Review: Transformers: Age of Extinction

Directed by: Michael Bay
Category: Action/Sci-Fi

I'll be right up front, I loathe these Transformers movies. I've never been a fan of Michael Bay as a director, and I've hated what he's done to this franchise. I hate how he shoots these films. I hate the design of the Transformers. I hate that you can't tell what the fuck is going on three quarters of the time because of his ADD style of filmmaking. This list could go on and on because while I do have a young son, I have been forced to endure these shitty movies made to sell toys more than anything. And you know what? Making movies to sell toys is fine, it's nothing new, but from the beginning, I have not liked how this property has been handled. Every time a new Transformers film is completed, Bay "always" states that this is his last one, yet he keeps changing his mind and keeps making more, and I get more and more disappointed with the franchise, the studio, and the director himself.

But a funny thing happened. When my son suggested watching this, as there are fewer and fewer movies we can enjoy together, I figured what the hell. While none of the previous films in this franchise would be considered anything but popcorn entertainment, this last entry was so batshit insane, so utterly ridiculous, with so many WTF? moments that I actually found myself enjoying this shockingly entertaining piece of rubbish. Yes folks, I enjoyed Age of Extinction, or a Transformers film rather, for the reasons that make it unintentionally terrible.

Much like AVP: Requiem, this latest entry in the series just seems to go a completely radical direction. Maybe to go out with a bang, or maybe as a big "fuck you" to the critics, Bay seemed to throw any sense of logic out the window and literally throw as much insane action and spectacle as possible at the screen, often times with so much of it serving no real purpose to further the story along. In fact, I'm not really sure why the second half of the film needed to take place in Japan. I'm sure it's mentioned, but for the life of me, I can't remember how or why. And that's what happens a lot in this entry. A lot of things happen, and most of it is so crazy and batshit insane, that you sort of just give up trying to figure out the "how" or the "why" that you just ease up on that mindset and enjoy the ride, and what a ride it is. "Let's go out with a bang" seems to be the motto and driving force behind this one.

While I still have a hard time liking the design of the Autobots and Decepticons, what I did enjoy was the fact that Michael Bay, because of the use of 3D cameras, was forced to keep the fucking camera still for once, resulting in some of the best visuals he's had to offer since The Rock. No joke. I found myself consistently in awe of how gorgeous his shots were, his compositions, and how fluidly the visuals flowed with 99% of his camerawork being pretty impressive. Meaning, no shaky-cam. Finally! If you know me, you'll know my extreme HATE for Bay's specific style of filmmaking. It seemed that with every successive Transformers film, it only got worse. And when he finally had a chance to prove himself as a talented filmmaker with Pain & Gain, a film completely outside of the Transformers universe that he's immersed himself in for the last 10 years, he only seemed to take that opportunity to go drastically further in the shaky-cam department that it literally ruined the experience for me, which is a shame, because it had the potential to be a pretty fun film. Instead it was an infuriatingly nausea-inducing experience. Thanks for proving once again that you were at one time a visually impressive filmmaker Mr. Bay, but sadly those days are long behind you.

Enter 3D camera's. For the record, I guess I don't really know if it's solely the fact that he used these monstrously heavy 3D camera's that we finally got some "stable" camerawork out of him - something he hadn't done since 2005's The Island, a good 10 years ago. For all I know, it could have been a conscious decision on his part to finally execute some of that slick camerawork that he became known for in his music video days. I'd like to think so. Whatever the reason, it was honestly a breath of fresh air, and made the experience of watching a Michael Bay movie a decent one once again.

To this day, I couldn't tell you what Age of Extinction was all about. All I keep thinking about is the insanely outlandish and ridiculous action sequences that never seemed to stop, in the most bizarre locations you'd never expect. The story and action fly at you at such a furious pace that there's little room for exposition. So much so that there's a scene halfway in the film where a small Transformer basically lays out what's going on and why in the matter of 2 minutes to the band of human characters helping them out. It was an odd scene, and takes you somewhat out of the film, yet it's important, because you learn what's been going on in the timeframe of the last 2 films and why this and that is happening. He even goes on to explain how Megatron is now Galvatron and why. A little silly, but also very important for the casual viewer.

I've since learned more Transformers films will be coming, but different, as the studio is looking to overhaul the franchise in a new direction, without Michael Bay at the helm. That idea gets me really excited, as I hope and dream that they will in some way go back to the franchise's roots, which started with my beloved 80's cartoon. I would love to see a film that more resembles the franchise I grew to love as an 80's kid, and not the Manga looking version we've had since 2007. In the meantime, this film is undoubtedly my favorite of the "Bay Universe", and while it seemed to have gotten slaughtered by critics more than any other in the series, I found it in the least, entertaining in a "WTF? am I watching" sort of way.


Review: Swamp Thing

Directed by: Wes Craven
Category: Comic Book Adaptation

If you'll recall, I nearly lost my shit when, after years of searching, I finally scored one of my most sought after tapes - the Swamp Thing Embassy Clamshell release; the first ever VHS release of this film. What makes it so sought after is it's gorgeous black clamshell and cover design. Embassy's subsequent video release was unfortunately in the standard cardboard slipcase. But acquiring this Holy Grail tape got me to thinking that I hadn't actually seen this movie in decades...literally. Lucky for me, HuluPlus has it available for streaming, so I jumped on it the first moment I could.

One of the things I always took away from Swamp Thing as a kid when I saw it back in the day was that I always thought it was weird. I don't know how exactly, but I always had these specific images stuck in my head, and when I tried putting these images together I would always come away with something odd and dark. So I guess it's because of this that I never really made the effort to see it again. However, with the recent popularity of this film with a handful of releases on DVD in the last few years, with Shout! Factory even putting a blu ray of this out recently, I figured now is a good as time as any to jump on the bandwagon.

Here's one thing that still surprises me to this day. Wes Craven wrote and directed this before A Nightmare on Elm Street. I don't know why I just can't wrap my brain around that little fact. But, I'm glad I revisited this, because there were a few other things that surprised me as well. For one, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. While not a great film by any means, it possesses an unintentional campiness that I oh so love. That, coupled with the films stellar cast, make for an enjoyably cheesy 80's experience I was not expecting.

While the film tries to take the serious approach, it ultimately and unwittingly comes off as campy. Lucky for us, it works splendidly, thanks to a solid structure, some excellent performances, and a score that ramps the excitement level to 11. That brings me to an interesting point. As soon as the film began, and it's excellent score started blazing, I couldn't help but notice it sounded shockingly similar to the theme for Friday the 13th. Well that's because Friday the 13th's composer, Harry Manfredini, supplied the score for Swamp Thing, and if you closed your eyes, you'd swear you were listening to Friday the 13th. But in a surprising twist, it works effectively well. Had there been a less engaging score, I doubt the fun level would have been as high as it is.

Swamp Thing succeeds as well as it does for a number of reasons, largely Manfredini's incredibly fun score, but also with it's surprisingly stellar cast full of cult icons such as Adrienne Barbeau, Ray Wise and David Hess. The film's also slightly quirky, whether intentional or not, and while most of the film can be called dark, which it also is, it's campiness shines above, and I love it for that. I think that's why I found it weird back as a kid. I remember not being able to figure out what kind of movie it was supposed to be. I mean, I knew it was based on a comic book, yet he's not a superhero. But revisiting it 33 years later and it's clear that this film is deeply flawed, but it's because of these flaws that it succeeds. Had it played out as intended by everyone involved, I think it's safe to say that Swamp Thing would have gone down as another "failed" live action comic book adaptation. Writer/Director Wes Craven might not have been at the top of his game, which he would clearly rectify and demonstrate just 2 years later with the horror classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, igniting a new horror icon and franchise for the hungry masses, but with Swamp Thing, his inability to choose a specific genre or tone gives it that little bit of spice that makes it stick out of the crowd.

Depending on your taste and point of view, one of the things that works against Swamp Thing or for it, is the sub-par makeup work. While the Swamp Thing makeup and costume design is vastly superior in Jim Wynorski's campy (on purpose) sequel, the suit here is painfully, dreadfully and obviously a wetsuit embellished with random swamp greenery. And the bad makeup doesn't stop there. The other creature that makes it's appearance in the final act of the film looks like it was bought at a costume shop. So in short, the makeup work is pretty bad, but for me, it only adds to it's unintentional cheesiness and charm.

I had a blast revisiting this cult classic. All of the things that keep this from being a great comic book adaptation are the things that I love about it, making it a helluva fun cheesy 80's experience. Despite it's issues, there are tons of things to love about this, and if you haven't seen Wes Craven's classic in a while, do yourself a favor and track this sucker down.


Review: Class of 1999

Directed by: Mark L. Lester
Category: Action

Forward: Gosh, I really feel like I've been slacking these past few weeks. What began as a daily onslaught of reviews and inspiration has quickly fallen to a few posts here and there recently. I've learned in the last 10 years that when I get into something, I tend to become obsessive. So I suppose you can say I've had an undiagnosed OCD thing and it's taken me nearly 40 years to realize this. LOL. So these past few weeks my focus has been on VHS collecting. I apologize, and with things getting somewhat back to normal, I'll try to get these out more quickly.

Though I still to this day have not yet seen the original film in this series, Class of 1984, Class of 1999 was a staple of my viewing experience as a teen in the 90's. I loved it, and remember wearing out my VHS of this to the point of unwatchable. I always knew that it was from the same guy who directed Commando, another staple of my 80's and 90's viewing experience, and that it was a Direct to Video release, but man, I loved the shit out of this film.

What's funny to see now is that back when I first saw it, 1999 was the future, but now we're a good 16 years later and 1999 never turned out to be the way it was portrayed in the film, as is "always" the case isn't it? But I honestly forgot about this film until recently. When a fellow filmgeek casually mentioned it, it immediately set off a barrage of images from the film that I had totally forgotten about. As luck would have it, it was on YouTube, and in widescreen. Score!

Mark L. Lester's Class of 1999 is undoubtedly one of the most underrated sequels out there. Not only that, it's always surprising to hear that whenever I discuss it or bring it up to anyone, they're completely unaware it's a sequel. But I guess that's also a testament to how good it is, that it's able to stand on it's own without any real connection to the first film. What also blew me away was how damn near impressive this killer cast is. A virtual smorgasbord of familiar faces from nearly every genre rooted deep in the 80's, it's almost like a game of "Name That Face and Movie". For starters, we've got Stacey Keach and Malcolm McDowell; no introduction needed on them. But then we've got the three new teachers assigned to the school, and they're none other than Pam Grier (yes, "that" Pam Grier), Patrick Kilpatrick (a regular baddie), and John P. Ryan. If you don't know they're names, you'll most certainly know their faces. But then we've got Bradley Gregg (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3), Tracy Lind (Fright Night Part 2), and Joshua John Miller, that annoying little kid that always seems to pop up everywhere. But you'll mostly remember him from the annoying vampire in Near Dark, or the annoying little brother in Teen Witch. But there's more, a lot more. I often caught myself mumbling "He's in this?", or "Him too?!". It's pretty fun.

When 3 new teachers are brought into a new school overrun with chaos, they seem to be able to bring the chaos under control. But when they begin to go too far, some of the students begin questioning what these new teachers really are. When they discover that they're actually robots as part of a new government program, it's an all-out war between students and teachers. 

The film starts off rather predictably, but not any less enjoyable. By the halfway mark though, it takes a considerable shift in tone and turns more into an all out sci-fi/action flick, complete with old school robot animatronics, lots of explosions, deaths, gun battles and impressive stuntwork. Looking back on it now, it has aged rather well, with the depiction of the punks via the future in 1999 not being that far off, surprisingly. Costume design aside, everything in this film comes together so well, culminating in a killer finale, making this easily one of the most enjoyable low-budget action/sci-fi flicks out there.

A lot of this film's success can be traced down and attributed to director Mark L. Lester. The guy has been making films for decades, in nearly every genre, and while action seems to be the one he's most comfortable with, and with which his most memorable films can fall under, when he's firing on all cylinders, he can deliver some really fun stuff. Class of 1999 is a perfect example.

With classics like the original Class of 1984, Firestarter, Commando, Armed & Dangerous and a personal favorite of mine, Showdown in Little Tokyo, under his belt, Lester has proven a formidable force in films, most notably the action genre. But while the 80's was his most respected output, after the Lundgren/Brandon Lee Showdown in Little Tokyo, he seems to have made the DTV market his home, where he still directs and produces films to this day. Unfortunately none of his output in the last 20 years is honestly very good, or hold a candle to his previous work, but I'm always hoping he'll be given that one last project where he can shine, and show us some of that spark he once had as a talented action filmmaker.

Class of 1999 is easily available on multiple formats, most notably on DVD singly, or as part of a horror pack. If you get the horror pack where this is included, be warned, as it's in full frame. If you pick up the single DVD, it'll be in widescreen, but with a really lame cover, and not the cover we grew up with on VHS. Either way, it's worth tracking down, and it's a helluva fun time.


Review: Cyber Tracker

Image courtesy of Moviepostershop.com

Directed by: Richard Pepin
Category: Action

Richard Pepin is my favorite low-budget action director. Hands down. The first time I saw Hologram Man, I was instantly enthralled with what this guy was able to accomplish on such a small budget. It's like he took all the best qualities of Albert Pyun and Craig R. Baxley in their prime and mixed them together to create the ultimate action director, Richard Pepin. His films are cheesy, but insanely enjoyable, filled with enough shootouts, explosions, fist fights and out of nowhere car chases that assault your senses at every turn. One of the things you'll notice almost immediately in nearly every sci-fi/action film of his is that they borrow heavily from other big budget films. Watching films like Hologram Man and T-Force and you'll see the Robocop, Terminator, Blade Runner, and hell, even Under Siege influences all throughout. But that's okay! He's not here to give us something new. He's here to give us some entertainment, and that he does...in spades.

Eric (Don "The Dragon" Wilson) is a bodyguard for Senator Dilly. After saving Senator Dilly's life in an assassination attempt, he's quickly moved up the ranks in his unit. Soon Eric realizes that Dilly is not all he makes himself out to be. When he witness Dilly commit murder, he tries to bring him down, only to have Dilly's new Cyber Droid Unit's at his disposal and after Eric no matter the cost. 

I really enjoyed Cyber Tracker, but I have to admit that it didn't blow me away the way Pepin's T-Force and Hologram Man did. Thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless, with a killer opening sequence (a staple of Pepin films), and plenty of action, car chases and out of left field unnecessary explosions, yet feeling a little less awesome than some of his other efforts. I'm still not sure why. Everything works on a level that you'd expect; pyrotechnics are top-notch, Wilson is a good lead, the fight scenes and action sequences are done with gusto by Pepin and co., but I think it was lacking some genuine WTF? moments. It's really these WTF? moments that make is other efforts stand out, and unfortunately, for all it's awesome action and stuntwork, these crucial WTF? moments were surprisingly absent.

Not that Cyber Tracker is any less less entertaining, because it's not. Believe me, if you're in the mood for some great cheesy low-budget action that steals heavily from Robocop, you'll have a grande ol' time with this one. My beef is that after coming off of 2 phenomenal entries like Hologram Man and T-Force, it's hard not to feel slightly let down by this one. But that's just me, and I doubt most will feel the same, especially if you check this one out before those others.

Despite my personal feelings of being slightly underwhelmed, it's still an excellent film. Tons of action, style, explosions, fights, shoot-outs, and car chases leave the causal viewer nothing less than enthralled, excited and satisfied. Here's to hoping that with Cyber Tracker 2, which Pepin released the following year, he adds a lot more of everything to ramp up the awesome.


Review: No Contest

VHS cover scan courtesy of Talesfromthesnikt.blogspot.com
Directed by: Paul Lynch
Category: Action

So here's a film that just kind of sort of came out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of me. I'm not even sure how I came across it, or aware of it, but doing some random search on Andrew Dice Clay (must have been because I just revisited Ford Fairlane) I came across this little unknown film from way back in 1995. Now I love action. Most importantly, I love low-budget action. So it surprises me that I hadn't heard of this until now, considering the talent that's involved in front of and behind the camera. Once I did a little digging I realized that it's on YouTube, so I threw it on the other night while I was in one of my "action" moods and hoped for the best. Let's see how it went.

No Contest is arguably one of the most entertaining Die Hard ripoffs I've had the pleasure of experiencing. Sure there are tons of these, some big budget and some low budget, but I had never come across one that was blatantly ripping off that original Die Hard film in such a drastic way that you couldn't help but laugh, in the best possible way. Yes, substitute a few things here and there, and it's essentially Die Hard with a female lead. Not just with the story, but with specific sequences, characters, supporting characters, plot points, and even down to it's visual aesthetic. Yea we always hear the term "Die Hard on a boat", or "Die Hard on a train", but this is seriously "Die Hard in a hotel", and it was awesome.

Shannon Tweed plays pageant host Sharon Bell, who also happens to be an action star who's proficient in Tae Kwon Do. When a terrorist (Andrew Dice Clay) and his crew takes the pageant and all of it's contestants hostage, it's up to Sharon Bell, with the help of a former Seargent on the outside (Robert Davi)to take them down one by one and save the day.

Image courtesy of Thedullwoodexperiment.com
No Contest is pure 100% action cheese at it's finest. There is so much that works so well in this, that you can easily forgive the few things that don't. Though technically a DTV (Direct to Video) affair, for the most part, you'd never know it. Director Paul Lynch (Prom Night) seems to have studied both John McTiernan and Renny Harlin's camera work on both Die Hard 1 & 2 because if you didn't know any better, you'd swear that either of them had directed this thing themselves. It's pretty spot-on in my opinion, and it's because of this visual flare that No Contest succeeds as well as it does. Of course, there are other attributes, most notably the killer cast, starting with Robert Davi in the Sgt. Powell (Reginald Veljohnson) role from the first Die Hard. A total badass, even wen he spends most of the time on a walkie talkie. Andrew Dice Clay did a good job as the main villain, without cracking jokes, which was kind of surreal. Don't let the cover fool you, he's not the action star in this. But the biggest surprise for me was Rowdy Roddy Piper as one of Clay's henchmen. I have to say, he's never shown or even mentioned in the trailer, so when the opening credits rolled up, I was shocked to see his name. But I assumed he'd be a rogue cop trying to save the day or something, like his role from Back in Action. Instead he plays a regular henchman, but the more sadistic of the group. In this Die Hard ripoff, he would resemble the character of Karl, played by Alexander Godunov in the original Die Hard. There's even a similar sequence in the end that Godunov made famous in that original classic; you'll know which one I'm talking about when you see it. But do you see what I'm getting at? It's just like they remade Die Hard, only on a tighter budget, but not any less entertaining or fun.

So that leaves us with the films star, Shannon Tweed. I will say this, she's attractive, there's no doubt about that. But though she's made a reputation at being nude in Playboy and in a slew of erotic thrillers, unfortunately you won't see any of that in here. So that leaves us with her acting, which can only be described as wooden at best. She's a looker, but she's not the most expressive actress. And while I admire the idea of having a female in the hero lead role, it was hard to find her believable as someone who can go one on one with any of these guys. You can tell she did some fight training for the role, but some of the fight scenes are almost laughable at how slow and choreographed they are. She can throw a punch, but it certainly doesn't look like a hard punch. But I have to say that the big fight between her and Andrew Dice Clay in the climax was hilariously awful. I mean, they tried their hardest to mask the fact that it's not really Andrew Dice Clay doing roundhouses and Shannon Tweed doing uppercuts by having the stunt doubles in the shadows and using far away camera angles, but even then, the editing is what gives it all away anyway because it's so ridiculous. By this point you have to wonder why Clay's character even bothers with these ridiculous roundhouse kicks when he can just grab her and choke her to death because he's twice her size. But then that wouldn't be any fun, would it?

I have never been a fan of director Paul Lynch, mostly because of his amateurish work on the original Prom Night. That was always a letdown to me. I feel I could have enjoyed it more had it been shot better, but it's tacky and uninspired camerawork ruined the whole experience for me. Since then he's done mostly television work, with the occasional DTV flick here and there. So when it came time to watch this, I was more than surprised to see how well it all looked. I don't know if Lynch owes most of that to his DoP or Cinematographer, but holy hell did this look like a big budget studio action flick with all the trimmings. As I mentioned before, he seemed to be channeling Renny Harlin in his heyday (Die Hard 2, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane), and it looks amazing. Every shot looks to have been conceived to take full advantage of it's widescreen aspect ratio, giving it a much more polished and professional look than you'd expect.

One thing I learned, surprisingly, was that when it comes to Roddy Piper, we all know he's good at playing crazy. He's made a career out of it, whether it be in the ring or on film. But here in this particular instance, he plays his character unsettlingly calm, and it comes off far more creepy than if he were to play it "crazy". It's because of this that Piper's character ultimately comes off as the most memorable in the film, even though technically he's just a hired henchman with a penchant for being shockingly brutal.

This movie won't change the genre or anything, but I'd be hard pressed to find another one as good that can define it. Die Hard ripoff's are a dime a dozen in the industry, especially in the 90's, but we can all agree that most of them were paint-by-numbers at best. No Contest, while adding nothing new to the table, seems to know where it's roots are, and in doing so, gives us exactly what we want; low-budget action cheese at it's best.


Review: Best of the Best 2

Directed by: Robert Radler
Category: Action

I always remembered liking this action/martial arts sequel to the equally great Best of the Best. But even going back to when I was younger and very much into these films as a teenager, I always remember liking this one much more. It seemed like the team behind the first film knew they had a good property on their hands and went all out when it came time to do a sequel. And when it comes to Best of the Best 2, boy did they ever.

Picking up right after the events of the first film, most of the principal players have returned, as well as director Robert Radler, and the result is nothing short of 100% Badass Cinema. While the first film was more of a martial arts/drama in the form of a competition film, this sequel goes straight for the "awesome" and ramps up everything considerably, giving us a lot more action, a lot more violence, and a lot more fighting. Best of the Best 2 is what sequels should be about, taking everything that made the first film so good and dialing it up to 10. Except in this case, they didn't do that. Instead they went up to 15!

When their friend Travis (Chris Penn) is killed in an underground Las Vegas fighting ring run by a ruthless show promoter (Wayne Newton), it's up to Alex (Eric Roberts) and Tommy (Phillip Rhee) to find out who's responsible. When they discover that fighter responsible is Brakus (Ralf Moeller) the current ruler of the ring, they band together to take him down once and for all with the help of Tommy's brother (Sonny Landham). 

I really can't say enough great things about this killer sequel. Everything you could possibly want in an action sequel is here, and it's just so much damn fun. Being a 90's action film, you can bet your ass there's a training montage cue'd to some cheesy rock music. Yes! It's overall aesthetic just screams 90's action nostalgia, made all the more awesome by it's supporting cast of character actors that have played nothing but bad guys all throughout the 80's and 90's. You may not know all of their names, but you'll certainly recognize their faces. But even aside from the regular set of baddies, you've got Meg Foster, Kane Hodder, Patrick Kilpatrick, Nicholas Worth, Sonny Landham, and the list goes on and on. The cast in this is amazing!

Recently a film buddy of mine online had mentioned how he was watching the first one, and I mentioned how this sequel is so much better in a different way. So he threw it on and agreed. But that got me to thinking and realizing that it had been ages since I'd actually seen it myself. Doing some digging online for the DVD I discovered that the DVD typically goes for around $20 on up, depending on the seller. And as easy as it could have been to just snag the VHS for cheap, I really wanted to see this in widescreen. As luck would have it, a day or so later I just happened to be casually browsing the Laserdisc selection on eBay and wouldn't you know it? Best of the Best 2 on Laserdisc was the first one to pop up, in Widescreen no less! $7 and several days later and it was in my hands. I love it when the universe works in my favor like that.

Review: Street Trash

Directed by: Jim Muro
Category: I don't know

This was one of those low-budget horror films I remember seeing often on the shelves of my local mom and pop video store. I doubt a big company like blockbuster would carry this, but I could be wrong. But I remember specifically seeing this amazing cover on numerous occassions as a youngster. I assume I wasn't allowed to rent it on my own as it's Rated R, and I was much too young, but I always wondered. Funny how that wonderment never pushed me to seek it out in my adult years. While the cover art always stuck with me, I never felt the need to seek it out. But I always assumed it would be great, or in the least, live up to the promise of that killer cover art.

On a random night last week, 4 of us sat down to enjoy what we hoped would be an epic low-budget splatter-fest, filled with insane practical gooey effects in all their glory. When it was over, all 4 of us left the film confused, and completely disappointed. What we assumed would be a horror film, ended up being something of a strange story about a former Vietnam vet who's now a homeless schizophrenic who is the self-imposed leader of a homeless camp ruling his authority with an iron fist, dispersing pain and punishment however he see's fit. Except, the film begins with a greedy liquor store owner who discovers a hidden box in his basement filled with a drink called "Viper". He decides to sell this drink to the bums who frequent his store at $1 a pop just to get rid of it and make a quick buck. However, when ingesting this Viper, you quickly begin melting from the inside out, and it's contagious. If any of this gooey ooze touches you, you're soon to melt into a pool of goo yourself. Great start, with an equally satisfying finale, but holy shit does this think seriously tank and take a severe nose dive for an entire hour in the middle with this Vietnam vet storyline that goes nowhere and has nothing to do with "Viper". It's like a totally different movie! It's never mentioned, and there are no killer effects work that impressed us so much in the beginning of the film.

For an entire hour you keep waiting and waiting for things to pick up, or to somehow involve the Viper drink that started the film, but no. It's a strange sometimes surreal film about a bunch of homeless people living in fear of this guy who's delusional, and then somehow brings in another story about two of these homeless guys who are brothers who are having a hard time getting along. Then, out of the blue the "Viper" storyline and the "Vietnam homeless vet" storyline come together in the end in the strangest way, culminating "finally" into some crazy gore and effects that we had been waiting an entire hour for. And by that time, it's not nearly enough to save this mess of a movie. You've practically given up by then.

When it was over, we did comment on how that we did enjoy it as a "weird film", but not an "entertaining" one. We were confused, bored, surprised at the great effects work (when provided - which was seldom), and impressed at how well Jim Muro shot it on a shoestring budget. But ultimately, we were unsatisfied and Street Trash was not the film we were hoping for. Here's to being thankful that I didn't actually buy this thing or seek out that special Limited Edition VHS that's nearing it's release.


Review: It Follows

Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
Category: Horror

Going into It Follows, I knew virtually nothing about it other than the random articles I would come across on news sites and Facebook; all of them praising this as one of the best and scariest films of all time. Then I read how it performed so strongly in the small amount of theaters it premiered in that they decided to roll it out in a larger number of theaters. Of course, being in the small town that I am, we didn't get it. But imagine my surprise, or shock rather, when I noticed it was playing at my local discount theater a mere 2 weeks after it premiered. That night I gathered a group of friends, who knew nothing about it, and we checked it out.

Once every few years a horror film comes out of nowhere and takes the masses by storm. Somehow, in some way, it's able to connect with people on just the right level, and because of that, they end up making an impression. It Follows is that film. While nothing spectacular in the "scares" or "gore" department, what writer/director David Robert Mitchell has done is given us a "subtle" horror film, filled with enough tension, uneasiness, atmosphere, and genuinely creepy moments that make this far more effective than any lame big budget cookie-cuter jump-scare horror film. You know, the kind that star actors that look like models. The kind that don't look like normal human beings. But I digress.

I don't feel it's a good thing to give you a rundown of the story, as any bit of information could and will potentially spoil it for you. The less you know going in, the better. That method worked remarkably well for me, as it was basically a blank slate of wonder for me. I had not idea what type of horror film this was going to be, or what the story was even about. I think the trailers and articles I would happen across were good at not divulging too much of that and because of that, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Boy am I glad.

There is so much to like here, so much to admire on a technical level. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell doesn't waste any time getting things started. But you're not sure what you've seen. But you've seen something, and it will stay with you. And Mitchell plays on these fears throughout the film, teasing you a little at a time, because he knows you can't figure out what's going on. It's pretty brilliant if you ask me. His camerawork is stellar, only adding to the film's overall throwback vibe. That's another thing It Follows has going for it. It looks and feels like a slow-burn 80's horror film, infused with style and plenty of substance. Yet I don't recall that it was ever mentioned what year things are supposed to take place. But it's made strikingly apparent that it's supposed to take place in the 80's just judging by the decor, surroundings and aesthetic. But then he throws something in there that throws that notion out the window, so I don't really know. But the amazing score by Disasterpeace doesn't help. It's about as retro synth as you could possibly get, reminiscent of some of John Carpenter's best work, and just by listening to it, you'd think you were watching a film made 30 years ago.

All in all, a stunning piece of work in the horror genre. Totally original, and made with an exceptional hand that outshines most big budget studio horror films from the last 10 years.


Swamp Thing 1982 Embassy VHS Cover

This has been what I can only describe as one of the Holy Grail's of VHS tapes for me. For years I've wanted this tape so badly. I've hunted and hunted for this with no luck. In all the years I've been searching for it, I'd only ever come across it twice, and both times the dealer practically wanted my soul for it. I mean, I love this film, but not enough to go broke for it.

Sure you can easily pick up the Embassy Swamp Thing slipcase VHS for really cheap any day of the week, but I wanted this 1st ever VHS release from Embassy, the gorgeous clamshell version. I mean, look at how beautiful this is! So aside from dealing with dealers on various sites, I would constantly troll eBay literally every day or in the least, every week for this particular release. I'm talking many, many, many years. And in all those years, I never came across one. Not once. That is until one late night last week when it hit me that it had been about a week since I'd done one of my mandatory eBay searches for this. There it was, and my jaw literally hit the floor. A starting bid of $6, with the "Buy it Now" option of just a whole $10. Needless to say I wasn't going to take the chance at trying to snag this under $10 so I jumped on the "Buy it Now" option and this amazing tape is now in my possession, just a total sum of just $14.

Getting this for such a cheap price is one thing, but one of the things I was not prepared for was how minty this tape and case would be. I mean, it's Near Mint! The picture that was used for the listing certainly gave no indication as to it's condition. Some people have a knack for taking good product pictures for eBay listings, others do not. This seller unfortunately did not as it was slightly out of focus, and dark. So you can imagine my surprise, and then utter glee, when I opened the package to find it near flawless and unfaded. When it comes to VHS dealing, it just doesn't get any better than this folks.

If you know anything about me, then you know I'm an extremely patient person. So much so that it can drive quite a few people mad. LOL. But in this case, my patience payed off big time and allowed me to finally secure one of my most sought after tapes for an extremely reasonable and healthy fee. It makes me happy that there are still people out there who are not in the business of selling tapes just for profit and to take advantage of those who they know are willing to sell an arm and a leg. In essence, to rip people off. So whether this eBay seller knew what they had or didn't, my hats go off to you.

Since I'd finally acquired this Holy Grail tape of mine, I decided to give this another watch since I realized it had been many, many years since I'd actually watched it. I always remembered this being a bit dark and weird, but as I watched it again after so long, I was taken by surprise (by a lot of things) at how campy and cheesy it was. I'm having a helluva great time revising this and you can expect a full-on review coming soon.


Kung Fury is here!

If you're any kind of geek, movie nerd, filmgeek or just grew up in the 80's, then you know all about Kung Fury by now. I'm sure you're also aware that this finally hit the interwebs last week, and since then it's racked up an insane number of views in such a short period of time. Just in case you haven't, here's David Sandberg's awesomely over the top ode to 80's action filmmaking nostalgia at it's finest.

Though it has already been out for over a week, I personally decided to hold out so that I could screen it as a warm-up film for our Bad Movie Night before the feature. Let me tell you, it was not easy, and it took all my will power to not see this. When Bad Movie Night finally rolled around, I screened it without giving the crowd any kind of info and literally from the opening frames, the crowd went wild. This film did not disappoint and for it's entire 30 minute run time, we laughed, yelled, and shouted "awesome!" repeatedly. This film had it all and 30 minutes later, received a howling round of applause from all of us. 

If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and set 30 minutes of your time aside and watch this piece of 80's nostalgia gold. While you're at it, check out the special music video from The Hoff himself, David Hasselhoff written, performed and shot exclusively for Kung Fury. Let me just say, it's freakin' awesome!

To read up more on all Kung Fury, and get some rad merchandise, visit their official

Bad Movie Night: Sorority House Massacre 2

Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Category: Horror

When I recently saw the excellent Hard to Die, it was only afterwards that I learned it was technically Sorority House Massacre 3. But since it didn't take place in a sorority house, they changed the name as to not confuse the general public. So after learning that Jim Wynorski not only directed both Sorority House Massacre 2 and 3, but that he made them both in the same year, I was ecstatic! So you can bet your ass I set about getting my hands on Part 2. But of course, as with most of Wynorski's earlier films, that's easier said than done. The Sorority House Massacre franchise is a hard one to get your hands on cheaply. There are various releases on Blu-ray, DVD and VHS, even a DVD set containing all 3 films, but they're not cheap, with Part 3 aka Hard to Die being the hardest one to track down. Surprisingly, I lucked out finding a VHS on Amazon for under $10 including shipping.

A good 10 minutes into this film and something was painfully apparent; Hard to Die is virtually a scene for scene remake of Sorority House Massacre 2, which is surprising for a number of reasons, the first being that both films were made by the same director in the same year. Yea, try wrapping your brain around that one for a little bit. What was more shocking is that entire lines of dialogue, situations, sequences and hell, the damn storyline are carbon copies of everything that happens in Hard to Die, just set in a sorority house rather than a high rise building.

But here's the thing. If you haven't seen Hard to Die, SHM2 is damn entertaining. It's low-budget horror sleaze at it's best; absolutely. But if you've already seen Hard to Die, there's no denying that Hard to Die is the much stronger and better film. I don't know why they decided to remake SHM2 and reset it in a high rise building for Hard to Die, but it seems that everyone on board (most of the cast and crew returned for Part 3 aka Hard to Die) has upped the anty and their game considerably for the 3rd round. Even though it's the same story, same lines of dialogue, and same characters, the third film takes everything a step further into the absurd, ridiculous, hilarious and entertaining; making for a much better film altogether.

But back to SHM2. A group of college girls move into the delapidated and rundown sorority house made famous by the murders of all the previous tenants years before. They immediately are confronted by their odd neighbor Orville Ketchum, and he tells them about what happened to the previous tenants in the same flashback that's used in Part 3, but whatever. Immediately soon after, they begin experiencing strange things, and they soon suffer the fate of the previous tenants one by one. 

What follows is a surprisingly short running time of just an hour and 15 minutes of endless gratuitous nudity, laughably low-budget amateurish kills and a story and plot so razor thin, you could cut a diamond on it; all the things that make this specific type of film so damn fun and entertaining, a staple of Wynorski's early film career. Let me also point out something that is also quite silly - the cover. First of all, none of those women are actually in this film. And that's not the killer. So much like the trend that prevailed in the 80's where the poster artwork was made before the film itself, it seems the distributor decided to continue the trend going into the 90's. While the theme of the cover is accurate, it's just funny how none of the people depicted on it are actually in this film. Good stuff.

It's hard to figure out what Wynorski was thinking when he made this, and then decided to remake the same film in the same year. With this film in particular, he seems to just be going through the motions. It feels rushed, and oftentimes lacking any of the character that makes most of his earlier films so great. But then again, I don't know what the circumstances were making this. If IMDB is to be believed, this was written and shot in 7 days. After seeing this, you would definitely believe that. While entertaining through and through, it looks and feels like a film conceived and shot in 7 days. One thing's for certain, everything lacking in this film in terms of charm, structure, coherence, effects, violence and entertainment value is impressively displayed in the third entry Hard to Die. But don't be discouraged. SHM2 is ludicrous, sleazy fun and you won't be disappointed. This film is why the VHS era was so great.


Review: The Convent

Directed by: Mike Mendez
Category: Horror

I recently happened upon this title while browsing a Facebook horror group I follow. The guy who made the post was basically saying how great it was, and how essentially it was a throwback to the 80's cheesy horror films we loved. It also boasts an interesting cast, with Adrienne Barbeau and Bill Moseley providing key supporting roles. How have I not heard of this before?

Directed by Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider!), the biggest inspiration for The Convent is Night of the Demons. In fact, one could argue that it's nearly identical, or close enough to be called a remake. Except Mendez and writer/actress Chaton Anderson seem to be purposely be going for the over-the-top silly/cheese factor. While Night of the Demons could certainly be called cheesy, that's more an example of it's time, whereas Convent is all done on purpose, right down to the extravagant colors used throughout, and the bright neon colored gore and black lighting only add to the "camp" factor. And its' definitely campy.

I don't know, I'm sure there was a good movie in here somewhere, but Mendez is not a strong director, and it's because of this that The Convent doesn't quite live up to the excellent concept. All the ingredients are here; decent cast, decent effects, killer opening, and a slightly quirky take on the "possessed demon" concept, but Mike Mendez unfortunately drops the ball on a number of occasions, leaving us a little underwhelmed by it's low-budget quality. It was a fun watch for sure, but it could have been so much better had it not looked and felt so amateurish. Many scenes, and entire sequences in fact, felt like they lost all of their impact due to it's far-reaching silliness. While I get they were going for silly 80's at times, and scary at others, it just doesn't flow very well, leaving a bad taste in your mouth.

The production and budget, believe it or not, was actually halfway decent, with the exception of the minimal hokey CGI effects shot here and there, but when it came down to practical makeup and effects, I really didn't have any complaints in that department. In fact, one of the things I found sort of refreshing is the fact that when the characters went full on "possessed demon", Mendez used bright neon colored makeup illuminated by black lights, which gave it a unique spin on these sometimes tired sequences. Yet, the lame and uninspired hand-held camerawork left a lot to be desired. It's these little technical aspects that bog down what could have been a really well made and fun horror throwback experience.

There are parts of The Convent that work, namely seeing a badass Adrienne Barbeau steal the show and kick all kinds of ass, but there are things about this that frustrate you in it's less than impressive approach. Personally, I liked the idea of a Night of the Demons clone, and the stylistic choices presented throughout such as the bright neon colors and cheesy CGI, coupled with a good cast and decent makeup effects make this totally passable. I just didn't care too much for how Mike Mendez conveyed all of these things with an amateurish aesthetic. It could have been so much better.

* If you want to check this out, it's currently streaming on HuluPlus.


Review: Roger Corman's Unreleased Fantastic Four

Directed by: Oley Sassone
Category: Comic Book Movie

I'm sure by now we've all heard of this film right? Released in 1994 and produced by legendary schlock producer Roger Corman, the film was so bad that it was never released, neither by Corman himself or by Marvel. Sure you can see it now, but it'll only be bootleg copies that somehow made there way out into the masses, because we live in the day and age where it's just too easy for us to be able to access these things that we're not supposed to. And thank heavens that we can!

I've owned this film for a few years now on a DVD rip, but for the life of me I can't remember where I got it. But oddly enough, I do also remember coming across it at a mom and pop video store in Austin, TX a good 15 or so years ago, even though technically this was not supposed to be made available to the public. But anyway, this past Sunday afternoon I was looking for something to throw on that would possibly be Bad Movie Night worthy (I'm always on the hunt), so I finally decided to take a chance on this and hope for the best on a few different levels. One, that the copy would be at least watchable, knowing full well this could be a copy of a copy of a copy of a bootleg VHS. And secondly, that it would at least be something I could watch all the way through without having my brain melt in frustration. I'm happy to report that on both of these topics, Roger Corman's FF scored a solid "A".

Fantastic Four is a terrible movie. It's just completely awful. But the funny and surprising thing I found was that it was also oddly charming in it's own way. In fact, all I kept thinking about while I was watching this was how much I enjoyed it more than the two lame big budget Hollywood films we've gotten to date, with a third film (a reboot) on it's way any month now as of this post. But while nearly every single aspect of this production was severely lacking in nearly every department, it was highly enjoyable in a Bad Movie sort of way. We laughed hysterically from beginning to end for a number of reasons; the hilarious dialogue, the schlocky special effects, the weird music cue's, and most importantly - lack thereof, the truly bizarre subplot involving an elf and his gang that doesn't even belong in this film, the horribly miscast actors, Dr. Doom's hilariously over the top and completely hammy performance, and director Oley Sassone's flat out terrible and uninspired camera work. The Fantastic Four has it all, in both the worst and best possible way.

I loved this film, and had such a blast watching it that it's hard for me to hate on it for just being bad, when being so bad is the reason I loved it so much. Yes my friends, if you need a recommendation for Bad Movie Night with a bunch of friends, this film will surely fit the bill. It's definitely bad, yet in a highly entertaining way.

Oley Sassone is a terrible director. There's just no getting around that. While this isn't the only low-budget Marvel property out there, The Punisher (1989) and Captain America (1990) being the most notable, at least those films were made considerably well by low-budget standards. Big time Hollywood editor Mark Goldblatt took the directing reigns on The Punisher, and what resulted was a seriously killer piece of Badass Cinema. While I wouldn't call Goldblatt a stylish director, he certainly knows how and where to place a camera. The film looks good, and the amount of action and violence is insane, making it one helluva great film, regardless of the fact that Dolph Lundgren isn't wearing the Punisher costume. With Captain America, legendary Low-Budget director Albert Pyun (Cyborg, Nemesis), infused the film with a lot of style, but very little substance. Trying to play the film out more like a drama meant little action overall, but the action sequences that are there - namely the beginning and end - make the film for me and well worth the watch. I actually enjoy it quite a lot.

With FF, director Oley Sassone makes the film look cheap. There's no style, no tact, no creativity to any of it. Because of this, it constantly looks like a Made-for-TV movie, or worse yet, just an average episode of a random television show. I don't know what Corman was thinking by hiring this guy to direct a film like this, but it couldn't have been from anything he'd directed before. There's nothing in his filmography that would suggest that Sassone could be capable of handling such an important property like this. Furthermore, it's painfully apparent that this guy just can't handle effects. I personally feel, in my humble opinion, that with all that is wrong with this film, that if it had in the "least" been shot with some more visual pizzazz, it would have upgraded the quality of this significantly. Sure it's a fun watch, mostly due to the terribleness of it all, but with some visual eye candy, it could have really been something. The only thing I can gather is that Corman hired Sassone knowing full well that this film was never going to see the light of day anyway, but we'll get into more on that later.

Despite it's many shortcomings, Corman and company did get a few things right, namely the costume and makeup design. They literally look like they jumped right out of the comic book, something that big budget studio films seem to not understand. Even getting down to The Thing and Dr. Doom's makeup, which is surprisingly spot-on and damn near impressive. If only the film had "looked" better, stylistically.

Ever since it's creation, and subsequent "un-release", it has always been available on bootleg VHS, sold primarily at conventions and the underground video circuit. It's from these bootleg VHS tapes that we have DVD rips, which have also been downloaded on torrent and streaming sites. So it's easily and readily available to watch should you choose to, but be warned, every version you find will all be from a bootleg VHS tape, and the quality shows. To date, there has never been a DVD press, so unless Roger Corman, or whoever holds the rights to this thing currently, decides to just say fuck it and release the thing to the home video collectors market, this is as good as we're gonna get.

Rumor has it that Roger Corman never intended to release this....ever. He had somehow acquired the rights to the FF property, and that hold was just about to expire. So instead of letting it go and falling into the hands of other filmmakers, he decided to do a quick cheap production to get something out of it before he lost control of the rights. That makes sense, but I'm still not clear on why he never intended to actually release it. Maybe that'll be cleared up in the new documentary Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman's The Fantastic Four, set to make it's world premiere at this years San Diego Comic Con.

Over 20 years later, it's oddly charming in it's own unique way. There are things about it that surprised me, and there are things about it that drove me nuts. But all in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, while it's severely lacking, and often feels rushed and made up on the fly, I still found it more enjoyable than the 2 turds Hollywood has given us to date. Maybe there's something to be learned from all of this?


They Live Japan VHS Cover

They Live Japan VHS Cover Scan provided by robotGEEKSCultCinema.blogspot.com