Friday, September 28, 2012


If ever a character actor had the cock-of-the-walk, it's Ed Lauter.  He's usually handed some standard police chief role, but he brings life to the character with a combination of supreme confidence, New York attitude, and little bits of physical minutia that are like Easter eggs for eagle eyed degenerates. 

His greatest role (certainly his most Lauter-esque) is in Death Wish 3, as the police chief in who antagonizes but later teams up with Charles Bronson to lay waste to every headband wearing ruffian within a 2-mile radius.  

Upload courtesy of Melonakos

However, most of his roles are of the smaller, character actor variety that I was describing, where he only has a small window to insert his Lauter-isms.  A good example is Extreme Justice, particularly the scene where he has a beach conference with hot shot Lou Diamond Phillips, the newest addition to a police elite squad.  He explains to Lou that he has to play by the rules, stick to the book, if you will.  Lauter punctuates his speech with the following hand gesture, a divine a Lauter-ism as has ever been bestowed upon humanity.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

SPYMATE (2006)

Not only is Real Genius a rad eighties movie, embodying all that eighties movie radicalness implies (tubularity, crucialness, etc.), it also has a genuinely smart message presented in a way that resonates with not-dumb audience members.  A couple of whiz kid college students strive to succeed in Reagan’s America by creating a new technology (an ultra laser), never being able to step outside their goal orientated world to notice that what they are building is actually a super deadly weapon meant for shady purposes (as is the case with most super deadly weapons).

Spymate employs a vaguely similar setup.  The adorable Emma Roberts is super good at science despite only being 12 years-old or so (making her more even adorable than usual).  Emma is so good at science, in fact, that she recently won an award for “national scientific achievement” for her environmentally friendly yet ultra powerful chemical laser drill.  When I was her age, I enjoyed making science every now and again, but it mostly amounted to a paper mache volcano and a maybe a barely functioning pulley system.

Of course, there’s the evil Dr. Farley (played by Richard Kind, who you may know as Larry David’s annoying cousin on Curb Your Enthusiasm, amongst many other roles), who wants to not only take Emma’s invention for himself, but kidnap her and force to make more science in the name of money grabbing jerkitude.  He plans to use the laser on a volcano to create an energy source that will make him rich, but if things go wrong, it could potentially kill “hundreds of millions of people”.  Sounds like a risky business decision to me, but I guess you gotta take risks to make money.  He even has an evil albino sidekick (complete with scarred eye) to help him out.  Albinos must not be one to picket movie theaters, because I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an albino in a movie that wasn’t evil.  I guess in the world of the movies, pigment and morality are inexorably linked.  Anyway, this message is much more ham handed and up front than it was in Real Genius, but it’s a kids movie, so you gotta spell shit out.

The astute viewer may have noticed that the trailer features a superspy chimp, and I have yet to even mention such a chimp.  Don’t worry, it all fits together.  You see, Emma’s dad is a retired superspy who was formerly partnered with fellow superspy Minkey the chimp.  This is all explained in the backstory.  There are a lot of ins and outs and what-have-yous to this one folks. 

You see, way back in 1994, Emma’s dad is kidnapped by evil terrorists in the Arabian desert, and Minkey has to single-handedly save him and does so with suave simian-ocity.  Minkey expertly disguises himself as a sheik, and even wears camouflage underneath that (in case he suddenly finds himself in an Arabian jungle, he can ditch the sheik outfit and hide in the foliage).  He is also helped out by his super watch, which has a map GPS function that he uses to find his partner’s exact location.  If that sounds like technology that wasn’t around in 1994 (I had a pretty state-of-the-art watch at the time, and that mostly just had a calculator), just keep in mind that superspies always get gadgets about 10 years before anyone else does.  Also, if you thought chimp spies (or any spy animal for that matter) got short shrift when it came to gadgets, maybe get Q’s hand-me-down grappling hooks and outdated voice disguisers, you would be incorrect sir.  Equal toys for equal spies.

Minkey has since retired from being a superspy (maybe due to stress, assuming chimps feel stress) and is now a high wire act in a circus, albeit without a net.  I know that hardly sounds like a relaxing alternative career, but keep in mind he has a rocket pack, so all he has to do is hit a button to avoid certain death should he fall off.  If this chimpanzee sounds more talented than most (a character says at one point “that darn monkey…it’s highly trained!”), you would be correct.  He also skateboards and snowboards during the movie, and also appears to know several forms of martial arts.  The character seems to have been played by the same chimp that stars in those “Most Extreme Primate” movies.  You know, where each movie has him showing off a different skill, whether skateboarding or hockey playing, and maybe breakdancing and extreme synchronized swimming (that’s synchronized swimming in a shark tank).  Forgive me for my hazy memory, as I’ve lost track of the series by this point.  

Anyway, I think it’s unfair to have one chimp doing all this stuff.  They should probably spread skills around the primate community so each one can have their own little fun performing a human activity.  Basically, you got one guy hogging all the skills.  Maybe you find a chimp that can smoke a cigar or bounce a banana off some kid’s head at the zoo, but that’s about it.  It just isn’t fair.  Hell, even I can’t even do any of this stuff.  I skateboarded a little bit as a kid but fell over a couple of times and gave up.  I guess my balance and coordination is just not on the level of a chimpanzee.

It should come as little surprise that Minkey teams up with Emma’s dad in order to save her from evil clutches.  Regardless, it’s really up to the chimp to vanquish evil, as his human partner is mostly a tag along.  When you have a chimp that is that friggin’ talented at human stuff, humans just need to hang out in the background and try not to screw things up.  They ride around in their spy DeLorean (although you would think a DeLorean would stand out when you are trying to remain incognito) are assisted by the standard spy gadgets, like the laser pen and the X-ray sunglasses.  There’s also the more non-conventional gun that shoots paint pellets wrapped in balls of electricity.  I’m not quite sure why it needs to do both.  I guess it just looks cooler when you shoot an electrical ball at someone and it leaves a paint stain.  

The pair also gets help from Minkey’s circus freak friends, although these are a relatively normal group of circus freaks.  There’s the overweight lady (who awesomely rolls into a ball and knocks a dude over, bowling style), a strong man, and a dude who apparently thinks he’s The Flash (I didn’t realize that a fake superhero qualified as a freak, but I’ll try not to discriminate).  If you think this is a result of PC whitewashing, keep in mind that whenever an Asian character pops into frame, there’s a gong sound.  Even Pat Morita briefly shows up and gets the gong treatment.  You’d think they’d be happy to get a star of Morita’s stature to play a small part in the movie and maybe show him some respect as a result and not whip out the going sound when he’s on screen, but I guess not.   

Even though Spymate is squarely a kids movie,  it’s not soul-suckingly cynical like many other kids movies.  There’s the aforementioned positive message, along with a second positive message that girls can do science (Emma’s scientist hero is a female as well), although if you think girls can’t do science going in, you’re probably already burdened with an unscientific mind (read: stupid).

Spymate has a lot of rollicking fun and shenanigans jammed into 79 minutes.  I also like the matter-of-fact cartoonishness of it all.  The relatively low budget means the movie is straight forward and unadorned (no flashy lighting and expensive sets), yet there are moments of wonderful cartoon logic, like when Minkey is playing video games at home and realizes he’s late for his trapeze act, so he immediately puts on his rocket pack and quickly flies over to the circus.  This is presented as perfectly logical and normal within the framework of the movie, and I dig that.  Sometimes people try too hard to be wacky or winking.  A chimp with a jet pack is awesome all by itself.

P.S. This was written as part of "Animals Doing Human Stuff Month" over at Emily's "Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense" blog.  Click!  It's da bomb!

P.P.S. This movie was released direct-to-video in 2006, but was obviously completed several years earlier.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Linda, wearing supertight daisy dukes (camel dukes), is being chased by a creep wearing a hockey mask.  She puts up a solid fight but, alas, is no match for a rapey Voorhees (although, in fairness, even most men wouldn’t be a match for a rapey Voorhees).  The rapist seems to have a high opinion of himself, as he repeatedly tells her that she should be grateful, even forcing her to say “thank you Mr. Rapist for choosing me”.  God’s gift to women, ladies and gentlemen.

He rips her shirt off (no bra, as that would impede things), punches her in the face, and forces her to sing “Jingle Bells”.  I guess we’re supposed to assume that this guy didn’t get that hockey stick he wanted for Christmas one year and snapped, but that’s no excuse.  Maybe you shouldn’t have foisted such weighty expectations upon St. Nick’s tubby shoulders, you asshole. 

Linda walks into a police station, not only cowering from dirty rapiness, but also flat out beat to shit.  She is handed a book of mugshots, which is pretty useless considering the guy was wearing a hockey mask, unless the rapist happens to be the goalie from the Ottawa Senators.  The cop insensitively asks her blunt questions in front of all the other cops, implying that she might have been asking for it because of her outfit.  She rightfully points that she is the victim here, screaming in glass breaking fashion “I HAVE BEEN RAPED AND I WANT SOMETHING DONE ABOUT IT!!!”.  

She then has to get her vagina swabbed for semen, which is also humiliating, but in a more clinical sense.  They don’t find any, so she is apparently shit out of luck, as only sperm is evidence of rape, according to the cop.  Even if that’s the case, surely it’s illegal to punch and kick a woman in the face.  I guess the police figured the outfit she was wearing had her begging to get her ass kicked as well, maybe a since discarded baseball cap that read “PUNCH FACE BELOW”.  Anyway, on the way out, Linda overhears a cop quip that he wishes a hot chick would rape him sometime.  Linda wittily replies “someday I hope you run into a big, mean 300 lb. faggot killer, and I hope that faggot rips off your clothes and sodomizes you right in your big fat ass!”.  You go girl.

Even Linda’s scummy boyfriend doesn’t believe that she was actually raped, asserting that “maybe you were playing grab ass and things got gruff.”  God knows I’ve played some grab ass in my life, and god knows I’ve let a game or two of grab ass get out of control, but never ever has a game of grab ass escalated to the point where somebody ended up brutally beaten and raped.  Frankly, I don’t think people would even play grab ass if they knew that type of violence could result.  Grab ass is about fun after all, not about hurting others.

Anyway, partially thanks to an ineffectual justice system, the rapiness continues.  “Mr. Rapist” enters a woman’s apartment and practically knocks her out with a punch, but he wakes her up because “I can’t have you sleeping through this”.  Classy.  He then cuts off her dress with a pair of rusty scissors (again, no bra), saying “I’m gonna open you up like a Christmas present”.  There’s that Christmas motif again.  This guy has a pretty messed up idea of Christmas spirit.  I thought Christmas was about sitting around trying to tolerate relatives, hopefully escaping with one’s sanity intact and a fistful of gift cards. 

You may have noticed a pattern with the lack of bras.  You could attribute it to 70’s women’s lib, that these are strong women free from the tyranny of proper support.  However, it is common in the world of exploitation films to have a woman not wear a bra if her shirt is going to be ripped open at some point.  I guess it’s a lot more cinematic to see someone rip off a woman’s shirt and have her tits plop out, rather than watch someone rip off a shirt and fiddle with a bra for a while.  I don’t make the rules folks. I’m just pointing them out. 

Linda and the other victims view a lineup of potential rapists wearing hockey masks, like they’re auditioning goalies for the Hartford Whalers.  It turns out this lineup was just a ruse by the cop to point out that they’ll never be able to catch the guy because he wore a mask.  Fucking useless porkers.  While women are being raped all over the greater metropolitan area, these pigs are sitting around trying to see how many donut holes they can shove into their mouths at one time.

Realizing that the law is a worthless bureaucracy run by male pigs, the women decide to team up and create a “Rape Squad”.  They cover the city with flyers in an attempt to enlist women who have been sexually harassed (or worse).  One of the ladies is pelting every single car in a mini-mall parking lot (which seems awfully presumptuous, but maybe I’m na├»ve).  While she is spreading the word about the violent objectification of women, two slob workers on their lunch break ogle her ass and make fun of the flyer, saying “rape is my favorite sport!  A little rape once in a while makes life more enjoyable!”.  She overhears them and reads them the riot act, yelling “I’VE been raped, and believe me, IT WASN’T ENJOYABLE!!!”.  Who says feminism is dead?

Of course, the ladies take a rape-themed karate class, where they apply ancient Eastern principles to the art of kicking a man in the balls.  All of this ball crushing causes them to work up a sweat, so they get naked and relax in a whirlpool.  This also doubles as an impromptu Rape Squad meeting, where the women discuss the plight of living within a patriarchal society where rape is a way for men to let females know that they are not human beings, but rather, sexual objects that need to be controlled.  If this conversation sounds boring, keep in mind that the ladies are all naked and hot.  Boy, the seventies were pretty awesome. 

Anyway, a woman walking by overhears the conversation, and she mentions that she was also raped, but the rapist got off when it was revealed in court that she once had an abortion.  I guess the pig law believes that a woman who accidentally gets knocked up must be a slut, and you can’t really rape a slut since they want to get laid all the time anyway.  Regardless, thus begins the first official Rape Squad mission, where the ladies put on the most revealing dresses in their respective wardrobes and head down to the club where the rapist works and jiggle about.  Hopefully, he’ll try to rape one of them so the other ladies can team up and beat the shit out of him, teaching him the lesson that rape is, you know, bad and stuff. 

I’m all for preventing rapes, but I don’t know that this is the most efficient way to go about it.  Perhaps they could write their congressman or something, but he’s probably just as much of a pig as the rest of the men in the film.  In the world of Rape Squad, every man is either a rapist or a facilitator of rape.  Men are inherently rapey, it’s just that some aren’t actually man enough to act on their inherent impulses.  The women of Rape Squad fight back any way they can, but they are no match for an entire society steeped in female-hating attitudes.     

In closing, Rape Squad is undoubtedly the most quotable rape movie ever made.  It’s tempting to simply transcribe the entire movie, as the dialogue incongruously combines sleazy camp hilarity with bluntly stated feminist issues, all pitched as a trash symphony of sledgehammer hysterics.  The entire movie exists in a state of unease, where women who fight against being objectified are being presented as sex objects to the viewer.  While some may view this dynamic as hypocritical or self-defeating, a sophisticated audience might be able to appreciate it as a Brechtian dichotomy, two disparate approaches fused together in order to call attention to the differences between the two.  There’s a chance I could be wrong on that one.

Either way, I’m glad to see an exploitation movie come equally with the feminist ideas AND the tits, and doing so in balls-out entertaining fashion.  God bless you Rape Squad.  In fact, you’re so awesome, I promise not to rape anyone ever.  Not even an animal.  Now that I think about it, those panda bears sure are adorable.  You know what, I can’t promise anything, but I’ll try my best.  


P.S. This post was written as part of the Camp and Cult Blogathon over at She Blogged By Night!  Click here to get in on the shenanigans. 

P.P.S. This is movie was later retitled as "Act of Vengeance", probably because "Rape Squad" wasn't classy enough.  It's currently available on Netflix Instant in the U.S. under the "Act of Vengeance" title, and also available as a burn on-demand DVD through MGM under that title.

Friday, September 21, 2012

THE HOLE (2009)

Dane is a token disenfranchised teen, and for good reason.  His dad is AWOL, he just moved into a lame new suburb where he has no friends, and his annoying blonde moppet brother Lucas keeps pestering him to play basketball (although I’m not sure why, considering Dane would no doubt own his ass down on the low post).  He also pines for hot neighbor Julie, who likes to throw pool parties with all of her cool friends when she isn’t sunbathing.  Julie is out of his league, even though he seems to be a good looking dude; I don’t know, folks.  As a result, he sits around buried in his iPod, probably rocking along to a song about parents who just don’t understand.  Not specifically the DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince song, but whatever the modern white suburban equivalent is.  I have no idea.

So, what do you do when you’re moping around bored in a new house?  Why, check out the creepy basement, of course!  That’s guaranteed excitement!  Sure enough, the brothers find and unlock what looks like a crawlspace but is actually a hole.  They drop several objects down the hole and they don’t hear them hitting the bottom.  Are they sucked into an alternate universe?  Do the objects disintegrate as they approach the earth’s core?  Does the hole reach all the way to China?  Alas, the scientific mind allows for so many possibilities!

This provides an opportunity for Lucas and Dane to bond as they try to figure out what the deal is with the hole.  This mystery also attracts the interest of Julie, who walks over and quips “is that what you do for fun…play with your holes?”  She joins the pair in their quest to solve the mystery, opening up to Dane by saying “you’ve got a gateway to hell under your house, and that is really cool”.  Boy, that’s my kind of woman.  Who knew a pit of nothingness could bring people together so.

 Haley was also smokin' in Greg Araki's Kaboom, for what it's worth.

However, as you might imagine, opening the hole also unleashes an evil force.  God damnit, I knew there was a catch.  Figures, what with it looking like the padlocked basement door from The Evil Dead.  Anyway, I won’t give away what this “force” is specifically, except that it involves childhood fears.  Okay, I’ll give one part of it away.  Lucas is afraid of his giant creepy clown doll, probably because it is fucking horrifying, and this force causes the doll to teleport around and come alive and what not, which makes it even more horrifying if such a thing is possible.  I just don’t get why a parent would buy their child a human size clown doll with a face that makes it perpetually look like it’s about to rape somebody at knife point.  Then again, I’m not a parent.  What do I know about raising children. 

If this sounds like both a cross between Poltergeist and 1987’s The Gate (about two friends finding a gateway to hell in their backyard), as well as something director Joe Dante may have made in the 80’s, it basically is.  There’s even the requisite Dick Miller cameo, playing the oldest pizza boy the world has ever seen (hopefully not delivering the world’s oldest pizza).  However, The Hole feels more like a made-for-TV movie than a big budget Hollywood affair, but in the best sense possible.  The movie is largely shot on unadorned and authentic locations, stripped down both aesthetically and in terms of the script.  Everything is set up in literally five minutes without being reductive, immediately hooking you with characters you can sympathies with.  In an era of Hollywood movies beginning with 20 minutes of exposition telling us shit we don’t really need to know in clunky fashion, this is a welcome respite.

Unlike a bloated Hollywood confrontation between good and evil, where the heroes defeat a perfunctory CGI monster and the world is restored to order, the threats here are based in the characters and, how about that, actually pretty scary as a result.  When a monster that isn’t based in reality is forced in just to have something for the main characters to defeat, it registers more as an opportunity for empty victory than anything approaching real horror.

Although the movie could be described as “kiddie horror”, there is an important distinction between a horror movie about kids (literally and thematically) and one that is simply kidified and watered down.  Even so, The Hole is based in well tread material, but at least it’s well done and even has a few tricks up its sleeve.  For example, what do you think might happen if someone were to fall into an infinite hole?  If you haven’t seen the movie, that question might send you down a headache inducing mental wormhole of Stephen Hawking-esque proportions, and for that I apologize.