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April 15, 2021

Attack of the Killer Donuts (2017) Movie Review

Excuse me, ma’am, are you authorized to be here?

Sorry for the absence, folks. Seems like the pandemic allowed me to morph into my final form, which is a literal couch potato. My motivation for writing has been at Level Negative Zilch. Now, a little past a year of quarantine and isolation and safe distancing (plus a few personal matters that have beaten me down recently), I’m feeling motivated to get up off my ass...to sit on my ass and watch a movie. To actually review, not just zone out into a cross-eyed lump who shovels cheesy poofs and chocolate martinis into her pie hole.

Yes, the sass is still here. It’s just needs a little dusting and polishing.

Today I bring you the indie horror-comedy, “Attack of the Killer Donuts”. In answer to my friend’s burning inquiry – ‘that exists??’ – yes, dear reader, such a thing exists. And it doesn’t suck as much as you might think.

Johnny and his childhood friend, Michelle, work at Dandy Donuts. While it is a shithole establishment, with a shit boss and shit pay, at least Johnny has a smoking-hot girlfriend, Veronica. Much to gal-pal Michelle’s chagrin.

At home with Johnny and his mom, Uncle Luther toils away in the basement, working on Reanimator experiments. It’s not working out very well at the moment, but he’s sure to create the world’s greatest formula for reanimation soon.

One day, while at work, Johnny’s Uncle barges in to demand the use of Johnny’s laptop. While the owner, Cliff, tries to throw the disheveled mad scientist out the door, a vial of green goo flies out of Luther’s pocket and straight into the deep frier. Can you guess what might happen next?

 That’s right. The current reanimation formula turns every fried pastry thereafter into a killing machine! The donuts wreak havoc (among the four customers who actually got donuts during the film) and it’s up to Johnny, Michelle, and their friend, Howard, to destroy the little monsters before it’s too late.

Worst fleshlight design ever.


Umm….

Okay, yes. This is a low budget, independent film. So as you might expect, it’s not filled with great performances, brilliant CGI, high production value…

Actually, scratch that. This movie was much better than I could have anticipated. Yes, some of the acting is a bit lackluster, but that was the exception, not the rule. Johnny and Michelle created very relatable characters; Cliff, though cliché, played a boss that I’d bet the majority of us have had to deal with at some point in our lives; but my favorite character/actress was Mrs. Scolari, played by Alison England. One of those middle-aged, kinda frumpy, single women who dance around in sexy lingerie and fondle baked goods on their ‘cheat day’ since they’d been working so hard to be healthier the rest of the week.

And we can’t forget the two cops, one played by C. Thomas Howell, who keeps shouting ‘free donuts’ before heading into the shop. He plays this character so over the top, overreacting to every situation, and saying ‘perp’ about the criminal in the squad car, about 1800 times. And I couldn’t stop laughing. He OWNED this role and made it his bitch.

How do those free donuts taste now, officer?

Now, obviously, there are characters created just to be fodder. Johnny’s whore girlfriend and her boy-toy; the three douche bros who sexually harass Michelle; even the dirty hippie organic donut shop competitor serves only to give the monstrous donuts something to munch on. But that’s okay. Not everyone can be the main cog in the machine. Some simply are the oil to keep it operational.

The story itself never gets lost in a jumble of special f/x or overbearing motivations. It does drag a bit, perhaps trying to build tension that really isn’t necessary. This is horror-comedy, people. Not a political thriller. The slapstick/physical comedy mixed in adds to the overall silliness and humor of the story, and never felt out of place or forced.

I did have two literal laugh out loud moments. When Michelle falls from a second story window, while the cops watch, she says, “Don’t worry. The ground broke my fall.” And at the end, when Johnny and Michelle are trapped in a storeroom, Johnny says, “I’m going to be a therapist’s dream if I ever get out of here alive.”

While the CGI used for the reanimated donuts and blood splatter is a bit cheesy, I’ve definitely seen much worse. To be honest, some CGI used in the last Star Trek film (ST Beyond, 2016) was obvious crap in a few spots but that’s kind of a cash cow so I’m sure the film makes are losing a lot of sleep over it.

 


Anyway, the CGI is okay but I was completely tickled by the cartoon squeaks and growls coming out of donuts (think Eight Legged Freaks). And whomever was taking prop donuts and throwing them from off-screen to make it look like the donuts were rolling and jumping on their own deserves an Oscar. Hilarious! That, and the few instances of practical effects, were damned convincing.

Overall the look, sound, editing, camera work were stellar. Honestly, I was surprised at how well the film looked and sounded. That’s rare in the indie film world, as my eyes and ears will attest. My guess would be it’s because there was little cross-over in departments. The director wasn’t the editor; the actors weren’t working on sound or cameras; the writers didn’t create the f/x. And from the bottom of my heart, Attack of the Killer Donuts cast and crew, I THANK YOU!

The only real issue I had with the film was the age of the main cast. I don’t know if Johnny, Michelle, and Howard were supposed to be in high school or college, but either way, they all looked too old for either. And maybe that’s because the actress playing Johnny’s mom did not look old enough to have a kid in high school, let alone college.

But really, aside from the questionable age differences among the cast, Attack of the Killer Donuts was a fun, enjoyable ride, with plenty of good humor, fun characters, and decent story telling. Everyone involved in this should be incredibly proud.

 

3.5 hatchets (out of 5)

 

 



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April 1, 2021

Static Age #15: Ultraseven (1967 – 1968) [Complete Series 03]





Ultraseven (1967 - 1968) BD box art

This Static Age’s spotlight goes to Ultraseven (1967 – 1968), ‘A powerful fighter defends earth from invasion’ as per the front cover tagline of Mill Creek Entertainment’s excellent Region A Blu-ray box-set [Complete Series 03], which contains of all 49 episodes in their original Japanese (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0) with optional English subtitles and a stunning 1080p High-Definition 1.33:1 transfer. The set also comes with a gorgeous booklet that is featuring the ‘The Birth of Ultraseven’ article, an excellent introductory piece to the series, and several guides (hero, episode, kaiju, character, and key technology).

 

Unfortunately many of the show’s special effects won’t resonate too well with younger audiences that are more familiar with modern and excessive CGI that are generally more expensive and a mainstay of current mainstream cinema, but I come from a very different generation when things were much more simple (and quite possibly innocent too) and when Toho was telling us that this Japanese guy in a suit is an alien from outer space, we had no reason to doubt it.

 

Another peculiarity that might bother modern audiences is the technology and powers of Ultraseven that usually becomes available with no explanation and out of nowhere. Kids today will be confused, but for my generation the beeping sounds of random computer screens was all the futuristic technology we ever wanted, and it looked believable enough.

 

The special effects I most enjoyed were the toy-like miniatures, that somehow took me back to my childhood. I grew up in the 1980s and back then when we were kids, instead of wasting our times with soulless video games, we would play with all sorts of actual toys and create scenarios; they were damn good times!

 

Watching the series though it becomes apparent that Tsuburaya Productions Co. Ltd. upon request by the Tokyo Broadcasting System went for a more serious approach (compared to some comedic episodes of the previous two seasons), with intelligent scenarios that would appeal to adult viewers – and guess what, they were right to do so as the show became a megahit.

 

The debut episode ‘The Invisible Challenger’ deals with a series of sudden disappearances of unrelated citizens of Tokyo which call for the formation of the Ultra Guard team, which in turn has Dan Moroboshi (Koji Moritsugu) becoming Ultraseven, the mighty alien superhero. The almost ecological ‘The Green Terror’ has mysterious alien rocks landing in Tokyo and going as far as transforming a man into a the otherworldly plant monster Waiell. In ‘Secret of the Lake’ an alien object crashes on a mountain, releasing a black and white monster with claw-like eyes that make rounds as they slightly reach out of its head; it now has to face Ultraseven, as well as another seemingly good-hearted monster, the suit of which wouldn’t be accepted in the Carnival of Rio. In ‘Max, Respond!’, a mysterious woman is stealing the Ultra Eye spectacles, and what’s more the Godola insect-like monsters have a plan to conquer our planet. In the Rod Sterling-styled ‘Vanished Time’, time stops for a moment and brings Alien Vira to the spotlight, a monster that is interested in destroying the Ultra Guard. A mysterious shadow appears in ‘Dark Zone’ that turns out to be a familiar alien. ‘Space Prisoner 303’ is about a very evil and murderous alien with claws. In ‘The Marked Town’ some people of the city of Kitagawa start acting weird and occurrences of violence become commonplace (some of these scenes – such as the bitch-slapping one – are quite uncomfortable due to their harsh realism); what’s more Ultraseven cannot interfere, until it is revealed that Metron has polluted – the already cancerous? – cigarettes! ‘Operation Android Zero’ is about a mysterious woman and an older man that conspire with the aid of lethal toys. ‘The Suspicious Neighbor’ is a very David Lynch-like episode that takes us to the Fourth Dimension. ‘Fly to Devil Mountain’ is a Western-styled episode (complete with horse riding) about a mechanic golden dragon monster. ‘The Man who Came from V3’ is about the dangers of fuel-stealing! ‘The Ultra Guard Goes West: Part 1’ and ‘The Ultra Guard Goes West: Part 2’ are about a series of mysterious murders of foreign tourists and the eventual attack of the evil robot King Joe. ‘The Eye that Shines in the Darkness’ has a bullied kid finding a stone that helps him get through his troubles, but it also unleashes a monster. The spectacular ‘Underground Go! Go! Go!’ is about Miracle Man, a guy who survived a series of accidents. In ‘Escape Dimension X’ the Ultra Guard members are transferred to another dimension that resembles a jungle with several parasitic alien insects. ‘Project Blue’ deals with the threat of Alien Bado. In ‘Destroy Earthquake Epicenter X’, earthquakes generate one of the most impressive monsters of the series.Pursue the Undersea Base is a spectacular episode featuring the evil battleship robot Ironrocks that wreaks havoc by the docks. In the spectacular and quite eerie The Human Farm’, UFOs abduct women and implant them with parasites. In ‘Search for Tomorrow’ the Shadow aliens invade, and in the end they also unleash their monster Gublla that manages to fight even when its head gets decapitated by Ultraseven. ‘Return to the North!’ is a boring episode that takes the action to the arctic, but of course conciliation for the viewer comes in the form of a monster.Showdown at 140 Degrees Below Zero’ is also set in snow but is much more exciting. Somehow the titular Super Weapon R1’ manages to give birth to a super exciting bird-like monster that Ultraseven has to take down. ‘Operation Cyborg’ is a very psychedelic episode, although still monster-centric, as less care is given to the more casual human doings on screen. In ‘The 700 Kilometer Run’, Dan and his team from the Ultra Guard face a series of bombings, in a literally exploding episode that is unlike no other, and also widely satisfying. In ‘The Earthling All Alone’, an alien spy masquerading as an evil scientist, is also a monster that Ultraseven will have to face. ‘Glory for Whom?’ is a peculiar episode about a traitor within the forces of Ultra Guard, and unique and original as it is, it becomes one of the best episodes of the series. In ‘The Flower Where the Devil Dwells’ Ultraseven has to downside himself in order to get inside an ill woman, via her nose, and find Dallie, a spider-like monster. The Ultra Eye does not work in ‘The Strolling Planet’, so Ultraseven must get creative! ‘The Invading Dead’ are just what they sound like, alien zombies that even manage to shrink Ultraseven! Standing still and in trance, the habitants of The Vanishing City’ have to face the temporarily evil side of Ultraseven. ‘Terror on the Moon’ is about the results of a mysterious explosion.

 

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

 

The Alienist - Season 2 promotional picture
The 2nd (and final) season of The Alienist (2018 – 2020) is titled Angel of Darkness, and finds the protagonist group of the previous season namely the alienist Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Bruhl), the illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans), and Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) who has now left the police for a career as a private detective, returning in order to tackle a new series of murders, this time more gruesome than the last as the killer is targeting infants! More feminist than the previous entry and definitely more eerie, this 8-episode outing is a winner as the series went out with a bang.

 

Twin Peaks (2017) promotional logo
The sole season of Twin Peaks (2017), is mostly referred as the 3rd season because it is essentially a continuation of the same-titled series from the early 1990s (spotlighted in this column’s previous installment). This outing consists of 18 episodes (the first is of feature-length) and is about another murder that plagues the rural town of that is inhabited by the weirdest characters of Twin Peaks (most of the cast returns, including Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Kimmy Robertson, David Duchovny in drag, and series creator David Lynch; newcomers include Tim Roth, Naomi Watts and the legendary Robert Forster). Offering the sort of misogynist imagery in which a young girl in her underwear is punched in the face by a fully-dressed older man before she gets murdered, this makes for a very uncomfortable viewing. The question is “Is it future, or is it past?” and the answer is “Fire walk with me”, but Lynch is trying so desperately to be weird, that it is unauthentic and therefore borders on the ridiculous. Having said that, at least it seems that everybody in the production department seems to have put a lot of care into this, maybe more than its creator. During the end credits of most episodes a different modern band is featured and they offer some of the best music you’re ever likely to hear on television, so this works as a redeemer.

 


Appropriately taking its title from the pulp predecessors, the 1st season of Penny Dreadful (2014 – 2016) is set in Victorian London and teams up explorer Sir Malcolm Murray (Timothy Dalton), gun expert Ethan Chandler (the show’s American casting touch Josh Hartnett), Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway), and medium Vanessa Ives (the gorgeous-beyond-belief but also very peculiar Eva Green), in order to fight against a series of supernatural occurrences and their dark pasts. Many other interesting characters from the era also show up, such as Dorian Grey (Reeve Carney) and professor Van Helsing (David Warner), and creator John Logan’s show sounds like it could easily turn up into a mess, but it is an extraordinary work of horror and fantasy, very well-calculated and thrilling throughout. The all-star cast also includes Billie Piper.

 

Doctor Who - Season 8, featuring Peter Capaldi
The 8th season of Doctor Who (2005 – present) is introducing the classy Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor, while the gorgeous Jenna Coleman returns as his sidekick Clara. In the feature-length ‘Deep Breath’ the duo has to deal with a dinosaur and a group of bad robots. ‘Into the Dalek’ finds the Doctor and Clara within an actual Dalek! ‘Robot of Sherwood’, the Doctor and Clara team up with Robin Hood (Tom Riley) in order to fight against an alien conspiracy. In the very creepy ‘Listen’, Doctor and Clara come face to face with ghosts from the future and the past that take them as far as the end of the universe. ‘Time Heist’ is featuring the arch-villain the Architect who plans to rob the universe’s most secure bank. ‘The Caretaker’ is introducing the outright creepy Skovox Blitzer. ‘Kill the Moon’ is a fascinating episode which brings Clara to the titular dilemma, posed when she realizes that that planet is in fact a giant egg, nesting ugly spiders. The title of ‘Mummy on the Orient Express’ is self-explanatory. In ‘Flatline’ the Tardis gets smaller, the Doctor is trapped inside, and Clara has to temporarily take his place against a graffiti killer! In ‘In the Forest of the Night’ civilization has a growing tree problem. In ‘Dark Water’ and its second part entitled ‘Death in Heaven’, Clara’s boyfriend (Samuel Anderson) dies, and she, along with the Doctor, try to bring him back from the Nethersphere, but in doing so they also release hordes of Cybermen.

 

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

 

The Bizarro Encyclopedia of Film Volume 1 (2019, Fungasm Press) by John Skipp and Heather Drain is featuring 26 lengthy articles on a wide range of cult films (the authors’ definition of the term is really broad). Both renowned writers offer knowledge and passion, resulting in a product that is both informative and entertaining. I finished the 400+ pages tome in one 10-hour go because I could simply not put the thing down. It comes highly recommended and I look forward to further volumes.

 

We live in wonderful times, since the invaluable The Rialto Report’s Ashley West and April Hall just co-wrote and published smut legend John Amero’s autobiography entitled American Exxxtasy: My 30-Year Search for a Happy Ending (2020, FAB Press). Expectedly, Amero’s story is awe-inducing, from his early work with the Findlays to producing one of the first hardcore features, and from gay pornography to primetime television. It comes highly recommended and I hope West and Hall assist even more people from the golden age of New York’s 42nd Street to tell their stories.

 

Elena Gorfinkel’s dissertation-turned-book lewd looks: American Sexploitation Cinema in the 1960s (2017, University of Minnesota Press) is one of those wonderful academic books that although they always remain deep and analytical they also manage to somewhat be enjoyable as well; it is also a valuable addition to the understudied academic angle of the pre-hardcore exploitation nudies.

 

Speaking of these two last porno-centric books, I would also like to add that I just finished my binge through the entire catalog of episodes of the wonderful Porno Cultures podcast (which you can find on Spotify), a very informative (and often entertaining as well) academic show about all sorts of pornographic material, with a bold focus on queer writings and projections.


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February 28, 2021

A Binge too Far #15: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me duo (1992 – 2014)

Chilling frame from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)



Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
Twin Peaks: Fire.. (1992)
(1992)

 

Following the same-titled series (1990 – 1991) from creator David Lynch (reviewed in last month’s Static Age) this is less of a spin-off and more of a continuation, and in particular it tries to shed some light in Laura Palmer’s (Sheryl Lee) murder, as well as that of Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley). However, although everybody was expecting answers, not only didn’t get too many, but several more questions were raised as well.

 

Twin Peaks returned with its weird characters that now delve deep into paranoia, but whereas the – now classic – series relied on true crime sensibilities, this film goes for a full-horror aesthetics. It still plays like an extended episode (and it rarely outstays its welcome, even at 134 minutes long), but one that is more gruesome (several scenes of gore are offered) and daring (look for some nudity on display). Once again the cast is great (other than the regular players – among them Ray Wise, David Lynch, Kyle MacLachlan, et al – you also get people like David Bowie and Kiefer Sutherland) and you know that only director Lynch could get away with bizarre settings such as the red curtain sequences.

 

Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (2014)
Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (2014)

 

This feature-length presentation is a narratively-styled compilation of deleted and extended scenes from the 1992 film reviewed above and as such it would be safe to assume that its aim was to enlighten the missing pieces of the story, but it falls flat on its face. Needless and awful it serves no purpose other than boasting David Lynch’s ego and megalomania; in order to enjoy this you’ll have to be a big fan of his or a desperate masochist. The end result makes it even more apparent that the new actors (those that didn’t return from the original series) don’t fit in the concept and its only redeeming value is that you get more David Bowie for your buck.


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February 1, 2021

Static Age #14: Twin Peaks (1990 – 1991)



This Static Age’s spotlight goes to Twin Peaks (1990 – 1991), the series created by Mark Frost and David Lynch that lasted two seasons. The first season consists of 8 episodes and the second of 22, and they concern the mysterious murder of a teenage girl in Small-town, U.S.A. and the attempts of the local police to solve the case amidst a backdrop that is so weird that makes everything more complicated. There are enough moments of cinematic brilliance here, as well as a tone of wonderful dread, to justify the many people that are obsessed with this show. Also starring David Duchovny (in drag), Don Davis, Billy Zane, the great Russ Tamblyn, and David Lynch himself.

 

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

The Boys - Season 2 poster art

 

The 2nd season of The Boys (2019 – present), created by Eric Kripke, is offering more action and gross comedy for the fans (or even haters) of superheroes. The series continue from where they had left us, with Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) missing and his team now essentially a bunch of fugitives, and with the other camp regaining power despite having lost a member of its team. The end result is edgy and the kind of television in which you see heads exploding and hands amputated; once upon a time we had to rely to the films of Lucio Fulci and David Cronenberg for such imagery but now it is part of the prime time mainstream. Thematically the series are a satire of not just the republicans and the Trump administration, but also so much more in general and hypocrisy in particular. Actually, this is so meta that the ‘terrorists’ are (kind of) the good guys and the ‘superheroes’ are (absolutely) the bad guys. Highly recommended intelligent fun (not for the whole family though).


 

The 1st season of American Crime Story (2016 – present) is about the famous case of the double homicide attributed to O.J. Simpson (Cuba Gooding Jr.), and it is a perfect 10-episode journey to this fascinating true crime story. Featuring excellent and show-stealing performances from John Travolta as Robert Shapiro and David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, these series are a modern masterpiece. Absolutely the best courtroom drama since a certain Al Pacino classic.

 

The Alienist - Season 1 promotional art
Set in 19th century New York, the 1st season of The Alienist (2018 – 2020) is about a series of gruesome murders of underage transvestite prostitute boys, and the grouping of alienist (or what one would call a criminal psychologist today) Dr. Laszio Kreizier (Daniel Bruhl) and crime scene illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans), who will try to crack the bizarre case. Also starring Dakota Fanning in the mandatory feminist role and Michael Ironside, the series combines top-notch set and costume design with all-out horrors, and as such it is a winner. It is amazing to think that only three or four decades ago you could get to see such dark subject matter tackled only in edge exploitation films that were difficult to find whereas now it is readily available for streaming on Netflix.

 

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina - Season 4

I am very glad that the 4th season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018 – 2020) is also the last because by this stage the series have lost its steam. The titular witch (the always gorgeous Kiernan Shipka) will once again have to face Lovecraft’s Eldrich and teenage angst on her journey towards empowerment and self-awareness before the tired Netflix show concludes. The soundtrack is great and it includes Queen’s ‘Radio Ga Ga’, Billy Idol’s ‘Dancing with Myself’, Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Sweet Child ‘O Mine’, and a little bit of ‘Down with the Sickness’ by the Disturbed; most of them may be covers from the on-screen band the Fright Club, they are still awesome.

 

Doctor Who - Season 7 art
The 7th season of Doctor Who (2005 – present) is offering further adventures of the titular alien (returning Matt Smith) and his friendly couple Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). In ‘Asylum of the Daleks’, the titular trashcan-like foes return and kidnap the heroic trio, while we are also introduced to the absolutely gorgeous Oswin (Jenna Coleman). ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ is featuring – well! – dinosaurs on a spaceship, as well as robots. ‘A Town Called Mercy’ is an homage to Westworld (1973). ‘The Power of Three’ is about mysterious black cubes that invade earth and become part of humanity’s everyday life. ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’ is another creepy episode featuring its titular entities. ‘The Snowmen’ is the episode in which Clara’s part (Jenna Coleman) becomes more prominent and a perfect sidekick for the good Doctor. ‘The Rings of Akhaten’ takes us to the titular planet where a weird religious ceremony is about to unfold, which is the case here on Earth as well, I would like to add. ‘Cold War’ is set during the – you guessed it! – Cold War, and finds the Doctor and Clara on a Russian submarine where a Martian warrior monster is also abroad. In ‘Hide’, Clara and the Doctor meet a very similar couple to them, albeit one that is searching ghosts, this time in a haunted mansion. ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ has Clara lost inside the iconic spaceship, where she is confused by the Doctor’s past. ‘The Crimson Horror’ employs visuals that look like 16mm film (and could well not be for all I know and the illusion be the work of post-production) in order to take us back in time, but the coverage shots don’t not match the era, a very common mistake among modern filmmakers. ‘The Name of the Doctor’ includes the answers to the mystery behind Clara’s own nature.

 

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

 

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Director Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) is set in – you guessed it – the 1980s and focused on Donald Trump-like businessman and con artist Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) who takes the powers of an ancient wishing stone. By granting wishes left, right, and center, not to mention his own greedy capitalist ones for professional success, he of course creates chaos and misery. The titular superhero (played again by the talentless Gal Gadot) steps in to save the day, but the super-villain now has an ally in the form of The Cheetah (Kristen Wiig), another predictable outcast that turned her anger into evilness (you can tell what will happen next from miles away, every page of the script is so by-the-numbers and uninspired). If you’re looking for unethical neoliberal propaganda that is preaching that the world is a beautiful place and you should not wish for change because you may lose what you already have, then this movie should be perfectly spoon-fed to you; but if you have even a little bit of humanity left in you, you should absolutely denounce this corrupt piece of shit. Either way, at two and a half hours this excrement is desperately boring. As a choice, 1984 should not surprise you, as this is a case study on how to perform Orwell in real life (conservatives know that 1984 is supposed to be fiction, right?).

 

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula

Train to Busan Presents...
(2020) is the sequel to the 2016 ‘zombies on a train’ epic, and is about a bunch of people that have nothing to lose and accept an offer from some seedy gangsters to go on a mission in the zombie-infected city of Peninsula, grab a few million dollars and come back rich. As difficult as the original plan was, everything goes to hell and the situation becomes much worse. Written by Sang-ho Yeon (who also directed) and Ryu Yong-jae, this may not be this year’s most original horror, it is however a very well-calculated work that keeps you excited throughout its 2-hour running time, and as such it should not be missed.

 

And finally, this past couple of months my bookshelf had a preference towards fiction (a rare occurrence, as I’m mostly into film books or true crime, etc.) and I tackled the following…

 

Stephen King’s The Bachman Books (2012, Hodder), a 978 pages tome that collects The Long Walk (1979), Roadwork (1981), and The Running Man (1982), three books that the horror legend penned under his Richard Bachman pseudonym, bored me to tears and failed to captivate me.

 

Stephen King’s 1325 pages epic The Stand (1978, 2011, Hodder) is about an epidemic and therefore the most appropriate thriller I could read during the current Covid-19 worldwide crisis. Believed by most of his fans to be King’s best novel, it comes complete with references to American International programmers and Charles Band quickies.

 

Stephen King’s ‘chilling classic’ The Dead Zone (1979, 2011, Hodder) is about a man’s charisma and curse that enables him to see people’s past and future upon touching them. At 595 pages long it is considerably shorter from the author’s previous opus, albeit still of epic proportions. However, I think the movie was better.

 

‘The first collection of short stories by Stephen King’, Night Shift (1976, 1977, 1978, 2019, Κλειδάριθμος) is by far the author’s most engaging book as the short story format fits his terrors like a globe. An eerie compilation of 20 masterworks, this book reignited my interest for the author.

 

In the non-fiction front, I had the pleasure of reading Jimmy McDonough’s massive and stunning The Ghastly One: The 42nd Street Netherworld of Director Andy Milligan (2019, FAB Press), which took me on a breathtaking journey of 1960s and 1970s underground that included everything, from drugs to group sex and from suicides to prostitution, all in the beautiful backdrop of filthy theater and cinema. When it comes to New York, I say Andy Warhol my ass – Andy Milligan was the real deal; a true misanthrope and a great artist. This edition came with a bonus book called Andy Milligan’s Scripts, which I am sure you guessed what it contains.


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January 1, 2021

A Binge too Far #14: Film Heritage (1968 – 1975)

Spirits of the Dead (1968) European poster



Recently, I purchased and read the entire Midnight Movie Monographs series by PS Publishing’s Electric Dreamhouse subdivision – namely Jez Winship’s (2016) take on Martin (1977); John Llewellyn Probert (2016) on Theatre of Blood (1973); Sean Hogan (2017) on Death Line (1972); Maura McHugh (2017) on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992); John Connolly (2018) on Horror Express (1972); Tim Lucas (2018) on Spirits of the Dead (1968); Tim Major (2018) on Les Vampires (1915); Kit Power (2019) on Tommy (1975); and Stephen R Bissette (2020) on The Brood (1979). What makes these publications unique is that each one of them are so different from each other in their approaches to the subject on hand (there seems to be no standard format and each writer went his original way), resulting in keeping my interest throughout despite reading them all in less than a couple of months. These books were so fun to read while also remaining very in-depth that I will obviously buy any future volumes and let you know all about them via this column, so stay tuned! Until then, we are now about to take a brief look at two of the films tackled in the series…

 

Reviews:

 

Spirits of the Dead (1968)

 

Spirits of the Dead (1968) U.S. one-sheet

As you probably already know, this co-production between Italy and France, gathers three European art-house directors and lets them tackle as many Edgar Allan Poe stories, resulting in an anthology-formed 2-hour epic that is loved by many and hated by me.

 

First, Roger Vadim directs ‘Metzengerstein’, starring Jane Fonda and Peter Fonda, and it is the most decent episode in the film, as it resembles a Poe adaptation in the vein of Roger Corman’s similar opuses from the era, if nowhere near as good.

 

Then, Louis Malle directs ‘William Wilson’, starring Brigitte Bardot and Alain Delon, a segment full of misogyny and violence, from uncomfortable scenes of whipping to utterly disgusting scenes such as the one in which the lead lady is tied naked and ready to become the subject of an experiment by fully-dressed male doctors, all in the name of science.

 

Finally, Federico Fellini directs ‘Toby Dammit’ starring Terence Stamp, and as is always the case with Fellini’s films it fails because it tries so hard to be artistic, resulting in a most annoying viewing experience.

 

This was distributed in the U.S. by American International Pictures, and a narration by Vincent Price was also added.

 

Tommy (1975) poster
Tommy (1975)

 

Another film that has a place among many ‘100 films you must see before you die’ lists and that I don’t particularly like is this rock opera by The Who (a major band that I am not very fond of) and writer/director Ken Russell (a major figure amongst art-house aficionados that I am not very fond of either).

 

Cult film material since its inception and impossible to define and therefore market, this is essentially a failed experiment (Pink Floyd and Alan Parker did it better in 1982), albeit one that is somewhat salvaged by its impressive cast (main star Oliver Reed is quite amazing).

 

The end result is not without its merits as the endless bombardment of images has you glued to the screen and nauseating. There is also an air of importance about the proceedings especially in scenes such as the Marilyn Monroe worshiping one. This is high art; if your expectations are low.


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December 17, 2020

Movie Review: "The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee" (2020, Transmission Films/Lionsgate)




...ya' know, folks?? There's a classic line from the 1985 apocalyptic actioner, "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome", where the Tina Turner character, Auntie Entity says 'tsk, tsk' resignedly to Max..."...my, how the world turns, doesn't it?? One day...cock of the walk...and the next, a feather duster...". Now, I only mention that line in parallel with "The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee", in a sort of positive, albeit melancholy way. After all, until he surprisingly showed up in an Australian travelogue Super Bowl TV commercial spot, a couple years ago (...a delightful piece of comical whimsy, which rampantly sparked a rumor of a fourth 'Dundee' movie), most folks out there probably assumed that Paul Hogan had quietly retired, faded away, and even outright let loose his mortal coil. Which makes THIS lightweight, slapstick funny 'slice of life' (...what was the line in Blake Edwards' 1988 mystery/comedy?? Something like '...hey, it's all true...give or take a lie or two!!'), all the more surprising...and well, quite amusing actually...

...yes, folks...Paul Hogan proves himself still quite well alive and kicking (...expressively, Paul Hogan and his inescapable 'Crocodile Dundee' character have never really been that far removed from each other...albeit, the latter had the more daredevil/thrill-seeker side to him), and herein this film...playing himself, of course...totally realizes that his legendary 'Crocodile Dundee' celebrity glory days are long-since past (...there ARE the occasional ribs 'n' pokes, here and there, aimed at his other films...and despite the critical naysayers...hey, I LIKED "Lightning Jack", thank you very much!!). All he seems content to do, by this time, is to fully retire, relax, embrace his golden years, and in the course of this film's events, try to make an appearance at his loving grand-daughter's holiday school recital...


...however...Hollywood itself (...gotta love that gawl-darn city of dreams) absolutely loves nostalgia, and equally loves a comeback. And so, with the help of a doting, closely attending, though quite insistent agent (...a sort of 'hand-me-down' agent, actually...the 'daughter' of Paul's supposed original agent), Paul is reluctantly convinced into not only a proposed knighthood by the Queen of England (...seems that "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" is her favorite movie), but the prospects of yet another 'Dundee' movie (...quite candidly, I loved the bumbling 'faux' movie sequel concept, in that Super Bowl ad...hell, bring THAT on!!). And it's the slapstick aftermath of the announcement of those two lucrative prospects, which Paul finds himself inexplicably caught up in, that invariably ensues...


...what's quite interesting about this film...it's not only about an almost forgotten 'legend', chasing down his glory days (...uh, nope, probably the wrong term...something more like '...for good, or for bad...being reluctantly pushed back into the limelight'), it's also about how our dearly dedicated, albeit quite invasive press and media, just LOVE to exploit a reportable situation...especially if it's not in the best of light. Comeback news is good news...but as history has often dictated, negative comeback news and negative behind-the-scenes behavior makes for even better coverage, as far as journalism goes. And so, with each and every slapstick pratfall, which Paul gets caught up in, the press invariably twists each of the accidentally instilled incidents, so that it makes Paul look like...well, makes him look like an asshole. Something which Paul and/or 'Dundee' himself might have simply shoulder-shrugged off, with a resounding 'eh'...if not for the fact that the negative press is threatening to adversely affect how his dear grand-daughter sees him...



...here...naturally looking older, more weathered (...like, as if he didn't already look weathered enough, some 30-plus years ago), and somewhat slower...nonetheless, Paul Hogan's irreverent, down-under savvy, charm and personality still manages to exude an embraceable sense of both nostalgia, as well as the welcome notion of 'yeah, I might be older and more weathered, but hey...I'm still kickin'. Actress Racheal Carpani is typically affecting enough as Paul's frazzled, albeit dedicated agent/manager, without going overboard on the standard character (...as opposed to the ol' stereotype of '...daw-leen...you look faw-bulous'), as she repeatedly/exasperatedly buries her face in her hands, with each and every bit of trouble that Paul inadvertently gets into. Nate Torrance, as a bumbling photographer, trying to get any inside 'dope' on Paul, and instead ends up palling around with him, seems sort of negligible in the sense that he appears to be playing the same type of bumbling character that actor Jonah Hill used to play, early in his career. And upcomer Jacob Elordi is charming, albeit somewhat ill-used as Paul's live-in son, who seems to come off here looking like a handsome yuppie adult version of John Cusack's smarmy and talented lil' brother, in the 80's flick, "Better Off Dead", with Paul (...who accepts and loves the lad, but really doesn't know a lot about him) inadvertently walking in on him, or bumping into him, entertaining the ladies in his room, or cooing poolside guests with a light-strumming guitar riff...


...but then, the overall sense of nostalgia in this little trite of a film, amusingly stretches beyond that of Paul Hogan himself. Playing themselves...Olivia Newton-John, Wayne Knight (...as an unexpected house guest of Paul's), and Reginald VelJohnson (...remember 'Gus', the limo driver in the original "...Dundee"...and of course, his cop role in "Die Hard"??) seem little more like quick '...hey, that's (fill in the blank)' roles, but it was still rather fun and nice to see them. The funniest cameo bits here, however, can be attributed to Chevy Chase...here, exaggeratedly playing up the supposed 'asshole' persona that the press has often reportedly attributed him as...and at the same time, he's amusingly thumbing his nose at the notion...as well as John Cleese, herein exasperatedly resigned to string out his remaining post-comedic twilight years as an unlicensed, chase-happy Uber driver. Heck, even fellow Aussie Mel Gibson gets in a quick jab, in a fleeting piece of what appears to be recent archival interview footage, with Mel looking as if he just stepped off the set of his recent irreverent Christmas flick, "Fatman"...


...having foregone and bypassed any sort of theatrical release...uh, thanks to the wretched pandemic..."The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee" has instead been unceremoniously dumped onto streaming venues. which is a bit of a shame, as it may not find the whole of the audience who would appreciate the overall warm sense of nostalgia, which the film assuredly has. As such, this trite and warmly affecting bit of comical muse...may well pass by with little notice. On the whole, 'Excellent' might well be too strong a word for this one...perhaps more like a funny and charming tip of the hat...and that makes it good enough to warrant checking this one out.....




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