his, or two), Curti’s book is the definite authority on the subject, it leaves no stone unturned, and as such it should not be missed.


Roberto Curti’s Mavericks of Italian Cinema: Eight Unorthodox Filmmakers, 1940s – 2000s (2018, McFarland), is featuring eight essays on as many obscure filmmakers, including Pier Carpi, Alberto Cavallone, Riccardo Ghione, Giulio Questi, Brunello Rondi, Paolo Spinola, Augusto Tretti, and Nello Vegezzi. Packed with information, but also maintaining an entertaining narrative throughout, this is the acclaimed author’s best work to date, and will remain so until he tops it with his next volume.

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