3.27.2015

The Last Dragon


1985
Directed by: Michael Schultz
Category: Badass Cinema

From about the ages between 10 to 15 years old, The Last Dragon was easily my favorite movie ever. So much so that I know every line of dialogue by heart. I mean, I fucking loved this movie as a kid and completely wore out my VHS playing it so often. It was the first movie I can clearly remember as being my favorite. Of course I've had quite a few of those over the years, but I'll always remember The Last Dragon being my first.

If you've already seen this film, then you know how absurd the whole concept is. Essentially, it's an R&B Kun Fu movie from the mid 80's. Right off the bat those are two things that just don't mix, yet they somehow do in this......and quite wonderfully. There's a playful energy to it all right from the beginning, and each sequence generates enough awesome and entertainment value that there's never a dull moment, not for a single second.

As much as I love this film, I'm embarrassed to admit that it had been a long while since I'd seen it. While I own the DVD, I can honestly say it's been a good 15 years since I'd thrown it on. But with my son visiting, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to introduce him to a movie that I absolutely loved when I was his age, in the hopes that it would also become a favorite of his.

Though many years had passed since I'd last seen it, it hasn't lost any of it's magic. Watching it recently was like visiting an old friend. There are so many moments that are just flat out awesome, that it's incredibly hard to count, or pick a favorite. Like for example, Sho-Nuff's stellar entrance in the film when he invades a movie theater that's showing Enter The Dragon. Or the "glow" sequence at the end. Or the moment Bruce Leroy (Taimak) shows what he's made of when he saves Laura Charles (Vanity) from an abduction. I can go on and on, and the best part, all these scenes are still badass. While the whole concept about an R & B mid-80's Kung-Fu movie screams "WTF?!", it all works and if I were to ever show this film to a group of people, it would most definitely fall under Badass Cinema Night. No doubt.

I think that a lot of what makes this work so well is it's spot-on casting. Vanity was just on fire in the
 80's and arguably one of the hottest, sexiest women working in action films with turns in classics like Action Jackson and Never Too Young To Die. Taimak, who plays Bruce Leroy has worked sporadically in both television and film, but with The Last Dragon, he carries just the right amount of charming innocence to make him completely believable. He can also be a badass when the time calls for it. Julius Carry seemed to have come out of nowhere to portray what can only be described as one of the most colorful, badass and totally insane villains the silver screen has ever seen in the form of Sho-Nuff; The Shogun of Harlem. Every line of dialogue out of Sho-Nuff's mouth is pure gold and quite honestly, he steals the fucking show in this. I'm actually shocked they never made a spinoff with his character, because he's pretty awesome.

I also have to admit that while my music taste varies quite a bit, I've never been a fan of R&B. But 80's R&B is a totally different story. This was a time when songs were actually catchy and quite good. And though I'd never actively seek out to play any of these specific types of songs just for my enjoyment, in the context of this particular film, they are quite amazing. It's as if each song was specifically written for each corresponding sequence and hell, for all I know, maybe they were! It's a badass soundtrack and I would be proud to include this in my collection of film soundtracks.

I had always considered this a favorite from my childhood, but after revisiting it, I can honestly say it's still a favorite. It's just awesome all around and an excellent selection for Badass Cinema Night.

3.25.2015

Bad Movie Monday presents: Chopping Mall




























Here's a little flyer I made up for last Bad Movie Monday's viewing of Chopping Mall. I began holding Bad Movie Nights about 2 months ago at my place on Monday nights. That just seems to be the night that works best with everyone's schedule. We've done 4 films to date, and each has been a rousing success. This past weekend was the 30th Anniversary of Chopping Mall's release, and what better way to celebrate it than to share it with others!

The film was a hit, and 30 years later, hasn't lost it's ability to entertain. It's execution is near flawless, and most of all, i'ts a helluva fun time.

3.24.2015

Quick Shot: Birdman


204
Directed by: Alejandro Inarritu
Category: Drama

When I watched this year's Oscar's, I wasn't at all surprised to see Birdman take home Best Picture. Now, I hadn't seen it up to that point, but just from all the buzz surrounding the film in general, and Michael Keaton's performance specifically, I knew it was a shoe-in compared to the other contenders. And you probably already know my love for Michael Keaton. I mean, he is the best Batman after all. So I was excited to see his career get a big boost from this film, even though he's been working steadily in Hollywood forever now.

So when this finally hit VOD, I decided to give it a shot. I have to admit, while the execution is admirable with the whole 1-Take gimmick (which of course it wasn't), I wouldn't have called this the Best Picture of the year. Not by a long shot. While Keaton's performance was outstanding and 100% deserving of the Oscar he "didn't" get, I never once felt the film was so great that it would have been a contender for Best Picture. But it was, and it won and after having finally seen it, I can't understand why.

It's a drama first and foremost, and while it carries a lot of existential elements, it's essentially a drama with lots of speeches and rambling dialogue, designed to bring out the best in the film's impressive cast, and hopefully, a nomination. There's no arguing that the film carries some damn impressive performances, most notably by Keaton and surprisingly, Edward Norton, but honestly, that's about where the "impressive" ends for me. The 1-take gimmick didn't really do anything for me, other than add a bit of intensity to the scenes.

Overall I thought it was good, with some strong performances. But I would never consider it Best Picture material. Personally, I wouldn't consider it a multiple viewings type of film, but that's just me,

3.18.2015

Punisher VHS Collection: Newest Additions Plus My Collection To Date...






































Out of the blue some time ago, a random fella contacted me through Facebook stating that he enjoyed my blog and appreciated my love for this insanely awesome piece of Badass Cinema. He also noted that while scrolling through the various posts I've done of all my Punisher VHS covers, the Portuguese VHS seemed to be absent. He said that he loves the fact that I love this movie so much and that I need this Portuguese tape in my collection. He had one, and would be willing to send it to me for free, if I covered the shipping from Portugal. He said he knew I'd take good care of it and that it would be going to a good home.

Now, right off the bat my spidey sense is tingling. I was cautious and hesitant for a number of reasons, but it all worked out alright in the end. The dude ended up being a legitimate collector and standup guy and we are now good friends. Not only did he give me the Portuguese VHS tape (yellow clamshell-right), but he also helped me secure the Spanish VHS release (blue clamshell-left), which I didn't even know existed! How cool is that!? I have good friends. :)

Here are my Punisher (1989) VHS tapes to date:
(From left to right)
Australian, Japanese, UK, Italian, Turkish, Spanish, German, Dutch, Portuguese, French, French, & US



3.14.2015

Quick Shot: Valentine


2001
Directed by: Jamie Blanks
Category: Horror

These are the types of horror films that I avoid like the plague. Basically, anything from the 90's and 2000's starring a "group" of hot "not normal" looking young stars in what can only be described as an "attempt" at a modern day slasher. The last 25 years or so were full of them. Urban Legend, I Know What You Did Last Summer, yadda yadda yadda. This was one of them, and until recently, had no desire to ever see it. I mean, just look at that cover. Everything about that cover is everything I don't like about these lame attempts at slasher films. Yet, this popped up on the excellent horror doc "The 50 Best Horror Films You Haven't Seen", and also, not surprisingly, it was highly recommended on Valentines Day no less. A few of my Instagram friends highly recommended it as well, so I figured there must be something to it.

Valentine was terrible. It was just as bad as I had always expected it to be, and even though my hopes were slightly raised after so many said to give it a shot, I was severely disappointed pretty much right from the beginning. Almost everything about Valentine is why I don't like these films in the first place. Nothing works here, and it's about as unoriginal as you could ever possibly imagine. Wooden acting, terrible dialogue, excruciatingly slow pace, uninspired kills, bland direction; in other words, tame, boring, and dull. I even tried looking at this from different angles, thinking maybe I'm just not in the right frame of mind, but none of that helped. It's a terrible film plain and simple. I honestly have no idea why it has the status that it does, or why anyone would ever recommend someone to waste an hour and a half of their life on this. I would never subject someone to this type of torture. So if you haven't seen it yet, be thankful, and just leave it at that.

3.13.2015

Knockoff


1998
Directed by: Tsui Hark
Category: Action

Wow. I don't even know where to begin with this one. I guess I should start by saying that Knockoff is a complete mess. It's not often that a movie is so terrible that I can't even finish it, but that's exactly what happened with this one. Mind you, I love bad movies, but this one falls under that rare little niche where it's just flat-out bad in a very unentertaining way. I have no idea what Van Damme or director Tsui Hark had in mind or what they were going for when they set out to make this, but just judging from the 45 minutes or so I sat through, I couldn't tell. The vibe, aesthetic and tone is just all over the place. Sometimes it's hardcore action, sometimes it's a silly comedy, sometimes it's serious. It just never stayed in one single category, which ultimately is it's biggest failing, among many others.

Knockoff was one of those Van Damme films I never got around to for some reason. This was right before his films began going straight to video, and even though I was still a Van Damme fan at this point, his star power was seriously waning with some less than stellar films performing poorly at the box office. Though his idea to bring John Woo from Hong Kong to the US to direct Hard Target was flat out brilliant, the same idea didn't fare so well when he brought other legendary HK directors like Ringo Lam and Tsui Hark to direct a few of his other films after. It's a great idea, and honestly, these guys have turned out some stellar work in their respective homeland, but unfortunately that talent didn't translate over to the US very well, not in these instances anyway. Lam is a very bland director in my opinion, and Hark can do some impressive work, but also has a tendency to go all out crazy, with no real style or substance that you could easily define. And that's exactly what he did with Knockoff.

When I threw this on, my radar went berserk when I saw Rob Schneider's name in the opening credits. I'm sure in the real world he's an alright guy, but in films, he annoys the fuck out of me. Aside from the fact that Judge Dredd is not in uniform for the majority of the film, Schneider's casting in that 1995 film is also one of it's biggest flaws, but I still love it regardless.

Knockoff starts off promising enough with a fast paced and kinetic action sequence in the ocean. So my expectations were realized, but only for a brief moment. Immediately after, everything just falls apart. We're all aware that by this point Van Damme was knee deep into his drug addiction, which is clearly evident in the dull as hell Maximum Risk. But he's not even the problem here. He actually looks more lively than I'd seen him in years. I think the issues lie squarely on director Tsui Hark's shoulders this time around. The film is a glorified mess from the very beginning. While there was some cool stuntwork going on, it's all just so uninspired and hyper-kinetic that I found it headache-inducing. Then Rob Schneider's annoying comic relief sidekick character shows up and it gets even worse. The guy has somehow made a name for himself by randomly showing up in action flicks as the comic relief. How? Why? Then Lela Rochon shows up as some kind of federal agent and she's just completely 100% out of place in this film, not to mention she's just flat out terrible in this and totally unbelievable. And I haven't even gotten to Tsui Hark's continuous odd camera placements that make no sense. I'm telling you, this film is flat out terrible and I found no redeeming quality in it.

I'm done.

3.05.2015

Trick or Treat


1986
Directed by: Charles Martin Smith
Category: Horror

This was a film that I remember only slightly. I remember thinking it was cool waaaaay back in the 80's when it first came out on VHS, which was my first experience watching it. I remember thinking that there just aren't enough rock n' roll horror films. I remember thinking "why did the guy from Starman direct this?". And really, that's about it. I'm guessing I had only seen it that one time for some reason, which is strange, considering I was knee-deep into horror, and I was an all out metalhead. You'd think this film was right up my alley, but for some reason, I just kind of moved on from it after that initial viewing.

Nearly 30 years later I got the itch to revisit this. Not for any particular reason like a recommendation or anything. For some reason, it popped in my head and I started to wonder if maybe it was better than I remember it being. I mean, I know it has a pretty large cult following in general. But that doesn't always mean it's going to be my kind of film. Repo Man is an excellent example of that. Huge cult following, yet I didn't dig it at all.

Trick or Treat surpassed my expectations by a mile, and then some. Every single minute of this film is rock n' roll horror gold, due in large part to Charles Martin Smith's solid direction. Who woulda thought that the nerdy guy from The Untouchables and Starman would turn out to be a pretty great horror director? It's almost as if Charles Martin Smith was born to direct horror films. Each frame of film has so much energy to it, that even though this film has a lot going for it, it's really Smith behind the director's chair that makes it all work so well. I still find that strange, considering he's mainly an actor. What's more, this is the only horror film he ever directed! After this it was pure family stuff. Strange. The guy's got a knack for horror, and so personally, I feel he's been working in the wrong genre all these decades later. But hey, such is life.



Eddie (Marc Price) is a longer in high school. A nerdy kid with a love for heavy metal and rock n' roll, he's seen as an outcast by everyone else. As such, he's tormented daily by almost everyone, especially the jocks. When Sammi Curr, the biggest rock star on the planet dies under mysterious cirumcstances, Eddie is shocked and saddened that his biggest idol has fallen too soon. But a local disc jockey (Gene Simmons) has a surprise for him. In his possession is the one and only last recording of Sammi Curr, which will be played on Halloween night. In the meantime, Eddie is allowed to take this one and only recording as a gift. When Eddie plays it backwards, strange things start happening, and Curr may be behind it all. 

Lame US DVD Cover
First things first, being a rock n' roll horror film, you expect a solid rock soundtrack, and it doesn't disappoint. The soundtrack by Fastlane kicks all kinds of ass, and it's about as perfect as you could have hoped for. We also get some cool cameo's by the likes of Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne. Don't let the ridiculously lame US DVD cover fool you. Even though they're front and center on the cover of this embarrassing excuse for a DVD release (Full Frame? Really?!), Ozzy has less than a minute of screen time as a televangelist, and Simmons has maybe a total of 3 minutes as the disc jockey who gives Eddie that fateful last record. What's worse, they look nothing like the pictures of them on the DVD cover. Old stock images for sure, but wow. What a gawd-awful excuse for a cover to a badass film. It really is embarrassing. As of this date, no other DVD edition or a Blu ray in the works, which is just sad. There is, however, a German region free Blu ray out there. Not cheap, but worth the purchase in my opinion.

While the character of Sammi Curr essentially doesn't have a lot of screen time, when he is, it's actor Tony Fields portrayal of the rock god that sells it. With his background as a dancer (he was a solid gold dancer for 5 years) and gymnastics, his ability to flip, jump, tumble, fall and practically fly through the air is damn near impressive. All the trademarks of a true rock god.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly why Trick or Treat works so well. Because honestly, it's everything. This is one of those rare instances where all the right ingredients somehow came together at just the right time to make something truly memorable. I think had this been made in the 90's, or even today, it just wouldn't work, and it wouldn't be anywhere near as effective. There's a magic to it that you just couldn't duplicate had this been made by anyone else, or in any other specific decade. Trick or Treat has amassed a huge cult following throughout the years, and deservedly so. After finally revisiting it, I can understand the appeal. It's pretty fucking fantastic.

* Interesting fact. Tony Fields, who played Sammi Curr, died at the age of 36. Which, if I'm not mistaken, was the same age Sammi Curr was when he died in the film. But I could be wrong. 

3.04.2015

Digging up the Marrow


2014
Directed by: Adam Green
Category: Horror

I'll admit, I'm late to the Adam Green loving game. I only recently discovered his Hatchet series this past year, and when I saw the first one, I was immediately in love with the character, the film, and it's execution. You see, Adam Green is a filmmaker who worships horror films. He grew up on them, and holds a deep love and respect for how they were made back in the 80's, when things were done in a completely different way than they are now. His insistence on practical effects and NO CGI is part of the reason why the Hatchet films, of which there are 3 to date, are so good and successful. Needless to say, anytime a new project comes up with Adam Green's name attached to it, you can bet I get excited.

I knew very little about Digging Up the Marrow going in. I knew it was his first full length project as director since Hatchet 2 way back in 2010, and that it was somehow about monsters, but that was it. I didn't know who was in it, or what the exact details of the story was about. It was also surprisingly hush hush. I rarely saw anything about it in any of the horror sites and blogs I follow, so I wasn't even sure when or if it would ever come out. So when it recently hit VOD just this past week, to me it seemed like it came out of nowhere. While it was a little pricier than what I'm used to paying for VOD films, I felt it was a good chance to pay my part and help support independent films and their filmmakers, rather than going another route.

Digging Up the Marrow is a breath of fresh air for many reasons. Here, he takes the faux documentary approach, and infuses it with the Found Footage genre, but only slightly. Without giving too much away, I'll just say that he did his homework, and figured out what works and what doesn't work in these specific over-saturated sub-genre's, and his execution is pretty solid. While not his strongest film to date (that would be the first Hatchet), it's up there pretty high.

Not only does Green write and direct, he also stars in this as himself. While hard at work on his series Holliston, Green is contacted by a retired detective who believes monsters are real, and he knows just where they hide. Intrigued and fascinated by this idea, Green and his cameraman/friend Will Barratt head out to meet this mysterious man feeling that if anything, this would make a great story. Green and Barratt soon discover that they're in for more than they bargained for.

Digging Up the Marrow has a lot going for it, most notably the decision to cast Ray Wise in the lead. I mean, we all love him right? He's just fantastic, more so when he's in crazy mode. And here, he doesn't disappoint. Why doesn't Wise star in more films? It's a travesty I tell you.

I think it's best I leave it at this. If you love horror films, and the horror genre, you won't be disappointed with this film. It's sort of a love letter to monsters, and Adam Green's passion for all things horror is clearly evident in every bit of this film.

2.26.2015

French Horror: Inside


2007
Directed by: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Category: Horror

French horror. Gotta love it. I've only recently become acquainted with French horror, and one thing that I've noticed almost immediately, is that they don't hold back in the gore department. I'm guessing that there's no censorship over there, because of the few films I've seen, the gore content is insane, considerable and pretty damn impressive. And really, isn't that what we go to horror films for? Yet here in the states, the MPAA thinks they know what we should or shouldn't be able to see.

A recently widowed pregnant woman is home alone one night when she hears a knock on her door. When the conversation through the door with the strange woman on the other side of it turns hostile, things begin to take a turn for the worse and she may be ill-prepared for what happens next.

I've been hearing about this film for quite a while now, and having been blown away by Martyrs, and enjoying the hell out of Frontier(s) and The Horde - all French horror films I should add - I was excited to finally get the chance to see this. Also learning that the directors responsible for this are in the process of doing the Texas Chainsaw Massacre prequel gave me extra incentive to check this out.

I will say this. The French know how to do their horror. Though, I'd probably categorize this as more of a thriller, with an excessive gore content. While it starts off relatively slow in more of a drama sort of way, things change significantly in the second act and it's then that things spiral out of control. When a film can make even the most die-hard horror and gore fans squirm in their seats and in some cases, turn their heads away entirely, you know they're doing something right. And that's exactly what happened. There were a few scenes that were so cringe-inducing that many of the men in the group with me had to look away. That is saying a lot.

I honestly feel that I shouldn't say much of anything else regarding the film in fear of possibly spoiling anything for you. It's easily one of the best French horror films out there, bar none, and also one of the most violent and cringe-inducing. I would probably still consider Martyrs to be superior, but only slightly and in a completely different kind of way. Give this one a shot, if you can stomach it.