Posts

Showing posts from 2018

Wonder Woman (2017)

Image
While the Marvel Universe has had its ups and downs, the DC Universe has largely languished in a series of awful, empty spectacle films.  I have to admit I have largely avoided seeing many of their films just simply because I don't purposely seek out bad movies just to torture myself so I can write a snarky review.  I honestly watch movies hoping that I will enjoy them, which is why so many of my reviews tend to the positive.  I see no reason to slog through something like Suicide Squad to be the umpteenth person to verify that, yes, it's terrible.

Despite the poor quality of the other DC movies, Wonder Woman was hailed as the shining exception.  Patty Jenkins's film got the MRA trolls all up in arms just simply because it existed, while the contingent of critics that thinks even the lightest of box office fluff must have some sort of progressive political content hailed it as if no movie in the last century had ever had a strong female lead. 

Meanwhile, the truth is that…

Alphabet City (1984)

Image
I know about as much about Vincent Spano as I do about Alphabet City itself in the 1980s.  I largely decided to watch this since I recently reviewed the Paul Morrissey movie Mixed Blood, which was filmed in the Lower East Side neighborhood itself in the same time period as both of these movies are set. I assume, with the dilapidated buildings and urban wasteland, that a good portion of this was filmed there as well.  Amos Poe, whose biggest claim to fame at this point was the 1976 film The Blank Generation, which introduced the world to New York City's punk scene, is definitely no stranger the environs.

Still, the movies couldn't be more different in tone and feel.  In many ways I was wondering just what type of film Poe was trying to make. 

Johnny (Vincent Spano) is an upcoming player in a mob family.  He controls the drug flow and all the business in the Alphabet City area of Manhattan.  He has had considerable success, enough so that everyone knows and fears him.  He lives…

Mixed Blood (1984)

Image
Here is an element of truth: except for some of the obvious movies, or ones that I pick out specifically because they have not yet been reviewed on his site, I often have no idea about a movie before I choose it for review.  I typically check out the blurb to make sure it's a format that fits my blog, and that's really about it.  Typically when the movie starts playing, or I look up some info right as I'm starting it, I get surprises - and not always good ones.  But, by that time, I'm committed.

Paul Morrissey is not one of those directors I specifically seek out.  I largely know him from his two '70s Andy Warhol funded horror films, Blood for Draculaand Flesh for Frankenstein.  Both had their good points, but they were over-the-top camp.  It was really hard to take much of it seriously, which I think was largely the point.  I really never had much desire to check out anything else Morrissey did.

So, as I sat down to watch Mixed Blood and realized it was a Paul Mo…

Massacre Mafia Style (1974)

Image
Who was Duke Mitchell?  That was the question I had when I saw the credits come up for this.  I was wondering if this was going to be another Italian production where someone used an American sounding name to hide the fact that it was a foreign film.  However, no dubbing, Los Angeles locations instead of New York or Rome; had to be American, but definitely not a typical Hollywood film.

I should have known who he was. Not from music, surprisingly.  He was a crooner, the "King of Palm Springs" in fact, and friends with Frank Sinatra.  However, recorded output from him is pretty scarce.  Since primarily I collect records, it may be a surprise that I didn't know who he was, but even someone with a large collection will not know 99 per cent of the artists that have recorded in the last 140 years unless they get something in their collection.  Surprisingly, I knew who Vic Caesar was immediately, even though he is an even more obscure crooner.

Mitchell's main claim to fame…

Ten Violent Women (1982)

Image
There are many what-if scenes in movies.  "What if they had hired someone who could make a realistic looking digital shark?  That would have been one of the best unexpected movie deaths ever!"  Instead, Samuel L. Jackson suddenly turns into a bunch of pixels as an effect the makers of Sharknado would have rejected takes him out. What if George Lucas had someone else write the dialogue for the prequels?  What if Blake Edwards just accepted the fact the Pink Panther series was over when Peter Sellers died?

And, in this case: what if Ted V. Mikels ever used some of the money he earned from his cheap drive-in films to buy a lighting rig?  Yes, the movie is obviously supposed to be run-of-the-mill exploitation, promising some skin and some blood, but that's no excuse for the fact that it is this difficult to actually see the movie while watching it.

Our title characters are working alongside a number of other young women as gold miners when the one man on their crew, who hap…

The Doll Squad (1973)

Image
Get this: you decide to get a bunch of beautiful b-movie actresses together and play James Bond out in the California desert.  You even have a friend with a boat that can arrange it so you can film some exotic scenes on the ocean.  Your little spy movie may bomb with critics and get the usual reaction most of your films do but, 45 years later, it has spawned a television show (which itself spawned two movies of its own) and influenced one of the biggest action films of the 2000s.

This is what Ted V. Mikels's The Doll Squad accomplished.  An unabashed exploitation film like most of his work, it is surprisingly devoid the the T&A one would expect from this title (especially from the poster) and is a largely serious attempt at making an action film on a budget.  And, although Mikels is known more for Astro-Zombies and The Corpse Grinders, this seems to be where he actually decided to seriously buckle down and do a coherent movie.

CIA agent Victor Connelly (Anthony Eisley) and Se…

Breaker Morant (1980)

Image
When you hear about a "new wave" in film, I am sure that the first thought you have is of the French New Wave of the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Those films, to varying degrees of success, had a certain feel of time and place and liberation as well as similar thematic issues. 

That is why it is hard for me to understand why a number of Australian films get grouped under the "Australian New Wave" moniker.  The one overwhelming theme, if there is one, is the fact that the censors backed off to the point that it was worth it for Australian directors and actors to stay at home and have an actual film industry rather than heading to Great Britain or the United States.  The Australian New Wave, therefore, encompasses everything from Picnic at Hanging Rock to Mad Max, as well as a number of war films, art films and movies that are commonly called "Ozploitation" in the U.S.  About the only unifying theme is that the movies are, first and foremost, proudly Austr…

Café Flesh (1982)

Image
A bit of a warning here.  Typically I stray away from adult films, largely because they are barely films and more because they are inherently silly.  Since recently, for the interest of a podcast that I am doing with a friend critiquing, song by song, the works of Electric Light Orchestra, I checked out a film from 1976 called Ecstasy in Blue.  The reason for that was because that particular film uses ELO's music (without permission) as well as the closing music for Carrie, a piece by Wendy Carlos and I am sure several other bits of stolen copyright material.  The opening made it look like something I would review here but, alas, it ended there.  The director obviously had some talent, but the movie was your basic extremely low-budget 1970s porno, made after the whole porno chic trend had ended.

While that film in no way fit the format of my typical reviews, it got me thinking of one of the few adult films I have actually wanted to see over the years: Café Flesh.  It was a movie …

Zardoz (1974)

Image
I don't think we'll ever see a period of cinema again that matches the early 1970s through the late 1990s.  That is a long period to think about, and film changed quite a lot during those decades; truly, the way films were made and audience expectations make films from those different decades appear almost like different species.  However, there was one thing that was true throughout: a director with a vision, if he played the game and made the big bosses enough money, could at some point do whatever they wanted - and, for some reason, studios let them.

This has rarely turned out well.  While Apocalypse Now somehow managed not to be the big disaster it looked like it was going to be, the same could not be said of Heaven's Gate.  As good as the latter movie is, it suffered from so much hubris from its own director and bad moves from the studio in order to try and survive after dumping so much money into the project that whether or not a quality film had been made was besid…

Hell's Angels (1930)

Image
Howard Hughes is a subject of legend.  A multimillionaire, accomplished aviator, strange recluse and the instigator of numerous grandiose failures, he was the inspiration for both the villain in Diamonds Are Forever and had his own Martin Scorsese biography film (The Aviator), in which he was played by Leonardo De Caprio.  So much of Hughes's own story and personality looms over this film that, even today, it is more talked about than actually seen.

The truth is, it is neither the bloated mess you would expect a rich playboy's pet project to be, nor is it the grandiose statement he intended to make.  However, it is, in many ways, as innovative a piece of filmmaking as Citizen Kane or The Battleship Potemkin, just in terms of special effects and what could be done with a camera.  Filmed between 1927 and 1929, then largely refilmed before its release, there is still so much here that would influence action films in the future even if the underlying story itself was a bit trite …

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Image
It seems that we have reached a sort of singularity where the only movies released at this point are either super hero films or the latest Star Wars sequel or side project.  I know that somewhere out there someone is making decent (or indecent) action films that aren't mega-budget cartoons. 

Cartoons, however, seem to be what we are in for these days.  For some reason the recent round of Marvel films leading up to Avengers: Infinity War have seemed more and more like listening to a hyper six-year-old tell us about a movie he saw rather than attempting to be movies themselves.  Sadly, although I may be in the minority of truly liking Thor: The Dark World much more than its predecessor, the third visit to Asgard does nothing to improve on the series.

We find our titular Asgardian God (Chris Hemsworth) getting himself purposely captured by Surtur (Clancy Brown), a fire giant intent on bringing forth Ragnarok, or the end of days, to Asgard.  To prevent this Thor slays him and steels …

Deep Red (1975)

Image
Dario Argento is known now primarily as a horror director, thanks to Suspiria and a string of supernatural and slasher features from his peak creative period from the mid-1970s through the late 1980s.  Highly influenced by Alfred Hitchcock and his own mentor Mario Bava, Argento himself became an influence on Brian De Palma, George Romero, John Carpenter and a number of classic American suspense and horror directors.

Before turning to horror, Argento was one of the most noted directors of giallo films, a genre of Italian crime films that often featured a combination of complex whodunit plots and brutal murder scenes.  Though he would return to the genre later in his career, Deep Red (originally titled Profondo rosso) was one of the last he would do for quite a while.

During a conference on parapsychology, psychic Helga Ulmann (Mach Méril) suddenly has a vision of the murderous thoughts of someone in the audience.  The experience causes her great concern, largely because the thoughts d…