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Showing posts from November, 2015

Class of 1984 (1982)

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With the recent box set release that contained Penelope Spheeris's 1980 documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, which chronicled the 1979 hardcore punk scene in Los Angeles, it is interesting to again be reminded of how that scene really scared parents and society at the time.  While Decline offered performances and some frank looks at the bands and how they lived (as well as their fans), they mainly came off as misguided youth that you knew were going to be stuck in office jobs after a few years, looking at their safety-pinned jackets with sad nostalgia.

Class of 1984 is pure exploitation of the fear that America had of their youth at the time, despite the fact the film is Canadian.  The city it is in is unnamed (although, being Abraham Lincoln High School, it's hinted that this is supposed to be the United States).  While some may see some parallels with what we see on the news about teenagers of today, the truth is the newspapers and local television stations did t…

Total Recall (1990)

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I remember while Total Recall was still in production that the most press it was getting was because of its budget.  There were a number of articles at the time critical of spending what was then an almost unheard-of amount of money on a movie.  Sure, Arnold Schwarzenegger was at his peak, coming out with one hit after another, but Paul Verhoeven was largely known for the low-budget RoboCop (despite an impressive body of work in his native Netherlands).  The buzz was that this would be a major flop.

And it almost was.  The crew battled constant food poisoning (as well as adverse breathing conditions) while filming in Mexico City, and at first Tri Star had no idea how to market the film.  In addition, the MPAA wanted to give it an X rating for the over-the-top violence.  However, Arnold loved it and pushed for it.  In the end, it truly became Verhoeven's major mainstream Hollywood breakthrough, despite the fact there is little mainstream about it other than its star.

Douglas Quaid…

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

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In my opinion, Captain America: The First Avenger was the best of the pre-Avengers Marvel movies.  I thought Thor was pretty but hollow and didn't swoon over Iron Man like many did (I actually liked Iron Man 2 better).  There was something about a solid origin story and the ability to fit Captain America into the modern world that appealed to me.  I was surprised since this has always been one of the corniest of old-time superheroes.

Happily, The Winter Soldier lives up to the expectations established by the first movie.  Set two years after the events in The Avengers, and meant to bridge the gap between that movie and the recent Age of Ultron, it was wisely infused with a number of classic political thriller elements rather than the rote superhero plot.  There is plenty of heroing happening, but in large part the main characters are in a vulnerable position throughout rather than invincible justice machines.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is adapting to the modern world after being …

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

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It seems like I'm at odds with most viewers when it comes to the Marvel films.  I do find many of them quite enjoyable (so far the first Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy have been the best), but largely I am getting frustrated at the glut of comic book films.  I have never been a big comic book fan myself, largely growing up at a time when they were considered something you grew out of and, currently, seeing them more for monetary worth than story-wise.

So I admit from the get-go that I know next to nothing about the original stories any of these movies are based upon.  Whenever I get curious, even with something like Watchmen, largely what I see is people in ridiculous Spandex costumes running through the same adolescent plots.  Despite the fact that there are definitely too many of these movies at this point, the one thing I can say is at least they have found a way to make them more interesting to the general public.  Lack of doing so was what made such movies large…

They Live (1988)

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One of the memories of being a teenager is getting my mother to take me to see this movie.  The idea of aliens living among us and controlling us, especially to someone who read 1984 out of general interest when they were in elementary school, was more than intriguing.  I was also starting to learn a bit about which film directors I really liked.

Surprisingly, she liked it, except for the end (no matter how old you are, watching sleazy hotel sex with your mom is not an enticing thought).  It was a movie that stuck with me through the years, and obviously I wasn't the only one.  It's inspired street art and even a clothing line (the irony of which the founder and artist I'm quite sure is aware). 

I've seen it a few times since and, happily, it holds up wonderfully and is an experience I look forward to each time - despite the fact that I'll never see an audience reaction like I did when I saw it in '88, when during the fight scene someone yelled, "Round th…

Death by Invitation (1971)

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When I saw the poster for this and heard the plot I was expecting something along the line of a William Castle film where people are brought to a location and slowly offed in a gimmicky way.  It promised an axe-wielding witch getting revenge for crimes perpetrated upon her ancestors (or possibly on her previous incarnation, or on her, or something).

I can definitely say this is not a slasher movie, but it is a revenge film.  The problem is it typically takes too long to get where it's going, and neither the title nor the description really have much to do with what's in the movie.

In the 1600s a witch (Shelby Leverington) is burned at the stake, largely based on testimony by the head of the Vroot family (Aaron Phillips).  Three centuries later Lise (Leverington) is a woman living in New York who is either the ancestor or reincarnation of the witch that was killed (it's never really stated clearly), and Peter Vroot (Aaron Phillips) is a successful businessman.  Lise become…

The Cosmic Monster (1958)

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British sci-fi films are never without some interesting ideas.  The problem is, as fans of classic Doctor Who and Quatermass can attest, sometimes big ideas can't overcome the fact that you have crepe paper, fingerpaint, some duct tape and a couple hundred pounds from the petty cash drawer in order to make the movie.  I think that is why I like so many of the British sci-fi and horror films.  When you are tasked with doing something grand on the budget of an elementary school Christmas play, you get inventive.

I definitely wouldn't say The Cosmic Monster is anywhere near the best I have seen when it comes to British science fiction films, but it does try harder than many of its American counterparts.  At least there's an actual movie here instead of 20 minutes of narration and stock footage.

Dr. Laird (Alec Mango) is experimenting with altering magnetic fields in order to change the molecular structure of metals.  When one of his experiments ends up injuring his computer …

Blue Sunshine (1978)

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One of the joys of watching horror and exploitation films is that there is no way you can ever have seen them all.  Sure, you may be familiar with all the normal ones that Quentin Tarantino mentions or some of the more obscure titles you used to see at your video store, but there is no way you will have ever seen them all.

I know that Blue Sunshine isn't the most obscure title, but it's one that I had never run into when reading any of the old cult movie books, nor does it come up in many books about horror films.  I guess it was well-known enough in the 1970s that it was projected during many punk concerts (especially the part where a discotheque is attacked), but it is one of those that has faded into obscurity over the years.

Jerry Zipkin (Zalman King) is at a party with friends when a photographer named Frannie (Richard Crystal) suddenly goes crazy after a girl pulls off what appears to be a wig, revealing that he is bald underneath except for a few strands of straggly ha…