Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DIARY OF A HIGH SCHOOL BRIDE (1959) - you should probably at least flunk out of college before you tie the knot

The opening text claims that the movie is the “story of a teenage girl who could be your daughter, your sister…or you!”. I reckon that if you qualify for all three…wait for it…wait for it…you might be a redneck. Either that, or you are very confused, maybe suffering from multiple personality disorder. In that case, I recommend heavy medication.

Well, Judy is a young girl. We know this because she clutches a teddy bear wherever she goes. She just got married to a lawyer in his mid 20’s (Steve), and they get pulled over for speeding. The cop asks Judy how old she is, and she freaks and starts crying as if she was being interrogated at gunpoint. Judy pulls out an LP recording of their wedding ceremony as proof of their marriage, and the cop quickly leaves her alone. Steve calms her down by calling her “delicious”. God damn the fifties were awesome. Further proving my point, we then hear the solid doo wop theme sung by one “Tony Casanova”. Tony, you fucking rock.

Well, the couple visits Judy’s parents to talk about the weather and maybe mention that they happened to get married. Needless to say, the parents are royally pissed, as marrying a 17-year-old girl is just not what proper people do. Mother wants to call the police to have the marriage broken up, but father wisely points out that this is no solution. Thinking about it, I guess I understand why Judy was nervous, being that she didn’t have her parents consent to get married, and a 25-year-old marrying a 17-year-old could be construed as statutory rape. Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is. As Winger famously implied, seventeen is close enough. Then again, maybe my brain has been rotted by modern immorality.

The couple heads to a truly awesome bohemian café, where the waitress wears a skimpy leotard and goateed hepcats call each other “daddy-o”. There’s also a white dude playing flamenco guitar, but the music doesn’t match his fretwork. Maybe they got a proper latino to actually record the music, and he’s just a white friendly guitar front. Either way, the cats in the crowd are totally digging it. That is, all except a greaseball ruffian who also happens to be Judy’s ex-boyfriend. He is none too thrilled to see that Judy has married some “square”. The greaseball has a goofball greaser friend (he is a ball of grease that is goofy, if you follow) that is always listening to his walkman. Keep in mind that this is 1959. It would be like having your own little spaceship now. It might be just a little radio with no cassette deck capabilities, but it’s still impressive. Either way, the hair gelled ghosts of Judy’s past are coming back to haunt her.

I guess Judy is a virgin (she sure acts like one), so Steve does what any man worth his salt would do and makes his move. He pulls back his robe to show off his chest hair, and also hits a button to unfurl the magic foldout futon. Boy, this movie sure is technologically ahead of its time. Steve finally smooches frigid Judy and, of course, she drops her stuffed animal. I guess this is a classy, symbolic way of saying that she finally got schtupped. Of course, she has to awkwardly head back to high school, and the other girls immediately tease her with a rendition of “Here Comes the Bride”. Even way before Twitter, word sure got around fast.

I thought this underage marriage thing was more acceptable back then. After all, Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13-year-old cousin, which was a big scandal at the time, but now if you did that, you would get thrown in jail for the rest of your life. You know, if she really did look like a young Winona Ryder, it’s hard to blame him. Perhaps I shouldn’t just come out and say that. Either way, maybe the law has gotten tougher while people have gotten less easily offended.

More to the point, Judy seems like the most honest, moral soul imaginable, so it seems ridiculous that she lives in a world that repeatedly chastises her for her morality. I guess the lesson here is that parents are jerks that occasionally love you, and high school students are complete and utter assholes at all times. They’ll make fun of anyone just to feel better about themselves. I’m pretty sure that if you were a 16-year-old high school student that took a day off to accept the Nobel prize for chemistry, you would get taunted unmercilessly the next day at school.

The movie unfortunately doesn’t concentrate on the more sociological aspects of Judy’s plight, and instead becomes a story about the ex-boyfriend greaser stalking Judy and Steve, trying to break them up to “get his kicks” (including the requisite drag racing/chicken scene). It’s more Cape Fear than Rebel Without a Cause, admittedly. I don’t think you really need a monster when the quiet tragedies of a judgemental world can be quite monstrous to an innocent young girl just looking for love.

Those are some foggy streets.

Monday, August 29, 2011

HOUSE OF DEATH (1982) - an underrated hack 'n' slasher, and the pride and joy of Shelby, NC

House of Death opens up with the truly classic “making out and getting hacked up in an isolated setting” scene, supplemented with the age old “full moon/pair of tits” montage. The bodies are dumped in a river, and this leads to a neat wraparound near the end of the movie, where a girl goes skinny dipping alone and gets her throat slit right after discovering the floating couple. Throughout the film, we cut back to the dead couple to check their progress down the river, perversely reprising the adventures of Tom and Huck. Most of the rest of the film is spent in the white bread, hometown-y goodness of Shelby, North Carolina, brought to life by our director, David Nelson (of Ozzie and Harriet fame). I guess he REALLY wanted to divorce himself from his greaseball brother.

Lily, our virginal heroine (needless to say, played by a thirty-year-old Playboy Playmate who did some porno on the side) and her group of friends go about their day before spending the night at the “old deserted house by the cemetery”. We get various vignettes involving the “teens” as they deal with “real life problems” and such in small town Americana. Luckily, the town fair is going on, so they get together to blow off some steam. You know, doing that strength test with the hammer - the kissing booth - that inflated room where you jump around like an ass - and, my personal favorite, sitting down on a potato sack and sliding down a long ramp at 80 miles an hour with nothing to prevent you from smashing into the person next to you.

Anyhow, in the middle of all this foolishness, the killer shoots a girl with an arrow, and she tries to escape by getting on a carousel horse. Yippee! The horsey will save me! Ehhh…not so much. The killer asphyxiates her with a plastic bag, ending, dare I say, an Argento-esque sequence. The killing of this extraneous character presumably exists to break up a long period of homicidal inactivity. Really, the movie is about the main characters, and how their idyllic small town summer day ends in a cavalcade of severed limbs. Halloween is more cinematic in this regard, whereas House of Death is more of the made for T.V., family special variety, hence the righteous choice of director.


The ending massacre is truly ruthless, and, not to mention, buttock crushing. In one awesome bit of business, a girl falls through a broken step, and her buddy tries to lift her up, only to find that she has been cut in half (in record time) by the maniac; a gag that later showed up in Michele Soavi’s Stage Fright (which would make the Stage Fright sequence “David Nelson-esque“, to be fair). Another fella gets his head chopped off while trying to start a truck, setting up a nice gag where a girl gets in the truck with him, calls his name, and shakes him when he doesn’t answer. The devilishly witted maniac neatly placed the severed head back into place, and the movement of the body causes his head to roll off. This gag was replicated in Freddy Vs. Jason, amongst other movies I believe.

You know, it’s starting to look like David Nelson deserves a lot more credit within the horror genre, even though he only directed one horror movie. He may have in fact have pioneered many convoluted tricks that have inspired other great filmmakers. Not to mention he was in Peyton Place. Good god. Also, he’s not to be confused with northern Chicago suburb camcorder pioneer, David “The Rock” Nelson. Wait a second…what if they’re the same person? Holy shit.


Anyway, this culminates in the trick reveal, where-in Lily discovers the killer is actually her long lost father, who brutally killed the innocent teenagers because they were “whores”, which I suppose includes the fat virgin guy with the afro. Daddy promptly falls out of a window, impaling himself. The fat ass sheriff finally shows up, and immediately engages in his own brand of justice. With no prior knowledge of these murderous events, and without uttering a word (or, god forbid, reading someone their rights), he blows the head off the already dying killer. I guess he had one of those “bacon hunches” and, for once, was spot on.

Several actors in the movie also appeared in Day of Judgment, which is about a grim reaper fellow killing a few commandment breakers (you know, like, you totally shouldn’t kill people, or screw around with your sister, or urinate on someone’s head, etc.) in a small North Carolina town set in the 20’s. While similar in the broadest cinematic sense, it’s strikes me as a boring, pussified period version of House of Death, what without the steadying hand of David Nelson and his ability to develop realistic small town teenagers, and, more importantly, the where-with-all to have them brutally massacred at the height of their innocence.

P.S. The great website Bleeding Skull recorded a commentary for the movie. Download and sync bitches!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

VAMPEGEDDON (2010) - being human is suckee, so why not become a vampire and do the sucking, thereby paving the way for pun-egeddon

Some people want freedom. Others seek world peace. Still others have no legs, so they pray that they’ll get two robotic legs for Christmas so they can finally walk along the beach once again. Mel wants to be a vampire. I know what you’re thinking…just head down the local magic shop and pick up some plastic teeth and a cape and…viola! No, Mel wants to be a REAL vampire, as this is a “Greyhound to immortality”, as she puts it. Speaking as someone who has ridden a Greyhound across country, if immortality requires you to ride a Greyhound to get there, it just isn’t worth it. Anyway, she’s a sad bastard goth girl, and becoming a vampire will apparently solve all of her problems. Good luck with that sweetheart.

The prologue explains that, in the late 19th century, a European vampire fled to the Arizona desert (since we all know that vampires love the desert), and a vampire hunter followed him. He is almost tricked by a sexy Native American chick (really a stripper dressed as an Indian) who is also a vampire, but ends up successfully staking vamp boy’s buddies. He is then apparently grabbed by the head vampire and held up in the sky (well, some iMac generated star background, to be precise) long enough for the hunter to stake the vampire. Unfortunately, the laws of physics dictate that if you are being held up by a flying vampire over a rock quarry and kill him, shit is going to break bad for you. Sure enough, the vampire hunter crashes headfirst onto some rocks and bites it. Sorry.

Well, Mel’s goth friends want to help her out, so they all get together to perform some vampire summoning ceremony where they cut themselves and spill blood into a wine glass and read from an Anne Rice book. They perform the ceremony in the desert, possibly near where this vampire battle took place. Coincidence? Maybe. It doesn’t matter, since the ceremony does nothing. This scene is probably an homage to a similar a scene in Dracula A.D. 1972, only unbelievably lame. The failure of the ceremony inspires Mel to go on one of those sad bastard walk montages.

She wants to be bitten by a vampire that looks like the dude from Twilight so she too can be a creature of the night and play vampire baseball and sparkle. If this movie is any evidence of current trends in the psychology of young females (folks, that might be a stretch), I reckon that the Twilight books and movies are causing some young women to think that this vampire shit is real. I understand that people want to live forever. After all, the great philosopher Woody Allen once said “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my works…I want to achieve it through not dying.” However, putting on a cape and trying to bite someone on the neck isn’t going to do anything except freak out the other person (or arouse them if they’re into that sort of thing). If you REALLY want to live forever, maybe you should donate to the effort of scientists to counter the aging gene. Or, maybe, create a “work” that isn’t going to be a pop culture joke ten years after the fact.

ANYWAY, Mel luckily finds an evil vampire book, and her and her friends trek out to the desert again to perform a vampire summoning ceremony, and hopefully get it right this time, now that they have a handbook and all. Well, it works, and the three vampire dudes show up (wearing dimestore capes, their bald heads smothered in white makeup that sorta kinda covers most of their head and neck), and Mel’s friend turns into Buffy all of a sudden and kills them. There’s a stupid “shock” post-script and the movie ends. The initial vampire victory may seem like a happy ending, but the whole point of the movie was that Mel was TRYING to get a vampire to come alive and bite her neck, and her dumbass friend put a stop to it. I guess even no-budget horror movies need to have a Hollywood superhero victory ending, even if this ending negates the entire point of the film. I guess I’m thinking too much. I should just go along with it and furiously masturbate when I see tits covered in blood.

So, that’s not much plot, even for a 75 minute movie. The rest of the time is spent hanging out with Mel and her lame friends. They tell unfunny jokes (when the vampires don’t show up in the desert, Mel says “this place sucks”) and speak in dubbed speech that sounds like they took turns reciting dialogue into a computer mic, reading it off the page whilst half asleep. There’s also the horrible soundtrack, whether some nu-metal whatever or songs that sound like Lit or Len. Remember those bands? I hope not. Most inexplicable of all, Mel’s big titted friend has some crazy hair extensions that sorta defy description, but I will try anyway. Remember that scene in Brazil when the repairman (played by Robert DeNiro) comes to Jonathan Pryce’s apartment to fix the plumbing, and keeps pulling out some tube and wire guts from behind the wall? It sorta looks like those mass of tubes, but they are spray painted silver and black and they're coming out of her head. Either way, whoever runs Hot Topic needs to lay off the coke. Also, whoever directed this movie needs to lay off the Hot Topic and snort way more coke. Maybe he'll come up with something more interesting next time. That is all the wisdom I have to provide at this time.

P.S. This was written as part of "Project Terrible" over at Mondo Bizarro. Check it out. More reviews to come.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

METTA META GAKIDO KOZA (1971) - that's Japanese for "a sex comedy from the mind of a raving lunatic"

Puberty can be tough time for a boy. Our young hero desperately wants to shag some little sweetie pie, but is completely ill-equipped to do so. And by ill-equipped, I do mean "ill-equipped". His little fun buddy is so tiny he needs a magnifying glass to spot it (quite literally), and when he goes off to pee in a field, a bunch of Japanese schoolgirls notice his non-existent package, and they all point and laugh. When sexual frustration collides with penile inadequacy, there is only one solution…suicide.

Sort of like a junior high version of Lane Meyer from Better Off Dead, our little hero tries to kill himself but frankly blows ass at suicide. He lies down on some train tracks, but the train actually passes on the adjacent tracks. He then tries to lynch himself on a ferris wheel, but unfortunately some kind of bird man superhero saves him. Asshole. Well, blessed with a second chance at living, the boy goes on a date with a girl at the park. Inexperienced as he is, he only lightly kisses her forehead, unsure of where to target his smooches. This adorable little date is interrupted by a cop that strips down to his underwear and tries to molest the little girl (being that this is a Japanese movie, it is required to have at least one funny scene featuring a child molester). Well, our hero becomes frustrated by his failures with the opposite sex (and having to play second fiddle to a child molester), so he finally grows some stones and stabs the "cop" in the head with a butcher knife. As Alice Cooper so eloquently put it…"No More Mr. Nice Guy".

Courtesy of minusone66


Stabbing a police officer in the head with a knife seems like a big move from someone so seemingly timid, but let's take a look at the boy’s family life. An earlier scene shows the boy smacking his baby brother around because he tried to feel up his foldout centerfold. Under an umbrella of sexual frustration, the older brother snaps. Once the "turn" is complete, our hero becomes rebellious, whether talking back to authority figures, picking on nerdy students, getting into vicious fights with teachers, cutting open his parents skulls and replacing their brains with mystery goop, or killing and roasting the bird man like a pig on a spit, the "superhero" that saved his life. That'll teach him to stay out of other people's business, especially crazy people that are trying to kill themselves. So, we end up with one less nutbar on the planet. Big deal.

In Japan, if you start a fight with a teacher, both of you get put on super mop duty. Another reason why Japan is virtually spotless.

It is pretty clear where he gets these violent impulses from, as his parents seem to only be able to communicate through violent means. Mommy pummels the shit out of the baby when he acts up (even knocking his eyeballs out), and daddy goes ballistic when he sees his wife with her new blow-up doll that turns into a real man (Japan has always been a step ahead of us in terms of technology). I believe it was the great Japanese philosopher Banzai Hachimachi that said "violence is a vicious cycle, and when anyone tries to ride this cycle, they fall off and skin their knees of humanity". Boy, that zen stuff is deep.

Dad is a volcano of sexual frustration, so naturally his son follows suit. Look no further than the scene where the boy goes to a go-go dance club presumably to hit on women. Lo and behold, his dad is there, and he ends up challenging his son to a beer drinking contest. The little dude is victorious (and he gets to suck on some titty as a reward, which appears to be his favorite thing in the world to do), and dad can’t handle this kind of humiliation, so he drags his son outside and flattens him with a steamroller. This hardly fazes the youngster, maybe because he just chugged like 30 beers. Either way, flattening your son till he’s approximately the thickness of poster board is no way to positively channel your sexual frustrations. Also, it automatically disqualifies you from any “world’s greatest dad” awards or what have you. Later, they do bond and make up (even if for just a moment) by judging a topless beauty contest together. It would be easy to dismiss this family as fucked up beyond belief, but I wish my dad and I would've spent this kind of exciting quality time together.

If it isn’t already clear, Metta Meta Gakido Koza IS FUCKING CRAAAAAAAAAZY. Yes, even for Japan. Ever see Hausu? This movie is like watching Hausu jerk off to a cartoon version of Porky’s (I know that doesn’t make sense, but I think it’s fitting regardless). Unfortunately, the copy I have is in Japanese with no subtitles, and I don’t understand Japanese, so the movie might be even crazier than it appears at first glance. For all I know, the dialogue could include lines like “I sure had a CRAZY day at the office! We were busy making Mr. Suzuki some magic underwear out of squid eyeballs when a centaur ran into the office and started pelting us with kumquats. Luckily, the centaur was arrested, and was sentenced to spend 5 billion years inside of a giant peapod that rests inside of Jupiter’s core. Thankfully, we got to keep the kumquats.” No matter what your demented imagination might conjure up, it could never conjure up some of the stuff in this movie. I bet you’re wondering why you’ve never even heard of this movie. Well, not only was it never released in the west, it’s not even on IMDB. Even IMDB was like “no fucking way that movie exists”. I bet if you went through the looking glass and went on IMDB (assuming they have Wifi in there), Metta Meta Gakido Koza and Hausu would be the only two movies listed. Did I mention that there's a scene where someone goes bowling with a baby? I don't mean that someone brings a baby bowling, rents it shoes, buys it a fucking beer, and lets it take a fucking turn. No, THEY BOWL WITH THE BABY. All I can say is...god bless you, Japan.

Monday, August 22, 2011


I didn't realize that mental hospitals were filled with hot chicks. I should really visit them more often. Granted, even a nutbar Amber Heard is probably out of my league. However, there's that chick that keeps sucking her thumb while clutching her bunny rabbit doll. I bet I could sneak up to her barred window at night and whisper "psst! I got an extra ticket to see Tori Amos tonight! Come on, I'll help you break out!". She'd be cracked puddy in my hands.

Other than that, the plot of The Ward is modern day Hollywood horror hackery, albeit competent hackery. Where the movie shines is in the direction by John Carpenter. This one actually looks and feels like a John Carpenter movie, unlike the Masters of Horror episodes he did.'s decent, I guess. Maybe someone will let Carpenter direct an original, interesting script (or maybe he can write his own).

Saturday, August 20, 2011

SWEET 16 (1983) - no jailbait is worth getting killed over, no matter how many times she gets nude on camera

There’s nothing cooler than a big ass gothy house, complete with cobwebs, lightning flashes, candles galore, and a roaring fireplace. Now there’s an always a chance you may get dismembered by a hunchback, or possibly raped by a ghost, but hey, that’s part of the fun. Dana Kimmel (of Friday the 13th 3-D pseudo fame) understands this attraction, and gets good and cozy in just such a house, reading a mystery novel (cleverly titled “Murder Mystery”, with a cover that steals the artwork from director Jim Sotos’ previous film, Forced Entry, which itself is a remake of a porno rape movie of the same name). She is captivated by the printed page, but is interrupted by a mysterious noise that demands a looksee. She opens the front door and, what do you know, a zombie covered in fog is standing there! Oh never mind, it was all a dream. Mother of balls.

Down at the good ole’ boy bar (that’s the place where rednecks get together to complain about the negroes), a serene Indian saunters in. A drunken cowboy proposes the question "what the shit is that?", conveying the character’s lack of familiarity with other cultures. "Tonto Jr.” then walks in (he goes by the name “Jason” when not in a roadhouse filled with racists) and saves the day by compacting some white trash with his fists (this scene would later be copied in the horseshit Steven Seagal vehicle On Deadly Ground). Buff redskin Jason is immediately hit on by Melissa, the titular sweet sixteen girl, who both looks sixteen and spends the movie either getting laid or taking showers. He declines and drives off, so Melissa slinks off with two white dudes instead, one of whom succinctly proclaims "my name is Johnny and this is my truck". They of course end up smoking reefer and making out on an Indian burial ground, and poor Johnny gets his stoned ass cut up after the “date” commences.

The next morning, Melissa wakes up and takes a shower, showing off her soon to be sixteen-year-old body (that would actually make her fifteen and naked…oh no worries, it’s all make believe!). Dana is still reading her book and proclaims "I knew it…the gardener did it!". Her dad is sheriff Bo Hopkins, and he’s on the case about that missing stoner with the truck. Incredibly, he brings his two kids along (Dana and bro) to help with the investigation. Poor Dana is the one that actually stumbles upon Johnny's body, and the trauma of the event shocks her into giving a zoom-in, slow-mo triple take. At school, Dana notices Melissa eating an apple, and this prompts the sensuous "Melissa ballad" to kick in. “Oh Sweet Melissa" he croons on the soundtrack. Yes, she may have some sugar to give, and Tommy the quarterback seems to be next on the list, now that what’s-his-name is deceased.

The townspeople seem oblivious to the fact that there’s a mad killer running loose, all except plucky Dana. She has gleaned vast reservoirs of knowledge from the generic supermarket thrillers she reads inside and outside of her dreams. The quarterback is the next to get it, and Melissa is the one that stumbles upon the body this time.
Bo, always on the lookout for clues and new angles on the case, heads out to the cabin of the old Indian from earlier. His name is Grey Feather, a pretty generic name for an Indian if you ask me. I like the ones based on specific actions, like “He Who Headbutted a Bear in the Crotch, Then Ran Away Like His Ass Got Shot Out of a Cannon”. Unfortunately, he seems to be hanging from his neck, stiff as a board. Suicide? Well, Bo believes he was murdered. So far, only Melissa’s boyfriends have gotten the short end of the stick, so, if Mr. Grey was indeed murdered, it follows that he may have been banging Melissa incognito. Let’s hope we don’t get any flashbacks to this particular event.

After the funeral, Dana confronts Melissa, and blames her for Grey Feather's death, to which Melissa replies "what's a grey feather?". Ha ha, other cultures are funny. Dana replies by calling her a “stupid little bitch”, but they quickly make up and become friends again. Meanwhile, Jason becomes the chief suspect, and gets tossed in a holding cell. Melissa then checks herself out in a brand new gown, while that ballad plays again. At her sweet sixteen barbecue spectacular, Melissa rips off her new dress to go skinny dipping with some dude, while Jason stalks them under the moonlight (he escaped from jail earlier). To make matters worse, two rednecks descend on the pond to urinate, and notice that some hot young stuff is doing some aquatic nude frolicking. This sets the stage for the confusing twist ending (I’ll spare you the nonsensical details).

Afterwards, Melissa, wrapped in a blanket, and with that ballad blaring, clutches a knife while the camera slowly zooms in on her face. She has those crazy eyes, the kind that facilitates sequels (though none were ever filmed). Although many characters in the film ended up being shocked and dismayed that those who got busy with a fifteen-year-old girl ended up mutilated, it really doesn’t surprise me in the least. What happens when you’re having sex with a fifteen-year-old girl and her father walks in? He kills you, that’s what…or cuts your balls off, at the very least.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

SOURCE CODE (2011) - someone should invent a machine that prevents people from blowing stuff up for no reason

9/11 is the new Jesus. Let me explain. Jesus’ birth is a dividing point for the Gregorian calendar. Every time you mention a year, you are in effect mentioning it in the context of Jesus’ birth. I’m not exactly an expert on religion, but I don’t see why this guy should have time itself named after him. I mean…it’s TIME. It’s sort of like if we decided, as a society, that we REALLY like Steve, and like him so much we’re going to name “space” after him. From now on, space will be called “steve”. “Honey, do we have enough steve in the closet for these blankets?”. As far as I can tell, Jesus was a carpenter that told people to care for their fellow man and got his ass beat because of it. Maybe this date thing was a big collective “I’m sorry” from the human race, like the lifetime achievement Oscar Hitchcock received after never actually winning one for best director.

Well, it seems like 9/11 has become a similar dividing point in history. You can’t watch the news without someone bringing up that we live in a “post-9/11 world”. Accordingly, our entertainment (at least mainstream wise) has followed suit, and we get movies about 9/11 (World Trade Center, United 93), movies that are metaphors for 9/11 (War of the Worlds), and movies with generic terrorist attacks, like, I dunno, Source Code for example. Just as certain asshole newspeople will discuss everything in terms of a “post-9/11 world”, certain film critics will ascribe post-9/11 values and meaning to almost every movie. Armond White is especially guilty of this (note to self: stop reading Armond White). For example, his recent review of Transformers 3 has about 37 references to the World Trade Center attacks (note to self: stop leaving “notes to self” in reviews and maybe get a Blackberry instead).

Source Code is, at its core, about Jake Gyllenhaal’s attempt to catch a terrorist before he blows something up. Rather than a token Arab character, the terrorist is a white American douchebag that blows up innocent people for no reason, just like the villain from Live Free or Die Hard (played by what’s-his-face). I guess this is less confrontational to an audience than having an Arab character play the terrorist, as nobody takes if offense if douchebags are broadly painted as evil murderers. Some may question why these generic terrorists in movies don’t really have any stated reason why they are murdering people (like religion or what have you). However, any reasoning they might come up with is going to be totally stupid anyway.

The film is also, I guess, one of the first “post-Inception” films, taking well worn action material and breaking it up with “Matrix-y” innovations. On its face, Source Code is also one of those bomb diffusion thrillers where Jake has to find a bomb, snip either the blue wire or the red wire and save the day in the process. By the way, the “which wire to cut?” cliché is truly annoying. As Roger Ebert astutely noted in his review of Armageddon, that turdfest from Michael “turdfest” Bay, the FIRST thing a bomb diffuser should know is whether to cut the red wire or the blue wire.

However, in a clever innovation, the bomb diffuser is an everyman soldier forced into action because he wields the best memory in the military, and not because he has any sort of bomb diffusion experience. He becomes part of a mission he wants no part of, an unwilling hero, rather than your typical badass bomb diffuser. Take, for example, Steven Seagal’s character, a “zen leader of a bomb squad”, in Albert Pyun’s amusing Speed ripoff Ticker. You know damn well Seagal is gonna diffuse whatever bomb he comes across, if for no better reason than if the director asks him to fail on screen, he’ll snap his fucking collarbone and piss on his soul. Boy that guy’s got an ego. Then again, he starred in Out For Justice, so he gets a “get out of asshole jail free” card as far as I’m concerned.

So, why pick the guy with the best memory? Well, this is where things gets Inception-y. Jake has to diffuse a bomb not in reality, but in a memory lasting only 8 minutes. These 8 minutes are repeated, one after another, until he is able to accomplish his goal. The bombing has already happened, and he is sent inside the memories of a victim on the train to, not diffuse the bomb as he eventually finds out, but rather to find the lame terrorist’s identity before he strikes again. Jake is on a train of people that will blow up no matter his actions, and he is helpless to do anything about it except to gain intelligence to prevent a future bombing. This is another nice tweak on the action hero mythos, where a hero is not only doomed to failure. A true hero is not going to stand by as a terrorist blows up a train of innocent people, but Jake has no choice in the matter.

If this sounds a bit like Groundhog Day, it’s because it IS a bit like Groundhog Day. Maybe Groundhog Day meets Inception meets the bomb diffuser thriller of your choice (I’ll say Executive Action to keep the Seagal references going). Unfortunately, the script also adopts the love angle from Groundhog Day, having Jake fall for the girl (Michelle Monaghan) over the course of many repeated stabs at a first impression. Now, I think Michelle is hot as much as the next guy, but this is MEMORY Michelle who is about to be blown up, and not "real deal Holyfield" Michelle. It should come as little surprise that there is a “love conquers all” ending, but the way they get there is pretty forced (no further spoilers…you’re welcome). Just as in the producer's cut of Brazil, taking a subversive sci-fi story and forcing in a “love conquers all” ending is pretty lame if I do say so myself.

In my opinion (well, what other asshole’s opinion could I be referring to), what we have here is the basic material for a brilliantly subversive genre piece, despite being stitched together in true “Hollywood high concept” fashion. While usually anathema to drama, this approach can work like gangbusters for more genre orientated stuff. However, the script itself is a big let down, mostly in the aforementioned love angle, but also in the characterization. Jake does his very best to portray a conflicted, wounded hero whose ineffectiveness is emotionally wearing. However, the script makes him seem a like a child that careens wildly from blunt approach to blunt approach within each new memory. The thriller details are also handled clumsily, despite a potential goldmine for suspense. Director Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie, although I just found that out, which gives me hope that he’s not completely riding on the shoulders of his father) does his best to vary up the scenes in accordance to the script, as separate passes at imminent disaster, and to keep things moving and taut. However, as is the case with many Hollywood blockbusters nowadays, the script lets everyone involved down, feeling as if scenes were written individually, instead of sculpted for the whole.

There’s also the science-y talk that justifies the memory gimmick. It takes up a bit too much screen time for something that is mostly irrelevant. Once you clearly establish that the film is a post 9/11 bomb thriller with alternate universe rules, the science behind it loses importance. Having said that, it does at least sound vaguely credible to someone who doesn’t know much about cutting edge science, unlike a movie like, say, The Giant Claw, which just shoves horseshit down our throats. Then again, that’s sort of a virtue of its own.

There is also some shitty CGI that is forced in than for no better reason that recent Hollywood blockbusters need shitty CGI to justify their corporate existence. Just as the military industrial complex requires wars to justify the spending of taxpayer’s money on military technology, so does Hollywood require CGI-fests to facilitate expenditures on cutting edge digital technology. Yeah, I understand that you don’t want to blow up a real train, so you blow up a CGI train instead, but that doesn’t excuse the lame CGI cutaways with Michelle’s CGI head being blown up in video game fashion. Whether inexplicable wars or inexplicable CGI, man should have control over his technology. Admittedly, that is one of science fiction’s most enduring “cliches”, but some cliches are cliché for a reason.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

LA GUERRERA VENGADORA (1988) - an "avenging war-lady" has been pushed to the breaking point, assuming my high school Spanish isn't failing me

Rosa lives the humble life of a teacher. She responsibly rides to work in a moped rather than a gas guzzling SUV, doing her part to save mother earth. She dutifully teaches these young people not only lessons that will help them earn a respectable job, but also life lessons that will help them earn a respectable life (words of inspiration, I know). She even takes in a student who is having personal problems, extending her warm home to soul left out in the cold. Not only that, she has big teased red hair and is royally stacked, rocking dresses made out of denim, black leather, and yellow polyester. She goes above the call of duty in order to inspire the minds of sexually frustrated young males, thereby assisting them in relieving tension so they can better devote their minds to success going forward. This, my friends, is a hero.

It should come as little surprise that when her student friend is murdered, and his girlfriend raped by one of those roving leather jacketed gangs so prevalent in 80’s action cinema, she takes it upon herself to seek justice against an endless army of ruffians armed with machine guns. Brutally murdering a dear friend of Rosa will earn your ass a spot in permanent after school detention. It'll earn you a D in the class, and “D” stands for “deceased”. You get the idea.

Truth be told, she does have help on her quest, as a single mild mannered teacher, no matter how caliente, can’t wipe out an entire criminal operation armed to the teeth by herself. Thankfully, her roommate (?) is a crafty dwarf who proves a rather useful sidekick. For example, Rosa dresses him up as a baby and sticks him in a stroller and rolls up on two police officers. While they are hypnotized by her fuego-ocity, the dwarf steals two police issue walkie talkies right off of their persons. After all, if you’re gonna destroy an endless army of thugs, communication is key. If you think a dwarf would not physically fare well in combat, you'd be selling him short. There’s a bit seemingly out of the game "Road Rash" where the dwarf is on a moped, combating a thug on a bike swinging a chain. His lack of height becomes an advantage, as the thugs repeatedly tries to hit the space where a normal sized man’s head would be, but just hits air instead. Later, a muscle thug picks up our little friend, no doubt looking to shotput his little ass into the afterlife, but the dwarf just does the three stooges eye poke a couple of times to break free. That eye poke thing works pretty damn well if the other party does not know that hand block maneuver.

Oh yeah, I left out something important. She has a Kawasaki motorcycle souped up for warfare. We’re talking two double barreled shotguns in front, an endless supply of hand grenades, and a muffler that doubles as a rocket launcher. Rosa also dons a fuego-infused version of the Evel Knievel jumpsuit and helmet which apparently renders her invincible against gunfire (either that or her enemies have dogshit aim). There are plenty of rad jumps in slo-mo (including the requisite Knievel canyon jump), mannequins on motorbikes getting blown sky high, and even an amazing homage to the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin, where the baby carriage is replaced by a girl in a wheelchair. Rosa kicks ass, takes names, put those names in a hat, blows up the hat with a grenade launcher, and kicks some more ass. Frankly, if watching a muy caliente pseudo Ann-Margret go Rambo-Knievel on the entire criminal element of Mexico doesn’t entertain your ass, your ass must not want to be entertained.

The “hottie on a motorcycle armed for warfare” plot was used in the previous year’s Cyclone, directed by one Fred Olen Ray and starring Heather Thomas. La Guerrera Vengadora may be a ripoff of said movie, but I’d like to think that they were created independent of one another, separate bouts of brilliant inspiration. Either way, this slab of mexi-foolishness aims to elbow smash you in the prostrate with explosive entertaiment, and boy does it succeed. At the center is a female hero lying in obscurity, ready to provide inpiration to both men and women, latinos and non-latinos. Granted, she’s a bit awkward with ther stunts, and frankly sucks at hand-to-hand combat, but the magic of editing helps cover this up. Or, to put it another way, la guerrera vengadora lucha fuego con fuego, y tengo caliente in mis pantalones a causa del fuego de este mujer. Aye papi!

P.S. Some kind soul has uploaded the film to Youtube, along with the sequel. YES, THERE’S A FUCKING SEQUEL. I will need to watch that one.

Friday, August 12, 2011

OFFERINGS (1989) - if she won't love you, don't ripoff Halloween...move on with your life

It’s nothing special to say that a slasher movie rips-off Halloween, but it’s really the approach behind it that matters most. It’s one thing to adopt a form, and quite another to try and get your movie career going by appropriating a film almost scene for scene, with a couple of story accoutrements thrown in to keep the lawyers off your ass. On second thought, the makers of Offerings ripoff the score for Halloween to surely illegal levels, with the occasional A Nightmare on Elm Street thievery sprinkled in. I guess they figured no one would be watching. Good call boys.

The story begins with a morose bastard of a boy, wearing a sad, hopeless half mullet. A cute blonde girl wants to hang out with him, and his smoking hag of a mother actually gives him the go ahead. As he is a total loser, he chooses to play checkers with her (getting his ass crushed) rather than take her underneath the bleachers to make out. Being that the movie is shot in the mean streets of Oklahoma, a group of ruffian tykes on bikes show up to cause problems for others. They make the boy walk around a well, and one of the evil schmucks suddenly frightens him, causing him to fall in.

Ten years later, we learn what has become of poor Johnny. He suffered a severe blow to the head after falling down the well, and this has, as expected, turned him into a cannibal mongoloid. After the initial accident, he immediately killed and ate his own mother; the shock of feasting on a wretched old hag forcing him into a comatose state. He eventually wakes up, escaping from the hospital after killing a nurse, and so begins his Myers’ influenced rampage of cinematic appropriation.

Instead of Donald Pleasance, we have a fat sheriff who learns of Johnny’s escape and the possibility that he may return to their town. He jumps into action (maybe “waddles into action” would be more appropriate), informing a local professor about the psycho and then heading off to feed geese. The blonde girl, all grown up and smoking (well, for late 80’s Oklahoma), gets simultaneous calls from the killer and her inexplicable valley girl friend. This scene is exactly the same as the one in Halloween, except for the Van Halen poster on the friend’s bedroom wall. I guess Valley girls can’t get enough of Diamond Dave, no matter what state they live in.

Johnny later digs up his mother’s grave, and breaks the headstone instead of stealing it (I guess it would be crazy to lug that shit around town like Myers did). Apart from subtle variations like this, the main difference between Offerings and that other movie is that after the mongoloid offs somebody, he leaves a body part for the blonde girl. These titular “offerings” (like a finger or an ear) are the killer’s way of showing his love, where as Jamie Lee Curtis was Michael Myer’s sister, so he probably figured boning her was out of the question. Some of the murders are also a bit more inventive, like when the killer stands on a dude’s roof and lynches him when he pokes his head out of the window. This means you might have to sit on the roof with noose in hand for a couple of hours, waiting for the dude to pop his head out. That's dedication.

As you might imagine, the two girls get together with their boyfriends and have a sleepover, where they watch what looks to be a pretty shitty horror movie (it was filmed as cut away fodder for a no-budget regional slasher, so I’m guessing it probably bites the big one). They comment on stupid moves made by characters in horror movies, a full seven years before Scream. When the pizza arrives, mysteriously left on their doorstep, they fail to notice that the killer has placed human body parts on it. The sheriff comes by to investigate the mysterious pizza, as well as a human ear that was left as a gift, but just tells the girls to go back to sleep. Apparently, someone will eventually examine the evidence, you know, if they get around to it and shit.

The ending is again the same as Halloween, but with a very slight twist. The blonde shoots Johnny several times to no effect (falling head first into a well apparently makes you invincible) before the sheriff shows up to save the day, despite his piss poor handling of the case up to this point. He lays some buckshot into the mongoloid, which finally does the trick. Johnny, in his death throes, bellows out “loooooooove!”, before shedding a tear and dropping stone ass dead. This is probably one of those pathos deals.

The ending reminds me of that Kids in the Hall sketch where Mark is in his backyard, cooking the greatest steak the world (well, Canada) has ever seen. Bruce runs in and gives him a hug, yelling out “Love me!!! Love me!!!”, before running away. Mark quixotically asks the audience “I wonder what he wanted?” In the case of Offerings, Mark would be the audience, Bruce is the subtext of the film (that of the monster that feels), and Bruce is trying to force the subtext onto Mark by squeezing him and yelling. Of course I’m paraphrasing.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

LET KERMODE DO THE WORK FOR YOU: The Social Network (2010)

Here's my earlier capsule review:

Imagine Zombieland if the zombies were replaced with the internet {just as Adventureland is Zombieland with K-Stew (minus the vampires) instead of the zombies, if you follow}, or a internet-sploitation drama that, incredibly, isn’t shitty (I’m giving the evil eye to the Sandra Bullock/Dennis Miller vehicle The Net as I type that, for the record). As your substitute film professor, I have multiple gold stars to hand out to David Fincher, who somehow manages to make a compelling movie around a legal deposition, considering it’s not even a real trial, and especially considering movies revolving around even real trials are positively coma inducing (Anatomy of a Murder and 12 Angry Men notwithstanding).

I'll just add that the movie was also educationalizing. It taught me all about "Facebook", how it's sorta like Friendster on steroids, and that people use it to socialize with each other over the internetnewebs. Like, you have a page where you write "I ate a rad cheeseburger!", and you post a picture of the cheeseburger, and your friends and family see it and comment on how fantastic everything is. Also, lots of smiley faces. I don't quite get it, but, then again, I was never one for socializing on a common folk level.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

IT RAINS IN MY VILLAGE (1968) - fall on to me, the sky's crimson tears...the tragic blood that is invisible to the naked eye

Her name is Gotza, and she can rightfully be categorized as a “simple-minded” mute. Those less understanding and more dismissive might refer to her as the “village idiot”. Gotza gets kicked off of a train for not having a ticket, too entranced by the people onboard and the amazing way the landscape rapidly changes outside of the window to care about the logistics of how the train operates. She is harshly told that “this is a train, not a looney bin”. In response, she blows kisses and waves at the passengers, as if celebrating the momentary connection they shared.

Gotza is invited to a wedding and enchanted by what she sees. She borrows the young bride’s veil and dons it, dancing as if it was her wedding song playing. They jest at this deluded simpleton, not realizing that her day is indeed coming. As it happens, Tricha the pig herder is being scolded by his peers. They wonder why he has yet to marry, and claim that he doesn’t even know "where to stick it”. He shows them, however misguidedly, by marrying Gotza. To Tricha, marriage is a perfunctory ceremony. However, to Gotza, marriage is a form of magic. She dances amongst the pigs as Tricha plays the trumpet. She is entranced by both the rhythm and the promise of unrequited love. Gotza never looks down upon the pigs as disgusting animals, nor as a necessary part of a profession, but rather as fellow inhabitants of the earth.

Along comes a teacher from the city, looking to paint portraits of the locals. Reza is bored with the bustling metropolis, looking to “capture the lives” of several poor villagers. She becomes intrigued with Tricha and uses him as a subject, both physically and aesthetically. After all, it helps a painter to know a subject both from near and from afar. Once she finishes her painting, she quickly moves on to another object of inspiration, a man that crashes in on a plane; a much more exciting figure than a simple pig farmer. She coldly sends Tricha on his way. He walks home, dejected, his shoulders slumped in abject failure.

While Tricha herds pigs yet again, a slave to his profession, Joska again dances amongst the pigs. “Go away” says Tricha. He has seen the grass on the other side and has resultantly regretted marrying the town simpleton. Noting that the man that caught Reza’s eye came crashing in on a plane, Tricha gets a tattoo of a rudiementary plane on his chest in one last vain attempt to impress her. Reza laughs at this naïve country "simpleton" and goes on her way, back to the city where she can sell her artworks portraying "life in the country". Meanwhile, Tricha remains a pig herder, haunted by both his foolish actions and the face...that face...of Gotza. Where as Tricha’s motivations are tragically understandable despite their selfishness, Gotza’s motivations remained pure throughout. Regardless of those who decided to cynically take advantage of her, she did it for love...all for love

Monday, August 8, 2011

40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE (1962) - when a Vegas swinger spends the day at Disneyland, he becomes an Anaheim softee

“I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about!”
-Elvis Presley responding to a pompous windbag pontificating about Dave Brubeck at a party in Jailhouse Rock

The King don’t want that shit. The King don’t need that shit. The King says “take that shit to the bowl”.
There was a time in the late fifties/early sixties when the stodgy white intelligentsia were perfectly represented by Dave Brubeck’s cutting edge yet white-friendly melodic jazz. Let me be clear; I’m not trying to come down to where Dave works and knock the dick out of his mouth. He’s simply an innocent bystander within this whole dynamic. Pompous windbags need to glom onto something, and Brubeck came with the right sounds at the right time. After all, atypical rhythms and complex chords are “mathy”, and math equals smart.

Jean-Luc Godard’s A Married Woman also subtly incorporates the sounds of Dave Brubeck. While a French housewife does the dishes, she listens to a flutey French cover of Brubeck’s “Three to Get Ready”, not as intellectual stimulation, but as elevator muzak for the bourgeoisie. Clearly, Godard sees through the faux-intellectualism that Brubeck came to represent, just like Elvis did, but Jean-Luc is much more of a wily smartass about it. After all, Elvis don’t do no satire. He just tells people to shut the fuck up.

Anyways, Tony Curtis is one of those swinging early sixties bachelors. He has a perfectly swinging job (a manager of a casino), a perfectly swinging love interest (Suzanne Plechette), and a perfectly swinging outlook on marriage (fuck that noise). Unfortunately, his life becomes complicated when becomes the de facto parent 5-year-old girl named Penny (the titular poundage of trouble). Not willingly mind you; rather, a gambler is unable to pay his debts and leaves his 5-year-old daughter as collateral. In my mind, leaving your daughter in the hands of a stranger to cover a gambling debt is just a notch above selling her for meat and beer. Either way, I’ll come out and say it…bad parenting there, buddy.

Of course, Penny is a bit of a pain in the ass, especially the way she forces responsibility upon his hepcat shoulders. She also spouts off her smartass one-liners that people seem to enjoy hearing come out of a kid’s mouth. Entire television shows are built on this premise for some ungodly reason. However, the shit almost hits the fan when she rudely destroys a tape of a live jam session with Dave Brubeck. Tony was throwing a swinging party with a host of friends and an impromptu Brubeck concert broke out (very “Playboy After Dark”-esque if I may say so), and Tony was lucky enough to catch it on tape. No doubt this proof that this amazing party took place would’ve helped him get laid, but little Penny decided that unspooling tape was a fun way to spend an afternoon. Pre-Elvis, this was a horrific crime against cool.

However, before Tony can build up enough rage to chuck the kid out of a Casino hotel window, sending her wisecracking noggin crashing onto a strip club marquee below, he finds out that Penny’s father has committed suicide. Given the circumstances, Tony actually musters up some sympathy for the child. You know, a five-year-old girl alone in the world, with no home and no one to love her and take care of her. It should come as little surprise that around the same time, Suzanna mentions to Tony that she’s looking to get married. Maybe getting blown by a model while sipping a martini is not the most important thing in the world. Certainly top five, but not number one.

Well, I think you know where this is headed, assuming you’ve ever watched a rote romantic comedy before. But, before it gets there, the trio ends up taking a trip. Penny keeps mentioning that she wants to go to Disneyland, and since Tony doesn’t have the heart to tell the kid that her father is dead, he grants her this wish. I guess Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is supposed to make up for the fact that she no longer has any parents (the ride is fucking awesome, but not THAT awesome). I guess it’s sort of a “Make-a-Wish” deal, where a child’s life is in the shitter (dying from lieukemia, or maybe suffering from terminal gout) and they get whatever they want as a result. Just be glad that Tony made a child’s dreams come true.

This leads to a VERY extended Disneyland chase sequence (the child authorities want to take Penny away to a home) that showcases the entire park. Not even Disney movies had the balls to throw in such obvious product placement. In the process, it manages to provide the best travelogue of Disneyland ever filmed, especially with the POV shots of the rides. I find the whole Disneyland sequence pretty nostalgic, as it looks awfully similar to how I remember it (I last went there in the early nineties). I’m sure it’s since been ruined by corporatism and modern flash. Nowadays, they probably have some ride called the “Hannah Montana XXXtreme Rocket Ship Rollercoaster Presented by Red Bull”. In fact, I once ran around Disneyland from ride to ride, much like Tony Curtis does here, in my successful quest to go on every single ride/attraction within a one day, 14 hour span. Not to brag, but it was probably my Mount Everest.

So yeah, you hear rumors about Walt Disney being a fascist and a Nazi sympathiser, and you can view Disney (and Disneyland by proxy) as the ultimate distraction, the soma of choice for a brave new world. But, then again, maybe you’re fucked no matter what, so you might as well have some distractions to enjoy while you’re getting bent over by life. However, as Tony finds out, the best thing to salve the wounds that result from an unfair world is unconditional love (that was the thing I was referring to earlier when I said there are things more important than blowjobs). I think it was a great prophet that said “life is a nonsensical game filled with assholes, and it helps to have a teammate to pass the ball to” (maybe that was Al Michaels that said that). Also, a seventy-year-old man who still fancies himself a swinging Vegas bachelor frankly comes across as a big time asshole. Only Frank Sinatra and Hugh Hefner were ever able to pull that sort of thing off. Well...sort of.