3.24.2017

80's Attack!: Night of the Comet


1988
Directed by: Thom Eberhardt
Category: Horror

With Scream Factory's recent release of this 80's cult classic on DVD and Blu Ray, I figured I should finally give this a revisit since it's been in the back of my mind to do so for quite some time. Even though it was readily available to stream on Netflix for a long while, for some reason, I never took the time to do it, ultimately having to track down a DVD version since Netflix took it off before I could get to it. Don't you hate when that happens?

A meteor shower that was treated like a historical event, instead turns into the near end of civilization as those who witnessed it firsthand were either killed or turned into zombies. Only a few lucky survivors remain and must cope with being the last of mankind and deal with a band of scientists with a hidden agenda.

I can see why this was a film that I fondly recall seeing on HBO and Cinemax at all hours during the day and night back in the 80's. There's nothing in this that would require it to be played strictly at night, which means overall it's a pretty safe film. There isn't a lot of gore, and when there is some, it's a bit cartoony. There's no foul language, nudity, or adult situations either, yet it's an enjoyable, if albeit quirky, experience. It's a film bathed deep in neon lights and 80's cheese, but never deliberately sways into camp on purpose, it's just a product of it's time. In fact, I got into a debate about this very thing recently with my wife, who didn't like it and felt that the film was "trying" to be funny and was deliberately cheesy, where I felt the exact opposite. I don't think it's trying to be funny, mainly because I don't find it funny at all, not even unintentionally. And I don't think the film tries to be cheesy or campy just for the sake of it, I personally feel that it's a low-budget zombie film that attempts the serious route, yet it's mid-80's time frame and design just can't help but come off as campy, even if we didn't notice that then.

For me, I found it enjoyable, but it never really went as far as I hoped it would in any direction. It wasn't gory enough, or funny enough, or silly enough, or scary enough. It all comes off as a bit too safe and PG for my taste. However, there were things that do work for the film. I liked writer/director Thom Eberhardt (Captain Ron) sense of style in shooting it, especially in the scenes where he utilized filters to give the film a red or orange tone. Say what you will about it being a dated tactic, but I think it works really well, even the very few who still choose to use it today. It's effective in a very simple way and doesn't come off as tacky or fake the way CGI would more than likely make it look. But hey, that's just me.



Another aspect we debated about this was how to categorize it. I'd always considered it a horror film, and my wife thought that was the genre it was going for, but having revisited I couldn't help but feel it was more a post apocalyptic/survivalist

Overall it's a fun little film that delivers some mediocre 80's camp in an unintentional way. It plays the film straight, to my surprise, but never really realizes it's full potential. Since it's release nearly 30 years ago, it's become a certified cult classic and I can completely understand why, believe me. I just didn't feel that it delivered in a way I was anticipating. Let me put it this way. I have no qualms about letting my kid see it. At all. Still, it's not a bad film in the least. Should you want to get your hands on Shout! Factory's new DVD/Blu Ray combo packed with tons of special features like new interviews, commentaries and more, head on over to their official website HERE.

Reviewed on:

3.23.2017

80's Action Attack!: Iron Eagle






































1986
Directed by: Sydney J. Furie
Category: Action

I have no excuse other than I seriously missed the boat on this one. Somehow, in some way, this remarkable film was able to slip through the cracks of my 80's viewing experience, and it wasn't until now that I finally made the effort to actually track it down and watch it for the very first time in my entire life. And it was all because I came across this VHS tape at a local thrift store, only to discover that while it was indeed the correct slipcase cover, the actual tape was of something else. And from that moment on I had an insatiable need to check this film out because upon further digging, I've discovered that it's quite the essential piece of 80's nostalgia.

In short time I was able to locate an effectively priced VHS tape online that met my budget and proceeded to have my eyeballs and brain melt in pure 80's cheesy bliss. Really, it just couldn't get any better than this in my humble opinion and I loved every single second of this.

A young hot shot pilot-in-training attempts a daring rescue of his pilot father who's being held prisoner in enemy territory. With the help of Col. Chappy, a retired reserves Colonel who now works as a mechanic, and a group of high school friends, he may be able to pull it off.

Boasting a notable cast of 80's character actors (trust me, you've seen them all in other great 80's classics), a rocking 80's soundtrack, and a lighthearted cheesiness that never wears thin or overstays it's welcome. It hits the mark in nearly every department and I really can't stress enough how enjoyable it was. When I mention it to others, they all tell me it was an essential part of their 80's viewing experience, so I'm a bit sad I wasn't able to join in on that because truthfully, Iron Eagle delivers big time.

Director Sydney J. Furie has had a remarkably eclectic career filled with highs and lows, but mostly he kind of straddles the fine line of mediocre and bad. But like any director, he has his share of gems, with one of them being the insanely underrated and 100% badass The Taking of Beverly Hills, a film I am wholeheartedly obsessed with now after having recently revisited it and being completely blown away by how much it delivered a perfect 90's explosion filled action film. But then he's also responsible for Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. Sooooooo.....yea. But hey, we can add Iron Eagle to his list of stellar accomplishments. Doing some digging I've discovered he's also done 2 of it's 3 sequels, so I'm looking forward to tracking those down as well at some point.

As I leave you with this, let's take a moment to admire this amazing cover. Obviously just a collection of photos put together, but man, how great is this that they're actual photo's and not photoshop rendered? I mean, who takes the time to get the actors to pose for poster art anymore like this? And how simple, yet highly effective it is at conveying exactly what it is. Not to mention it's just badass. Jason Gedrick looks cool and Louis Gossett, Jr. is just a badass here. I wish they still made more covers like this. Looking into the covers for the 3 sequels, it seems they didn't think to keep this trend alive sadly.

Reviewed on:

3.22.2017

Samurai Cop German VHS Tape

This is a tape I've been after for a very long time. Much like the U.S. VHS release, it's near impossible to find, so for me, they both fall under the "Holy Grail of VHS" category for me. I'll admit, my list is small, but this easily made it's way on there years ago and I'm thankful to be able to scratch it off my list. A good friend of mine in Germany, Ingo from Hellford 667 Movie Reviews, knew my birthday was coming up and shockingly came across this cheap recently and was somehow able to time it so perfect that it literally arrived in my PO Box exactly on my birthday. Talk about a sweet surprise!

I'm sure I don't need to actually talk about the film itself as I'm sure you know by now, it's pretty fucking amazing. Easily one of the BEST Bad Movie Night films ever made. Always guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser no matter how many times you've seen it. Each time it will crack you up. What I love about this particular cover is that it depicts nothing accurately about the film itself at all, which makes it all the more amusing. Fantastic cover and art for sure, but if you go into the film expecting to see anything from this cover, you'd be sorely disappointed. But not for too long, because you'd be having too much fun with the film regardless.

So yea, just wanted to share this fantastic tape with you all. Hope you enjoy it.

3.13.2017

The Room Documentary "Room Full of Spoons" Is Up For Pre-Order


If you love bad movies, then you've surely heard of or have already seen The Room by now, regarded as one of the worst films ever made, and an excellent addition to any Bad Movie Night. I'm here to tell you, it's pretty bad, but in a highly entertaining way. It definitely lives up to the hype. It's like a trainwreck that you can't take your eyes off of, yet it's also fascinating in it's straightforward approach to a film that on the surface is supposed to be a drama, but ends up being a film so hilarious because of it's ineptitude that it instead becomes an unintentional comedy. But moving on.

Maybe you've also heard that Seth Rogen and James Franco are making a film adaptation on Room co-star Greg Sestero's book The Disaster Artist, which is based on his experience making this cult classic? They are, and I believe it's already near completion if I'm not mistaken. But I wasn't aware that there was a documentary in the works on the making of The Room, it's appeal, impact, and the mystery surrounding actor/writer/director Tommy Wiseau until just the other day. And guess what? It's done and ready for pre-order.

Here's a synopsis from the official website:

Room Full of Spoons is an in depth documentary about the cult film that is widely accepted as the worst film ever made: The Room, and it’s eccentric creator Tommy Wiseau.
Referred to as “The Citizen Kane of bad movies” by Entertainment Weekly, The Room grossed only $1800 during it’s initial box office run. Against all odds, Mr. Wiseau’s disastrous film found a new life on the midnight movie circuit and now plays to audiences around the world making it one of the most adored and important films in popular culture.
Follow Rick Harper and his team on their journey across the Globe as they experience this midnight movie phenomenon, meet with the entire cast and crew of the The Room and piece together the story behind the mysterious Tommy Wiseau.
The DVD shipping date is set for June 1st, and the pre-order price is at a low $15.99 for what's sure to be an entertaining and highly informative documentary. 

You can place your order by going to the Room Full of Spoons official website HERE.

3.12.2017

Sweatshop Film Review; When Gore Isn't Enough


2009
Directed by: Stacey Davidson
Category: Horror

I came upon this film when it was recently mentioned in a list of  "Underrated Gore Films You May Have Missed". It sounded pretty much right up my alley, so when my local Blockbuster was closing it's doors for good this past year, this was part of my large haul I purchased from them for dirt cheap. So let's dig in.

A group of goths, ravers and punks decide to throw an illegal rave inside an abandoned building in the middle of the night, only to discover that someone or something is already lurking in the dark, killing them off one by one.

I'm not going to mince words. I hated it. Every single second of it. While there is in fact some good gore to be found, it doesn't save this horrible amateur mess. Worse yet, you have to sit through at least half of it to even get to the gore, and by that point you're so nauseous by all of the other terrible aspects of this film that when the gore finally does come around, I just didn't really care.

What's surprising to me is that this was made in 2009, yet it looks and feels like a film that was made a good 20 years ago, and I don't think all of that was legitimate. Written, Produced, Edited, Photographed, and Directed by Stacey Davidson, his particular set of skills in even the most basic area's of this production make this an increasingly frustrating experience to sit through. For example, there's Davidson's directing style, which right from the opening frame suggests that he really put no thought into the look of the film whatsoever, unless the point was to make it look fast and cheap. The camera never sits still for one split second, often looking as if not only an amateur was trying to shoot this thing, but someone who seems as if they never have actually seen a film to begin with to know whether they were doing it right or not. One of the things I noticed almost immediately is that he shoots most of the film in closeups, never really giving you any sense of surroundings. The fact that the entire film takes place at night, in the dark, makes it nearly impossible to ever make out what's going on. And the acting is terrible. I mean, there's mediocre acting in here and then there's just terrible and most of the actors in this fall into the latter.

A hilarious aspect of the script is that the word "fuck" is used an insane amount of times. I can't tell for sure if the intent was to really have people carry on conversations like normal human beings do, or if the dialogue was laughably bad on purpose, but either way, the overuse of the F word is so obnoxious and overused that we ended up making a fun game out of it by counting every time it was used, and confidently predicting when it would show up again. We gathered that it was pretty much every sentence, sometimes twice in the same sentence.

I will give it some credit though. For a film that looks like it was shot on a weekend with a bunch of friends in the span of maybe 2 days, the gore in here is pretty impressive. In fact, it's more impressive than films with ten times the budget, so in that aspect, the film does in fact deliver. However, I found it to be surprisingly null for a film that relies solely on it's gore content to keep you invested and entertained. There's a lot here, but it's not enough to forgive the rest of the film. But hey, that's just me.

I guess of all the gripes I have, the one that bugs me the most would be that none of it is explained or makes any sense. First of all, who is this big ugly killer known as The Beast who, while large and slow, seems to be able to sneak and hide throughout the film showing up at just the right moments to kill people using a giant sledgehammer that he can barely lift without anyone noticing. And who is he? Why does he kill? Why does he live in an abandoned factory? Why does he have 2 girls that are sort of human, and sort of zombies that look like the girl from The Ring? Why do they follow him? Are they cannibals? Why does he wear all that ridiculous fur and welding mask if he's just going to kill them anyway? Why is the film called Sweatshop?

I could go on and on about all the things wrong with this, but I won't. I'm over it and I'd like to move on with my life. It's an hour and a half of my life I'll never get back, and for that, I guess I'm a bit sour, but truth be told, I've seen worse. Not by much, but there are worse films out there.

3.11.2017

Documentary Dynamite: Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of The National Lampoon

Even though I had noticed that this was recently added to the New Releases on Netflix, it took a friend of mine to convince me to watch it anyway. For some reason, the title alone wasn't enough of an attraction to get me to actually watch it, but I have to say, I'm glad I did. It's really one surprisingly entertaining documentary.

Basically it tells the story of how 2 guys in the 70's created a publication known as National Lampoon using everything in their power to shock you, often through the use of witty lowbrow humor, satire and nudity, which also touched on important topics ranging from politics to war and everything in between. They were audacious to say the least, and it proved to be a wise direction because if you look at the history, they were trendsetters. 

Personally, I was only vaguely aware of National Lampoons, and really had no idea what it actually was or where it came from. I only knew that it was associated with Animal House and the Vacation films starring Chevy Chase. But I had no idea what National Lampoons actually meant. So for me, I found this to be highly informative, a bit shocking, and funny as hell.

One of the things that kind of blew my mind was how brilliant a lot of these contributors were, and how many famous actors, writers, directors and comedians got their start working for them in the late 70's and early 80's. I won't spoil it for you by naming them here, but it was a series of constant surprises for me with each new revelation.

With tons of interviews and vintage footage from those who were there in the beginning and on through their peak and ultimate demise, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is a must watch. 

Currently Streaming On:

3.10.2017

90's Attack!: Scanner Cop Film Review






































1994
Directed by: Pierre David
Category: Action/Horror/Thriller

This is one of those low-budget titles that I would often come across in the video store, but until today, not knowing that it had any connection to the Scanner franchise, even though I am aware that the word Scanner is in the actual title. I don't know, I just assumed it was it's own thing, not ever taking into consideration it may have been an offshoot of the franchise. In any case, I was told by a good friend that I should check it out, because he was confident that I would enjoy it. I guess I had always suspected that this would be something I could really be into, I just needed someone to confirm it.

Scanner Cop was a nice little surprise. In fact, I'm almost sure it's ultimately better than the low-budget sequels to the original David Cronenberg classic. There's really nothing remarkable or badass about this film, but it's a solid film overall, made all the more better by mega producer Pierre David in the directors chair, who I might add, was also Cronenberg's producer on a number of early projects, including the original Scanners. So that right there gives this one an instant connection to the original, and David, being the mega-producer for an insane number of low-budget and mid-budget cult classics that he is, knows his stuff. Though he's only directed 2 films, being a producer for nearly 200 of them has given him the know-how to do it efficiently, and I thought the film looked solid. Let me put it this way. He does a much better job than a lot of other directors with over 20 films under their belt do.

What I enjoyed about this one is that it fuses elements of at least 3 different genre's seamlessly together. You have some action, a little bit of horror, and most prominently, thriller elements that tie it all together effectively. One thing I would also like to point out is that the film also offers up a healthy dose of notable character actors like Richard Lynch, Brion James and a slew of others that you'll surely recognize from other projects, like the guy who plays an orderly who was a bouncer in Roadhouse. It ended up being a fun guessing game picking them all out.

I'm not gonna lie and tell you that it blew me away, because it didn't. But it does have a lot going for it that easily makes this a much better film than you anticipate going in. Pierre David shoots it well, so it looks good. There isn't a lot of blood and gore, but what is here is done really well. The acting from all involved deliver the goods, but I just wish Brion James had a much bigger part than his little cameo. Ultimately, you won't be disappointed with this one. It delivers on the title, the cover art, and the concept in a way that most other films fail. Give it a a shot, because it's pretty badass.

Reviewed on:


3.09.2017

Starman Blu Ray Review


When I revisited this film a few years ago because Netflix was streaming it, I was blown away. It touched me in the way only a very few number of films have. It instantly became a favorite and since that time I've revisited it often on various formats.

Upon that first revisit a few years ago, I was struck by how amazing it looked under the direction of John Carpenter. I say this because of his entire filmography, this film is never mentioned as one of is best, which I would beg to differ. To me, this easily qualifies as one of his strongest films, and dare I say his most visually brilliant, and I consider myself a HUGE fan of Carpenter. Most of his films are masterpieces to me, while others are personal classics. Still, none have ever impacted me on a visual level the way this one did. I own nearly every one of his films in various formats; VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and Blu ray. Yet of all his films, there was never one that I felt I NEEDED to see in HD. That is until I saw this film, where nearly every single frame is an exquisite example of expert composition.

When I sat down to finally watch this blu ray that I purchased almost a year ago, I was once again struck by how aesthetically gorgeous this film is. If any one of his films begged a blu ray transfer, it's certainly this one. Right from the very first frame and down to it's very last, each striking image of even the most mundane scene is made all the more exquisite by Carpenter's keen eye for detail and use of extreme widescreen. It helps that he also collaborated with Cinematographer Donald M. Morgan (Excessive Force), who he worked with the year before on Christine, Aesthetically, these two seem like a match made in heaven, yet this and the former are the only 2 films they worked on together, which is surprising.

The Blu Ray:
To my knowledge, Starman has only ever gotten this one Blu Ray release here in the U.S., and based on the simple fact that this is as bare bones as they come and literally just the film by itself, it could use a serious upgrade in terms of extra content. Now, as far as the picture itself, it's stellar, beautiful, gorgeous, striking. I have never seen the film look better than it does here in 1080p HD on a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Upon revisiting this on blu, there were things I hadn't noticed before, little details that stand out among the striking imagery and it's full widescreen ratio. And even outside of that, just seeing it in it's best presentation possible, it's like watching it on a whole new level. The blacks are a rich dark black, and the colors pop in a vivid intensity. It wasn't until watching it on Blu Ray that I noticed how striking the colors were, and how orchestrated the color schemes were throughout.

Sadly, there are zero extra's on here, not even a trailer or a commentary. What you get is the film at it's most striking, but nothing else, which is a shame because I'm sure there are plenty of bits of information behind-the-scenes that would make for a great documentary. For example, as I was watching the end credits roll up, I noticed the 1st Assistant Director was Larry Franco, Carpenter's longtime Producer, and apparently also his longtime Assistant Director, which I was not even aware of. And then there was the "Starman Transformation by Dick Smith, Stan Winston and Rick Baker" credit that literally blew me away. I mean, talk about an incredible trifecta of talent just on that one sequence alone!

Gripes:
I've never owned Starman on DVD, which has been released multiple times on that format as either a standalone release or as part of a 2 or 4 pack. For all I know, there very well may be some behind-the-scenes features that are present on any one of these former releases, and if so, it's a shame they didn't include them on this Blu Ray. The lack of even a simple trailer, or an old commentary imported from an earlier DVD release is a bit frustrating. Yet, the film itself is presented in a stunning transfer, so I can't be all that upset. I'm also not a big fan of the cover art they chose, wishing instead that they just stuck with the tried and true original poster art that represents the film effectively well overall.

Conclusion:
The Starman Blu Ray will run you anywhere from $10-$20 depending on the seller, which would seem a bit steep for a bare bones release, but trust me when I tell you it's an essential addition to your Blu Ray collection, as well as a must-own John Carpenter film.

3.08.2017

80's Thriller Throwback: Best Seller






































1987
Directed by: John Flynn
Category: Thriller

My little town is notoriously skimpy when it comes to good VHS finds at our local thrift stores. Most of the time, there just aren't any good finds, which is pretty sad. But every once in a while, I'll come across one that I think will be halfway decent, only to discover that it's so much better than I anticipated. These are the kinds of film experiences I thrive on, that I live for, and Best Seller was that kind of experience, a film that just took me completely by surprise. I've always loved the cover, it's a nice reminder of when actors actually showed up to take a photo for a movie poster, as opposed to the photoshop messes we get today. It's a cool image for sure, but the film still could have gone either way. Luckily, it ended up being awesome for all the right reasons.

Cleve (James Woods) is a hitman who reaches out to Dennis (Brian Dennehy), a cop and author, with an idea for a new book, the story of Cleve and his life as a hitman. Dennis, skeptical and weary from the beginning, and Cleve travel the country gathering evidence and facts for the book, all the while a powerful former client of Cleve's will stop at nothing to prevent it from ever seeing the light of day.



The Good:

Powerhouse performances. First and foremost, the film is only as strong as it is for 2 important reasons; James Woods and Brian Dennehy. It's as if this film, and better yet the script, was specifically written with them in mind. They're just fantastic in this, both bringing their very unique brand of tough-guy machismo to their roles. It's perfect casting if there ever was such a thing.

Mid 80's grittiness brought to life. John Flynn's impeccable direction serves the film extremely well, and after seeing this, it's no surprise he would follow this up with films like Stallone's Lock Up and Seagal's Out for Justice. His particular brand of gritty gives the film an overall sense of dread and bravado, almost as if the film's style serves as another character of the film. Even watching this in full frame on VHS didn't take away from it's visual impact.

Razor sharp intensity. Genre writer/director Larry Cohen (Maniac Cop, Q: The Winged Serpent, It's Alive) writes the film as he's writing a hard-boiled detective novel. It's a detective story in a sense, but a different one altogether. Instead of a cop investigating a series of crimes or murders, you have a cop/author who's investigating a supposed hitman and his past deeds to basically call bullshit to his claims of high profile murders, yet Cohen plots the film in such a way that it feels like you're watching an old school detective thriller about a cop tracking down a serial killer. It's brilliant and intensely effective.

The score packs a punch. Jay Ferguson delivers one helluva brilliant synth score for a film who's score would normally be the last thing you would notice. But much like John Flynn's direction, Ferguson's score serves as yet another character to the film, giving it a moody atmosphere that screams 80's synth, but in the best possible way. I loved it so much in fact that I immediately set out to try and track it down, only to discover that it may never have even gotten an official release as a soundtrack. I could be wrong though, and if I am, please feel free to correct me. I need this soundtrack in my life, because it's that good. HELP!

The Bad:

There is no bad. Much like my experience watching Shoot to Kill, this is another solid example of the perfect 80's thriller. I didn't find a single thing I would change with this film. Every single aspect, from the direction, the script, the performances, the action, the score, were all essential in creating a truly riveting film experience with an insatiably satisfying climax. It also drives home one thing I was already almost positive about, and that's that James Woods is a badass.

3.07.2017

King Kong (1976) Film Review

Having never actually sat through this film from beginning to end before, and with the new Kong: Skull Island fast approaching, I figured what better time than now to actually give this a watch, especially since Hulu recently added it to their lineup. It was just the perfect time. I have to admit though, I went in a bit apprehensive only for the fact that this version of King Kong (the first full-on adaptation since 1933 not counting his appearances in Godzilla or Japanese films) is never mentioned. At least not in my experience. So let's dig in.

To put it simply, King Kong blew me away and I loved it. I loved it so much in fact that I find it hard to believe that it's not just automatically considered a classic. It has everything that you'd want in a big budget Hollywood epic, and doesn't overstay it's welcome by running insatiably long. It's just as long as it needs to be and entertaining every step of the way.

What immediately impressed me right from the beginning was John Guilliame's superb direction. It's just the kind you'd expect in a big budget classic Hollywood epic, and he films it with such a professional's touch, classy to the nth degree, that it really makes you miss the way films were made back then. It's hard to pinpoint exactly how, but every shot just looks incredible and gorgeous, made all the more stunning in widescreen, which he utilizes to it's full effect. In short, the cinematography is simply gorgeous. The film "looks" big, expensive and epic in every sense of the meaning, which with it being a Dino De Laurentiis production, is only natural. You can just "feel" that it's a De Laurentiis film. He doesn't skimp on the budget. When he wants to make a big epic, he goes all out. and this film is a testament to that. There were things in here that literally blew my mind, like the fact that he and f/x master Carlo Rambaldi (E.T., Dune) actually made a 40 ft tall life-size King Kong for some of the wide shots. When these moments appear on screen, you really have to be paying close attention to even notice the fact that it's a 40 ft tall robot and not another composite shot, because they're so well done. I noticed them, because I notice things like that, but even then, I was mightily impressed with their ambition. They're literally split second scenes inter-cut with other's, but used to give you a bigger grasp at the scale, and it works.



For me, the effects here were the real star of the film, with the practical effects work was nothing short of brilliant. They looked incredible, and for a film that was made in 1976, it's even more impressive. Even today, upon watching this for the first time, I was struck by how arduous they were, and how effective they are compared to the CGI stuff we use today. I mean, I went to see Peter Jackson's King Kong in theaters, and really wasn't all that engaged to the story. I personally feel that while impressive, the effects dominated the actual film. So much so that I can't even really tell you what parts of the film I actually liked because it was just a big effects heavy film and that's all I really took away from it. But here, while there are a lot of effects, the fact that they're done practically and grounded in reality, make them seem tangible. It's a completely different experience. Yes, you know it's a man in an ape suit, either superimposed against a blue screen image, or walking around in a massively impressive model environment, but it looks amazing. You can argue that while impressive, they look dated, but I would have to disagree. I found them to be better than anything Weta conjured up on a computer screen for the 2005 remake. I know I'm in the minority in this thinking, but I guess I'm just an old-school soul.

The cast is exceptionally talented in this. Jeff Bridges leads the charge as Jack, the "nice and caring" soul in the group, while an unexpectedly slimy Charles Grodin, in a serious turn, plays the villain of the film, Fred Wilson. The standout though is of course Jessica Lang, in her first film role, and she definitely steals the show as Dwan (the "w" and "e" are switched around on purpose, later explained in the film), a carefree spirit who dreams of becoming a movie star. The rest of the cast is filled with a large number of notable character actors who you're sure to recognize.



I really can't praise this film enough. It's epic film-making on a classically grande scale. This is the era of enormous sets, huge budgets, impeccable practical effects work and inspired storytelling. Everything hits the mark just right, and in my humble opinion, the film couldn't have turned out any better. To my surprise, it was able to be both touching and heartfelt, while at other times shockingly violent and brutal. This consistent shift in tone always kept me on my toes, never knowing where the next scene would take me emotionally, yet throughout, I was in constant awe and loved every single minute of it. It's damn near a King Kong masterpiece.

Review Source: Streamed on Hulu Plus

3.03.2017

Lifeforce Custom Bootleg VHS by Tom Fury

Tobe Hooper is one of those directors you either love or hate. Personally, I love him. I even met the guy once, sometime back in the late 90's at a special 35mm print screening of his seminal classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX one Halloween. Super nice guy. I've always admired his style of directing, even if I didn't necessarily like the film very much. His sequel to his classic TCM is a perfect example of that. Hate the film, but love the way it looks. Of all the films he's made, and of all the ones I love from his filmography, the ones I love the most would have to be 2 he did under his Cannon Films contract, Lifeforce and Invaders From Mars. We all know the story behind Lifeforce, so I won't bore you with that. But I will tell you that I love this batshit crazy film to death.

Credit: Tom Fury
However, I never really liked the VHS releases we received here in the states much. As much as I like collecting tapes, the Lifeforce releases never appealed enough to me as a collector to actually grab. I've always found the poster and VHS cover art for the U.S. releases quite bland and uninspiring. Not to mention they say absolutely nothing about the actual film. In fact, they're not very accurate representations of the actual film. But I've always loved the RCA Home Video releases. I love that red border, and the specific font they use on one side of the slipcase sleeve. So when I came across someone who brilliantly married these two things I love so much in a custom bootleg, I just had to have one. His name is Tom Fury, and he's an avid collector as well. And apparently, very talented.
Credit: Tom Fury
One of the things I liked about this was that he went the slipcase route rather than the clamshell case like most people do. It's a much harder job and considering he didn't use cardboard, but rather brochure paper, which still holds strong and durable, it's damn near impressive. Not only did he do a bangup job on the sleeve itself, but he also took the time on the actual tape by creating an RCA label. Then he used a Widescreen Laserdisc for the transfer source, which just makes it all the more amazing since this never got a widescreen release on VHS. He also custom made random stickers to put throughout the box at your discretion, to give it that authentic worn look and feel - like it's been rented many times over many years and it has a history. What is impressive about the tape itself is that it's a good quality weighty tape, and heavy. Not the cheap stuff. 

Credit: Tom Fury
He really went all out on this thing, and followed the same rules that they utilized with all of their home video releases in the 80's. One of those being the two different fonts they use on each side of the spine. On the left side they would always use their trademark font for every release, in bold white set against a black background. On the right it would be a different font, the one used for the marketing of the actual film, or sometimes they would come up with a brand new unique one just for the release. So whichever way you end up displaying this on your VHS shelf, you'll get a stunning spine regardless. 

I have to admit that I feel insanely lucky to have gotten one of these, as he only did an extremely limited run of 5, with no plans to do anymore. He is, however, working on his next boot (when time permits), which will be on the severely underrated Tom Cruise flick Edge of Tomorrow. One of the things I love about collecting bootleg tapes and some within the bootleg community is that they don't do this for money. At all. There is no money in it. It's about the love of VHS art, and sharing that with other collectors who appreciate it. Something like this, releasing Lifeforce in a standard RCA Home Video slipcase may not seem like a big deal to most people, but it's a huge deal to nerds like myself, who randomly wonder "What If?" certain titles of our favorite films were released in a better packaging from a different label rather than the one's we were dealt with. 

* VHS custom slicase cover, artwork, cassette label and stickers designed by Tom Fury

3.02.2017

The 6th Day Film Review






















2000
Directed by: Roger Spottiswoode
Category: Sci-Fi/Thriller

This was a film that I really had no desire to see upon it's initial release. The trailers made it look cheap and very 90's, even though it was released in 2000. While recently being completely blown away by director Roger Spottiswoode's work on both Shoot to Kill and Tomorrow Never Dies, I figured that maybe I should finally give this one a shot. That maybe there was something to it after all, something I didn't pick up on initially on the weak trailer. Or so I thought.

The truth is that The 6th Day, sadly, is an easily forgotten film. There's nothing remotely interesting or even entertaining to be found, and it's pretty much exactly what I was expecting it to be. Too bad too, because along side Arnold, the film boasts a pretty good cast (even Michael Rooker's on board as the bad guy), and Roger Spottiswoode as director should really have elevated this thing to far above average, but it's actually quite the opposite. Nothing in here has any resemblance to Spottiswoode's previous films, and the style that I had grown to love with the few films of his that I have seen, was blatantly absent. For some reason, he decided to shoot this as a TV Movie, and that's actually one of this films biggest issues. It looks cheap. I'm not just talking about the effects. Surprisingly, they were halfway decent for the most part, considering when this was made, but I mean more along the lines of how and where he pointed the camera. There are a lot of dutch angles interspersed throughout, and while I'm not against that method of shooting when it's done well, here it looks lazy and completely uninspired. It's almost like his DoP maybe was the one who insisted on it (I don't actually know), to give the film a little edge, but it only ended up doing the opposite.

I'd have to say that the one and only real bright spot in all of this is Arnold, who does a pretty good job playing duel roles. Since the film is about cloning, he ultimately ends up playing the main character, as well as the clone of that character. As you'd expect with a film released in 2000, the effects of having the same actor play two roles in the same shot hasn't really been done any better than when Jean-Claude Van Damme did it in Double Impact in 1991.

Seriously, who designs this shit?
By this time, his star power and quality of his films had began to diminish, with his last significant hit being True Lies all the way back in 1994. The great projects just weren't coming in anymore, and The 6th Day is a testament to that. It's easily a film that really anyone could have starred in. None of Arnold's bravado is on display here, and the role certainly doesn't call for it either. In fact, if it hadn't starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, I'd imagine it would have ended up being a Movie-of-the-Week or a Direct-to-Video flick. It just carries that vibe.

In all honesty, I was pretty bummed. I went in with some high hopes, but the stale direction, cheap looking effects and ho-hum vibe distracted me. There just never seems to be the right talent involved in any aspect of this film's production and marketing. The mediocre trailer certainly didn't help, and then there's the bad poster and downright terrible cover artwork for all the subsequent home video releases. I'm shocked that Roger Ebert gave this Two Thumbs Up, but then again, I've never really agreed with most of his reviews.

3.01.2017

80's Cannon: Assassination Film Review































1987
Directed by: Peter Hunt
Category: Action/Thriller

As I continue to dig through the Bronson/Cannon Films 80's output, I decided to give this one a try, knowing right up front that it's not one of his better known or most loved films. After having finally seen it, I can understand why.

Charles Bronson plays Jay Killian, who is a presidential bodyguard who's assigned to protect the First Lady (Jill Ireland), who's been targeted for assassination.

Hhmm. Where to start. I guess I can begin with the films biggest problem for me, and that's Jill Ireland as the first lady. Is it just me or was she insatiably annoying? I don't know if the purpose was to write her like a whinny, spoiled, bratty, condescending and stuck up snob, but that's exactly how she played it and every second she was on screen, I wanted to reach through the tv and slap her silly so she'd shut up. Really, she almost ruined the experience for me completely, she was that annoying. But I soldiered on.

Assassination is a bit of a frustrating experience. All the ingredients are here, but they're not utilized efficiently. It's hard to even gauge what was written on page and what creative decisions director Peter Hunt made that might have changed that. There are moments when the film feels too silly and light, and it really throws things off because you don't expect it and you don't quite know how to react to it. And then the film goes back to resembling the kind of film you were anticipating going in, the classic action/thriller via 1987. In that regard, Assassination is pretty much the kind of film you expect, but it's easily one of the most dismissive from his collaboration with Cannon Films. There's nothing remarkable or even interesting about this film, and the numerous issues it suffers easily makes this a one-time watch.

For the most part, Assassination plays out like any standard Bronson/Cannon flick from the 80's. But aside from the oddly shifting tone, the action sequences, while few and far between, are poorly executed. It's hard to believe that director Peter Hunt was responsible for a James Bond (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) film at one point, or that he was an editor on a few other Bond films. You'd never know it by watching this though. While the majority of the film looks fine, once it gets to the action sequences, it becomes highly underwhelming. It's so bad that it's impossible not to notice. For a film that barely has any action to begin with, you really have to make the few that are here count, yet that's not what happened. In this case, it's the action sequences that feel shockingly amateurish overall, only made worse by some really bad editing.

One of the more frustrating aspects of the film is it's script, where the first lady is repeatedly warned of assassination attempts, yet continuously ignores them like a brat. Even when attempts have been made, she blows them off as coincidence. When she and Killian are on the run for her protection, he discovers that she'd been in contact with the person he suspects of setting the hits up all along, and "still" doesn't think anything of it. It's moments like these that really become annoyingly frustrating because she comes off as not only a bull-headed childish brat, but also very stupid. In fact, the way Ireland plays her, reminded me of a bratty 13 year old girl.



So the film suffers from 3 major issues; 1.), Jill Ireland and her character are maddeningly annoying. 2.) The action is poorly executed and edited. 3.) The film, for some unknown reason, tries to be fluffy and silly from time to time. But thankfully, the film as a whole isn't a total loss. Charles Bronson is again playing the character Paul Kersey-like, and it's always rewarding. I don't think Bronson is capable of playing any character at this point in his career any other way, but hey, it works and works damn well. So on that front, he delivers the goods. The film in general is entertaining and engaging enough to sit through surprisingly. After all, it is a Cannon Film, so it will surely have an air of 80's thriller cheese to it, and this one does. It won't blow you away, but it's not a bad way to spend an hour and a half of your time if you're in the mood for some 80's Bronson.