To quote Bruce Willis in "Die Hard 2," 'how can the same [so-bad-it's-good] shit happen to the same guy twice [in one day]?' Guys, I think I've just died and gone to Junesploitation! heaven! :-DCHINA SALESMAN (2018, 110 min.) at New York's Cinema Village for the first time. TRAILERSteven Seagal and Mike Tyson beating the crap out of each other? Take my money, please! I happened to be walking by the only theater in NYC screening this flick five minutes before it's single 11PM showing. Saw the poster, made a snap decision and forked over the cash. Surprise! Not only is this a Chinese-financed propaganda flick disguised as a techno-thriller (the hell?), but Segal and Tyson are barely in it. An unnamed African nation will plunge into chaos unless virtuous-to-a-fault Chinese telecom rep Yan Jian (Dong-xue Li) convinces the biased-against-Chinese Swedish mediator (Janicke Askevold's Susanna) to grant his company the 3G wireless contract. Segal plays an arms dealing bar owner (in a Muslim nation?) that's in cahoots with Duchamp (Clovis Fouin), the evil Frenchman telecom rep willing to start a civil war to prevent Yan Jian's DH Telecom from winning the bid. Tyson's Kabba, a mercenary with royal lineage to one of the tribes that used to rule this (fictitious?) land, is also in cahoots with Duchamp. But gosh darn it, our Chinese hero is so empathic and selfless (he even saves a little girl from ritualistic genital mutilation... I'M NOT MAKING THIS UP!) that most of his opponents become allies. Duchamp is displeased. To the filmmakers' credit (all 10,000 of them listed at the start), the first 15 minutes deliver what paying customers (me and one other guy) came to see. It uses every trick in the book (body doubles, CG, fast cuts), but Iron Mike and Segal trading blows after the latter tries to get the former to drink a mug of warm piss (don't ask) delivers the goods. The rest is a tone-deaf train wreck, cramming a mini-series' worth of war porn and corporate plot into two incoherent hours. All the actors recite their atrocious English dialogue phonetically, and they're still easier to understand than Tyson's earnest-but-incoherent line readings. If the gods of bad cinema smile upon us, "China Salesman" will become the "Dangerous Men" or "Fateful Findings" of a new generation. :-)SUPERFLY (2018, 116 min.) in theaters for the first time.Two commonly held conventions (remakes of old movies aren't as good as the original and music video directors can't do narrative features) are shattered by this entertaining Joel Silver-produced, Director-X.-helmed update to the blaxploitation classic. Taking itself seriously (but not so much as to not have some sexy fun), "SuperFly" might be the first mainstream movie in which a black antihero (Trevor Jackson) has a committed ménage à trois with his ladies, in the bedroom and managing their business affairs. It has a flashy gang of drug dealers dressed in white parkas, complete with Starscream (Kaalan Walker) and Megatron (Big Bank Black) leadership in-fighting, and Mexican drug dealers (including a hardcore narco granny) standing in the way of Priest getting out of the life. It looks and feels like an extended music video (Future co-produced the film and arranged the soundtrack), but the characters are believable, the setting (corrupt-as-hell ATL cops, Confederate monuments) ripped from the headlines, and the story pays off everything it sets up. Between this and "Proud Mary" Sony is cornering the market in modern blaxploitation cinema, but "SuperFly" is the more crowd pleasing of the two. Highly recommended, even though it doesn't offer any new wrinkles in an overdone-to-death genre.
Over the weekend I went to the drive-in for a triple-bill of vampires: NEAR DARK, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, and A VAMPIRE IN BROOKLY. All were first watches.I was not expecting a character-driven film with Near Dark, yet that is what it is. I really appreciated how the film completely subverts vampire movie expectations, from the setting (the Midwest and Southwest) to the circumstances the vampires exist in. There is no glamour here, nor are the vampires very attractive characters in their personalities. The ending is the weakest part of the film, yet it did not drag down my enjoyment of it. The cast is wonderful, particularly Lance Hendrikson as Jesse. The surprising thing is that I waited this long to watch From Dusk Till Dawn, but I am glad I did. It was enjoyable seeing it on a big screen. The heist getaway portion of the film was my favorite, with that Tarantino dialogue just crackling throughout the scenes. What happened to this George Clooney? The Titty Twister part was fun but got a little too over-the-top for my tastes. With the quick editing of that section, maybe it was a case of sensory overload. I could not always follow the action. Definitely will be watched again.I ignored most of A Vampire in Brooklyn to admire the night sky. The Milky Way was more interesting than this dud. Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy was available on demand this week, and I could not resist the temptation to revisit a couple of the films: FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY. The more satisfying watch was the first film. For a Few Dollars… flows from one great scene to another, with the chemistry between Eastwood and Van Cleef a joy to watch. I prefer Lee Van Cleef as the hero, anyway. Gian Maria Volonte’s Indio is a very entertaining villain, whose parable about a safe maker is a highlight of the film. The amazing thing is Volonte did the English dialogue without even understanding the language. I appreciated the very focused story of For a Few Dollars, as well. As impressive a production as The Good… is, the sprawling and convoluted nature of the narrative did not appeal to me this viewing. I think I need to be in a different frame of mind next time.
You lucky dog, watching some good movies in the drive-in. At least the scheduler put "Vampire in Brooklyn" last so people could have leaving, sleeping or sleeping-not-alone (ahem!) as options. ;-)I just saw "For A Few Dollars More" recently and mostly agree, but in my opinion "TGTBATU" is such a towering cinematic achievement its predecessor can't help but shrink when standing next to it. Van Cleef and Eastwood make for great anti-hero good guys, but it felt like Tuco was missing and/or went to work for Indio's gang. I know, Pavlovian reflexes. :-)
I will be back at the drive-in this weekend for a some Umberto Lenzi movies. Definitely Friday night, not sure about Saturday. https://www.facebook.com/events/1099390646868559/ With the triple bills at this time of the year, the last film generally does not end until around 3:00 a.m. For that reason people bring tents to sleep in overnight. The sun was coming up when I get home.As a fast-paced, straightforward western, For A Few Dollars More was what I was more in the mood for this week, and the score really hit me this viewing. I did not have enough patience for TGTBATU this time around. Could be the movie fatigue setting in from this month.
Casual, I almost went to that very same triple bill when I was visiting family in that area. Now I wish I had!
It was a fun night, Rob. The fact that I had not seen any of the films before made it even more pleasant. Perfect weather, too, but I go there even in the rain.
I think Near Dark is a movie that needs to get way more love.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017 - S. Craig Zahler)Even though I had heard the chatter about this movie, it still surprised me. Especially Vince Vaughn, the great way he uses his size and the methodical way he does well everything, tears apart a car with his bare hands to caving in a man's face. But more than anything else it was the humour. Which, really shouldn't have surprised me considering Bone Tomahawk. The humour goes black, pitch black. It is an exploitation movie in every way. It's a burtal movie, I had to look away occansionally but at the same time it feels sincere. Which is surprising in a prison movie.
Really good throwback movie. It’s great to see film makers make movies like this and actually do a good job of it instead of just hamming it up for the sake of making a B-Movie.
Upgrade (2018 - dir Leigh Whannell)This is a movie that is most likely going to make my top ten at the end of the year. It's just a really smart SciFi Revenge movie. There is a few different things going on, and Whannell blends them together well.
Nowhere to Run (1993, dir. Robert Harmon) Mr. Riske's recent championing of this made me want to re-watch. I was not disappointed. Yeah it's cliched, but so what? I was actually moved by some of the melodrama. There was some good action, JCVD is JCVD, always love seeing Ted Levine (Where my Leviniacs at?!), but Rosanna Arquette steals the show. She's great in this. Upper tier JCVD for sure.
I watched this last week. It's great. I wa surprised by the bad reviews it got. But from what i understood, it was because it was too much drama and not enough actionTo me, this is easily one of the best JCVD movie
Bullet in the Head (2012) - Walter HillWalter Hill teaming up with Stallone, 2 big names from the 80’s, for a movie that has an axe fight for its climax, this should have been so much better. There was potential here for both to do a good modern take on their 80s best. Stallone has that Sin City, Marv voiceover down to a tee and tries to play it super cool throughout, which he somewhat pulls off, but there seems like a missed chance to do more with him. He’s playing an aging version of a character we’ve seen many times before, I would have liked to see him do a Paul Newman in Colour of Money here and develop some sort of a character. We know from the Fast and Furious movies that Sung Kang is very cool but here his character is just bland and one dimensional. And Jason Momoa always seems like the coolest guy in the room but here his character lacks any real menace. This was a chance for another good Walter Hill buddy movie that was wasted with one dimensional characters and really poor dialogue that even an axe fight couldn’t save. It was a real shame.
That axe fight was kinda cool though...
Ronan C, you're making the same mistake I did a year ago. The Hill/Stallone/Momoa movie is called "Bullet TO the Head," not "Bullet IN the Head" (the 1990 John Woo movie that has nothing to do with this 2012 adaptation of a French graphic novel). We're all human. :-)
Damn it, rookie mistake mixing up my two letter vowel and consonant words. I should have just rewatched Bullet in the Head. :-)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959, dir. Terence Fisher)It was so exciting to me that I got to watch a Terence Fisher Hammer film with Peter Cushing AND Christopher Lee that I'd never seen before. And it did not disappoint! This probably is my new favorite Sherlock Holmes film. Cushing is so perfect for the role in every way that it's surprising there are not numerous sequels with him. Christopher Lee is also amazing. I love him as Dracula, but it's always so fun to see him in a Hammer film in a larger role (with significant dialogue). And as with the best Hammer films, the atmosphere and production design is all some of the best of all time.
Tik Tik: The Aswang Chronicles (2012)Filipinian monster movie. Playboy tries to win back his pregnant girlfriend with a cheaply bought pig. The pig turns out to be an aswang – A Filipino shapeshifting vampire monster. They quickly kill it, but too late their house ends up besieged by a group of Aswang.Its visually amazing. Like really amazing. It’s actually quite good CGI effects compared to the budget. The plot is a bit missy, but I like the characters they are great fun, and the action is really cool.I really liked it. I need to find the sequel.
CORRECTING MOVIE SHAMES TWO AT A TIME-SPLOITATION!Escape from New York (1981, dir. John Carpenter)Watching the opening titles: "Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasance, Isaac Hayes, Tom Atkins, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau... This movie's gonna be amazing!" Turns out I was right.I don't know how I managed to avoid this gem this long, but now I'm up to speed. The story's fun, the cast is incredible, and I love that 80's "models and matte paintings" look. I'll take it over CGI, however good, any day.It didn't rise to the list of Carpenter movies I absolutely love (Halloween, The Thing, They Live, Prince of Darkness), but subsequent viewings, of which there will be many, might just change that.Truck Turner (1974, dir. Jonathan Kaplan)Another classic I'd never seen, another one I'll see a lot in the future. Love it! Isaac Hayes has a weird sleepy-eyed quality in this that is strangely compelling, and his score is excellent! The minute the film ended, I bought the album online.Took a while to adjust to two things though: that Truck Turner is the character's actual name and not a description, and seeing Uhura in a slightly different role.
The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018)I still haven't seen the first movie, but I really liked this sequel. Very simple, super stylish, with one sequence that's an all-timer. Plus, a character does something I've always wanted to see someone do in a slasher movie. Glad I finally caught up with this.
Really been wanting to hear your thoughts about this one! Watched it last week and loved it and all the Carpenter homages. Glad you liked it. I like it better than the first bc slashers > home invasion. But would love to hear you talk about it on next podcast in the Seen Anything Good Lately.
The Babysitter (2017)This could have been so much better. Samara Weaving and Robbie Amell can be quite charismatic but are given little to really cut their teeth with. It’s trying to be clever and play with the high school stereotypes but just ends up being boring. A real shame.
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (1955) Frank Sinatra plays a recovering addict fresh out of jail hoping to stay clean, only to find his old life lurking in every shadow. This is described as film noir, but it seemed to me to be more like a tearjerker drama with some noir elements. I liked the movie, though. The drug addiction stuff felt ahead of its time, and Sinatra disappears into the character, never once becoming his usual “Old Blue Eyes” persona. THE KID WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (1979) This is a strange prequel to the Sinatra flick. Some super-powered martial artists are tasked with taking down a gang of similarly super-powered martial artists. I lost track of the plot almost immediately, but the action was fun. I like how the fight choreography in these older kung fu flicks are a little rougher and unrefined compared to today’s movies. It’s a good match for the movie's low budget aesthetic.
An absolutely great double feature. I love it.
Most Wanted (1997)Hoo boy was that dumb. Fun, but reeeeeeeally dumb. Keenen Ivory Wayans (who also wrote) stars as an ex-Marine who is sprung from death row (where he’s awaiting execution for killing a superior officer in self-defense) in order to join an elite covert hit squad (is there any other kind?) run by professional shitweasel Jon Voight who, surprising no one, frames Wayans for the assassination of the First Lady.Once Wayans is on the run (with witness Jill Hennessy in tow) the action rarely lets up, and the glorious stupidity of the most wanted man in America walking around with virtually nothing concealing his big shiny head hardly even matters. It’s a more “serious” movie than A Low Down Dirty Shame, but Wayans still can’t perform a single action without a one-liner to accompany it, even if he’s just saying things out loud when he’s by himself, supposedly while trying to remain inconspicuous. Silly as it all is it’s still propulsive and fun, and in case you were wondering if there might be any other double-crosses before it’s all wrapped up just know that Paul Sorvino, Eric Roberts, and Robert Culp are in the mix as well.
Hereditary (2018, dir. Ari Aster)Creepy and unsettling for most of the runtime, didn't quite stick the landing for me.It's weird, I've seen literally hundreds of movie deaths this month alone, and still one sequence here really got to me. But I won't say any more about that so I won't spoil anything.
The Devil-Doll (1936 - dir Tod Browning)For me Junesploitation isn't Junesploitation without some precode.This was not the movie I thought it was going to be, and it was more fun because of it. Lionel Barrymore escapes prison with man who must have spent some time with Dr Septimus Pretorius, because he has figured out a way to shrink animals and people down to very obedient doll sized creatures. So what does any entrepeneurially man do with these? Use them to get revenge on the men who wronged him. It's not my favourite Tod Browning, but it has touches of maddness that lets you know that he was still there.
Armour of God II: Operation Condor (1991)For me, this is peak Jackie Chan. After the success of Rumble in the Bronx, studios tried to cash-in by re-releasing some older Chan films in the US with some quick editing and English dubs slapped on. This was one of them. I remember seeing this in the theater in 1997 under the shortened title Operation Condor and really liking it but I haven't watched it again until today, and man am I glad I did. My favorite time period for Jackie Chan is the mid 80's to early 90's because it's when he had reached full super stardom (except in the US) and he could basically get whatever budget he wanted for whatever movie he wanted to make. The fight scenes, action sequences (the motorcycle chase and ending stunt is unreal...parts of it are repeated in Rumble) and stunt work are some of Jackie's best. And his signature comic timing and gags run all the way through, constantly reminding you that you're here for a good time. No matter how many times I see it, I'm still always raptured when the camera does a quick cut back to a completely still wide shot and Jackie begins a fight sequence. No shaky cam, no quick edits. Just hold it still and let the master show you how it's done. Legend.
Braven (2018) Dir: Lin OedingJason Momoa plays Joe Braven, who is spending a weekend in cabin to talk to his dementia disabled father (Stephen Lang) about future care. Unfortunately, there is also a giant bag of cocaine in the cabin and a whole bunch of bad guys outside who want in. Braven then proceeds to kill many people to protect his family.Rock solid slice of action that knows not to overstay its welcome or try to do too much on it's limited budget. Instead it just leans into Momoa's charisma and hulking size to carry the movie while allowing Stephen Lang and Garrett Dillahunt (playing the lead villain) to do good character work. Not one of the best DTV action movies but a perfectly decent way to kill some time.
Alice Sweet Alice (1976)Didn't have any clue going into the day what I was going to watch, but that changed while listening to my OTHER favorite podcast, My Favorite Murder. One of the hosts mentioned her uncle, Michael Hardstark? stepped in to the lead male actor in Alice, Sweet Alice and I instantly had to see it. Having seen it, I can confirm - there are men in this movie.Honestly I don't know what to say about this. Other than a killer costume and wicked final kill, there's just not a lot there. The titular character is barely even in the last half of the movie, and I honestly couldnt tell you any character name or motivation. The Catholic flavor is fine, and there was a gnarly rock-attack. Other than that *shrug*, you're better off listening to a story about Paul Holes.
The Stepfather (1987, dir. Joseph Ruben)Cool movie, but it's really elevated by Terry O'Quinn. That performance was not overhyped. The best parts of the film are just these little character moments he gives. A particular favorite of mine was, "who am I here?" The movie itself was basically exactly what I expected, but I enjoyed watching it.
Hawkeye (1988)This movie is amazing. I couldn’t even do it justice by describing it. Mike, I don’t know how you found this, but you hit gold. Watch it for Cops day and you’ll be blown away. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)My enjoyment of this movie has grown with my appreciation for Goldblum. I can’t defend it, but I do enjoy it a lot more than I used to. The trailer on a cliff and the tall grass scenes always play right for me.
At least there is one FTM Patrick who enjoys "The Lost Word COLON Jurassic Park." ;-)
I enjoy The Lost World too. It can't hold a candle to the original of course, but it looks a hell of a lot better today.
I feel like HAWKEYE found us.
It Watches (2016)I'm a fan of TALES OF HALLOWEEN, and a big fan of the SWEET TOOTH segment directed by Dave Parker in particular. Haven't seen many of his features, so I thought I'd give IT WATCHES a shot. Now that I've seen it, I'd like to recommend SWEET TOOTH instead. It's awesome.
Ichi the Killer (2001)If this movie doesn't say Junesploitation then I don't know what does. I can't even begin to describe the plot. This movie was quite the experience, and not an altogether pleasant one. If this is your thing I'd recommend Miike's movie from around this time, Dead or Alive. Honestly just head over to YouTube and check out the beginning montage and the ending, both are up there. Miike is a weird dude.
Lady Snowblood (1973)I'm literally angry at myself for having waited so long to watch this movie.
Exploitation films are fairly light on female writers/directors. I like Terminal Island though so I decided to track down some more of Stephanie Rothman's work. To that end, I ordered a couple movies from Code Red:Group Marriage (1973)Going into it I thought it might be a bit more on the sexploitation side, but there's actual kind of a heartfelt story in this about six people that decide to be in a relationship together. It starts with two couples swapping partners and then progresses from there. There are some funny moments, and it's got Junesploitation icon Claudia Jennings in it. Not a great movie, but sweet and sorta charming.The Working Girls (1974)This one feels a little more aimless as it focuses on the lives of three female roommates who all have their own subplots going on. The main selling point for me was a very early appearance from Cassandra Peterson (long before her Elvira days) in a small role.
If you haven't, Ross, check out the "Slumber Party Massacre" trilogy (cheap on Scream Factory DVD). Each entry was directed by a woman, and they each make it their own thing and give each entry a unique personality. Worth a look. But you're right about few exploitation female filmmakers. Except for Doris Wishman (whose work isn't for everybody) and Corman protege Barbara Peeters ("Humanoids from the Deep"), I can't think of many off of my head before going to Google. There are directors that have dabbled in horror (Mary Lambert, early Kathryn Bigelow, Claire Denis, etc.), but very few that start in horror/exploitation and choose (or are forced) to stay there as a career path. Happy hunting. :-)
I've seen the first Slumber Party Massacre but haven't worked my way around to the sequels yet. I've seen a couple Barbara Peeters movies, and I have a couple Junesploitation movies lined up from Beverly Sebastian (and husband Ferd) still.
Pacific Rim Uprising (2018) Dir: Steven DeKnightSaw this in the theater and just rewatched it tonight. I know this didn't get much love but I adore this movie. Does it have the artistry of the first one? Of course not, DeKnight is no Del Toro. Is it a totally entertaining way to kill 2 hours? Absolutely.One of the reasons I like this so much is I feel, even more than the first one, it really feels like the closest we'll get to an American tokusatsu movie. I'm a die hard Kamen Rider, Super Sentai and Ultraman fan, and Uprising feels right at home with those. Big emotions, bright colors, and ridiculous fights are all hallmarks of toku shows, and Uprising has those in spades. It's not for everyone, but it is totally for me.
The Touch of Satan (1971)This is one of my all-time favorite MST3K movies. The premise is just heightened enough to be ridiculous and the jokes are on-point. A handsome wanderer drives into a small town and becomes entranced by seemingly the one person under 65 in town, which of course must mean she’s a witch. She invites McHandsome to eat dinner and stay with her family, during which he meets the shriveled old killer grandma and finds out that the weird hot chick is, you guessed it, actually a witch. Where so many of the MST3K commentaries run all over the movie’s dialogue, this film has so much air worked in, that the jokes fall right in line. There’s little to no actual supernatural goings on in the movie, in fact, it’s pretty damn slow, but the recurring gags and cheesy soap-quality feel of this movie makes it endearing in a way that many MST3K movies aren’t.
"This is where the fish lives." :-O XD
Kristy (2014, dir. Blackburn)This is a well-told cat and mouse type slasher that bookends itself with a bit of lore that makes it feel more like a prequel than a film that says enough to stand on its own. Still, the main character is likable and the set pieces are stylish. Alright for a one time watch.
Klute (1971):This is minor #Scheidersploitation, but it's a great Pakula thriller I'm happy to cross off my Pure Cinema list.
Pandorum (2009) - first watch - Free SpaceBen Foster was great. Denis Quaid stubbornly refused to emote until the 11th hour. I don't think I enjoyed this as much as some, mostly due to the creatures effects.