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April 29, 2016

Movie Review: The Horde (2016)

While I await my next CHC box of tripe…I mean, care package, Jeff was kind enough to send me a few on-line screeners to occupy my time. I wish I had been able to watch this one before the Motor City Nightmares convention because I would have been able to talk to Costas Mandylor about his role.

Or, you know, just stand in front of him giggling like a 13 year old virgin.

313 Films offers us The Horde, a happy little film about a horde (duh) of mutant cannibals being bossed around by a trio of psychopathic escaped convicts, led by Cylas (Mandylor). They attack people who decide to camp out in ‘their’ woods and the current targets are a class of photography students (their names aren’t important), their teacher, Selina, and her ex-Navy Seal fiancé, John.

The boys are taken as ‘meat’ and the girls, as they are ‘breeders’, get the privilege of NOT being sent to the butcher but instead nailed down or chained up to be available for nookies with the inbred mutated members of this group. Too bad nobody could kill John because he rides in to the rescue and pretty much kicks everyone's ass.

April 26, 2016

Movie Review: Society (1989, Blu-ray)

Directed by Brian Yuzna

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Bill Whitney (played by TV regular Billy Warlock) is almost too cool for school. He has a rich, Beverly Hills family, born into a life of privilege and is popular and well-liked at school. Luckily for viewers – as otherwise there would be no story to hang all the perversity on – things are not quite right at home. Eschewing drugs, he walks in on his sister Jenny (Patrice Jennings) showering, and it appears her body is contorted through the frosted glass mirror. When one of Jenny’s ex-boyfriends (Tim Bartell) presents Bill with a clandestine tape, things go from bad to worse. The recording appears to be of his parents encouraging his sister to engage in a perverse orgy, advising her to “shunt,” a word which takes a horrific meaning later on.

Bill’s friends begin to die in mysterious ways, and lots of images foreshadow what’s to come later on – a rival plants an inflatable love doll in his jeep with a doll sticking out of its mouth, and Bill is doused with suntan lotion.

Everyone knows by now – save the people who caught the climactic 20 minutes while channel surfing, which doubtlessly stopped them dead in their tracks, that Bill’s family turns out to be a race of super beings who gather with other like-minded beings for an viscous orgy called “the Shunt.” The Whitneys and their other too-rich and too-thin friends meld bodies, twist into bits of latex and gobble up the less fortunate at their slimy soirees.

April 24, 2016

Movie Review: Caligula (1979)

I am not a Tinto Brass fan, but I always wanted to add this film of his in my collection. The problem was the shit quality and cut editions of it floating in the market. That was until the 4-DVD Imperial Edition (Region 2 - PAL) came out and I bought it immediately.

The first disc offers the uncut version which I saw when I bought the box-set; the second disc contains an alternative version which I haven’t seen as yet, the third disc offers the theatrical version which is the one I watched for the purpose of this review, and the fourth disc is full of extras.

Now, on with the theatrical version... It doesn’t contain all the excessive violence and the explicit sex, and with so many scenes missing the whole thing doesn’t make as much sense as the uncut version does. Anyway, the whole thing about the history behind the cuts of this troubled production has been studied extensively elsewhere, so here I would like to focus on the impression the film made to me.

April 18, 2016

TV Review: 11.22.63 (Hulu Original, 2016)

Stephen King is no stranger to having his books turned into miniseries. Some, like It, are considered classics. Others, like The Langoliers or the 1970s version of Salem's Lot, are kind of cheesy or even plain terrible. Still more, like the Steven Weber led The Shining, which is superior to the Kubrick film (Not sorry. That movie is awful and dull.), will never get their proper due. To me, most of King's works are told best in long form. It gives them room to breathe. This doesn't take away from the amazing features made from his books, but sometimes miniseries is bettah. See what I did there? I'm hilarious.

This is the case with 11.22.63. My wife and I just called it the Franco show, because while the numbers make the title look short, Eleven Twenty-two Sixty-three is a mouthful. The story is interesting. What if you could stop the Kennedy assassination? That's the task diner owner Al (Chris Cooper) gives to his friend Jake (James Franco). Al has tried many times, but every time he gets close, something goes wrong. Now he's at the end of a losing battle with cancer, and he's passing the torch. A portal exists in the back of his diner, and when you walk through it, you're in the same spot exactly three years before the assassination. Whatever you do in the past becomes part of the timeline when you come back, but if you pass through the portal again, time resets. This comes in handy if you screw up.

April 10, 2016

Movie Review: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne (aka Dr. Jekyll and His Women, 1981)

Directed by Walerian Borowczyk

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

In Victorian, fog-shrouded London, the engagement party of Dr. Henry Jekyll (Udo Kier) and Fanny Osbourne (Marina Pierro) is underway at a stately manse. Among their many guests are bellicose general (Patrick Magee, the only actor who has to retain his authentic voice for the English language version of the film) (Jesus Franco go-to lead Howard Vernon). Something is not right – an innocent young girl has been beaten to within an inch of her life nearby and a deadly figure begins to stalk the home, murdering and raping the guests. It’s Jekyll's alter ego Edward Hyde (Gérard Zalcberg), transformed after a chemical dip in amber liquid in the bathtub. Fanny is first horrified – but then insists that what is good for the gander is good for the goose and takes a similar dip. Unleashing both their primal, animalistic sides, Fanny and Hyde decimate the remaining guests and set the house ablaze.

The above story is very tragic – but as this supplement-heavy Btu-Ray from Arrow Video (comparable Criterion Collection releases pale in comparison) attests to, the real tragedy was the fact that Walerian Borowczyk was a serious, artistic filmmaker who was pressed out of economic necessity to helm soft and hardcore pornography along with B-grade horror.

April 8, 2016

Movie Review: The American Dreamer (1971)

Directed by Lawrence Schiller, L. M. Kit Carson

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Just before the disastrous premiere of Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie (1971), compatriots Lawrence Schiller and L. M. Kit Carson hung out at Dennis Hopper's hippie compound in Taos, New Mexico to document what the countercultural phenomenon – ever since his breakthrough feature Easy Rider (1969) that was then – Dennis Hopper. Those expecting a spokesman for a new generation were probably soundly disappointed. Like his contemporary William S. Burroughs, Hopper was an unabashed fan of the Second Amendment (“I think that, in our lifetime, a man without a gun is a fool.”). Even worse, his view on the fairer sex was strictly in line with Hugh Hefner's, if not belonging to the 18th Century's. Women were strictly a commodity to Hopper at that time and were intended to be exploited. A crisis arises after dicking around, sitting around talking about approaches to life and art, the filmmakers become acutely aware that the project at hand has no commercial potential and Hopper remedies this by recruiting some hippie bimbos from a nearby airport and fills the camera's lens with POOOOOO – SAAAAAAY. It all falls apart – as was Hopper's career following the debacle that was The Last Movie.

The American Dreamer only makes sense when set against the trajectory of Hopper's progression as a screen star. Cutting his teeth on low-budget exploitation movies with roles in Night Tide (1963) and Queen of Blood (1967), both directed by his friend Curtis Harrington, Hopper made it big with Easy Rider (1969), a rambling free-form road picture about two hippie bikers' cross-country trek across America. Easy Rider was a smash hit for near bankrupt Paramount Pictures, inspiring other filmmakers to cash in on this “hippie thing.” Giving one of the masterminds of this Cinematic Youthquake unlimited reign, Hopper would sort-of direct and sort-of complete The Last Movie, about an American film crew's negative influence on a Peruvian tribe. Starring Julie Adams from The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1956), Adams pops up in the film to assure the viewers that Hopper's heart was in the right place.

Movie Review: Frightmare (1983, Vinegar Syndrome)

I’m not sure I can come up with an intro for this review. The premise of this film is just so…beyond ridiculous. I mean, I know it’s from the 80s and cocaine was the driving force of the time, which should explain everything, but I just can’t even.

Frightmare begins with Conrad Radzoff, a big name old movie star who has been relegated to the kiddie table of the acting community - television commercials. The director is sick of Conrad’s fuck ups and berates the legend in front of everyone. Luckily Conrad knows how to handle such situations with grace and dignity - he pushes the director off a balcony to his death.

Like you do.

While the rest of the world may not remember how important he is, never fear. The Horror Society of a local college invites him to a presentation honoring him and his life’s work. This is exactly what Conrad’s ego needs and HOLY FUCK IS THAT JEFFREY COMBS AS ONE OF THE STUDENTS?? Yaaaaasssssss!

April 2, 2016

Movie Review: The Happy Ending (1969, Blu-ray)

Directed by Richard Brooks

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

Mary Wilson (Director Brooks' real-life wife Jean Simmons) is like so many other women in 1969 America. Married to a cheerful workaholic husband (John Forsyth) – not above mixing business with pleasure that his high-profile job brings – Wilson plunges into what diversions her suburban lifestyle can afford. Face lifts, health clubs where the gals can relax with a stiff cocktail in the back, shopping, pills (as supplied by her enabling maid, Nanette Fabray), diets … it all collides into alcoholism and drunk driving charges. Feeling stifled, she jets off to the Bahamas where she runs into her old school friend Flo (Shirley Jones), now a “professional mistress.” While soaking up the rays, she has a fling with greasy hustler Bobby Darrin, before returning home where she negotiates a not-so traditional “happy ending.”

As the ubiquitous Julie Kirgo notes in her liner notes for this Twilight Time Blu-Ray release, limited to 3,000 copies, The Happy Ending was a deeply personal project for director Brooks and wife Simmons. It was during this time, married to the difficult and much-married Brooks that Simmons admitted to a real-life problem with alcohol. A professional actor at the age of 14, her performance in this film was something of a valedictory statement for Simmons, who at the time was not yet 40 years of age. Bravely, Brooks and Simmons made sure that those who came to the film expecting an escapist, sudsy soap opera were given front row center to the gravity of the situation. During an unsuccessful suicide attempt, Simmons is taken to the hospital and graphically has her stomach pumped as hard-as-nails doctors and nurses brush her aside as “just one of those” housewives. Plowing into a police car after having one too many at an anonymous dive bar, Simmons is then forced to endure a humiliating session with detectives who threaten to film her “walk the line” attempts in court.

Movie Review: Fat City (1972, Blu-ray)

Directed by John Houston

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

In dusty, dreary Stockton, California – a blue collar 'burg where the main activity is trying to find a way out, Billy (Stacy Keach) is a former boxer, 30 years old and going on 50. Reigniting his passion to return to the ring, he meets up with a fresh-faced teen boxer Ernie (Jeff Bridges) while training . Becoming fast friends, things are looking up for awhile. Bridges marries his sweet-faced girlfriend Faye (Candy Clarke) and starts his family, while Keach falls in love with the blowsy alcoholic barfly Oma (the incredible Susan Tyrrell, nominated for Best Supporting Actress), on the rebound after her African American boyfriend (Curtis Coates) winds up cooling his jets in jail. Both Keach and Bridges are lined up for a semi-professional boxing bout – but quickly learn that victory in the ring doesn't necessarily translate to other areas.

It was with some trepidation that I saw that John Houston's classic Fat City slipped out of the envelope for me to review … but we'll get to that in a moment. As film scholars point out, Houston was fascinated with characters operating on the fringes of society and with the concept of failure. Photographed by the great Conrad Hall (The Day of the Locust, 1975), Fat City – a term used to describe a big payday after a long dry spell, plunges the audience into what is a seemingly hopeless world. But as Keach explains in a drunken haze towards the end of the film, “Before you can get rolling, your life makes a beeline to the drain.” The people who populate Fat City are in desperate straits, but yet find a reason to wake up in the morning to greet the day. 

Movie Review: The New Barbarians (1983, Blu-ray)

The premise of this film sounded a lot like that stinker I reviewed a month or so ago - Escape from the Bronx. And what’s this? The same guys who wrote that wrote this? Which is also a dystopian future? And bad guys are running around killing people? And it’s filled with Italian actors and terribleness?

Way to raise the bar for yourselves, guys.

The New Barbarians (as opposed to the old kind?) takes place in 2019. A nuclear war has decimated the country and the population. Small bands of people try to survive on what they can scrounge in this wasteland while searching for signs that civilization still exists elsewhere via large and over-complicated ham radios.

Cue The Templars, a group of thieving Mad Max wannabes in Xanadu costumes. They believe the world is dead and any survivors they find deserve to die. You know, after taking all their shit. And they don’t just kill people. They have dirt bikes and sand rails equipped with bazookas, flamethrowers, and rotating blades! They will purify the world with blood! Just not their own

We then meet Scorpion, a former Templar, now loner bad-ass. When he saves Alma, she of the thigh high boots and no pants (because Future Fashion sense) from a Templar attack, word gets back to their leader, One, who wants to take some serious revenge out on Scorpion’s hide. Alma just wants to give him her goodies in his light up inflatable bouncy house (aka tent).

April 1, 2016

Movie Review: The Hateful Eight (2015)

The eight film from Quentin Tarantino brings yet another all-star cast filled with incredible
performances.  Along with great dialogue, the violence was definitely not lacking.  I was originally going to see this movie as part of the 70mm Road Show.  There were about 100 movie theaters across the United States that were showing The Hateful Eight on actual film as opposed to the digital projectors.  I was excited to enjoy the viewing experience but the cost was double what I ended up paying a week later to watch it digitally.  The film is still beautiful, and I had a great time.

The Hateful Eight takes place in the state of Wyoming where a blizzard is sweeping through. Throughout the movie, you find yourself trying to figure out who the bad guy, or perhaps bad guys, are.  This proves difficult as all of the characters are more sinners than they are saints.

Kurt Russell is the bounty hunter John Ruth and he aims to collect when he delivers Daisy Domergue who is played amazingly by Jennifer Jason Leigh.  With their stagecoach driver O.B.(James Parks) hey cross paths with Samuel Jackson who played the part of Major Marquis Warren and later run into Walton Goggins' character, Chris Mannix.  These four characters have reputations that proceed them, so everyone has an idea of who they're dealing with and it's explained why everyone is on edge.