Sunday, June 21, 2020

Junesploitation 2020 Day 21: Free Space!

Hot, Hard and Mean...Too Tough for Any Man! They'll Beat 'em, Treat 'em, and Eat 'em Alive!


  1. FROM THE LATE 60's...

    THE HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS (1967, Blu-ray, Brad L: 6/13/2013)

    Vincent Price towers over a cast of tertiary actors (many badly dubbed) playing an illusionist whose cabaret act is the front for a lucrative international sex slavery trade. While in Tangiers (aka Spain/Madrid) Price runs into an American married couple who's friends with the boyfriend of his last victim. Since everyone is either a giant douche (so-called hero George Nader), an asshole (local cops) or a bad guy, Price wins audience sympathy by default because his baddie at least wants to quit the life of crime. He only carries a cape and walking stick that shoots bullets/daggers because that's just how Vincent rolls in Tangiers. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 2.5 K̶I̶N̶G̶S̶ QUEEN OF HEARTS CARDS (out of 5)

    EASY RIDER (1968, Blu-ray, Gabby Ferro: 6/7/2014)
    Like "Halloween" with slashers, "Easy Rider" birthed endless imitators that copied its cheap production formula without embracing its soul. By not trying to make big statements (this could easily double as an American Southwest travelogue circa '68) and showing counterculture youth as normal-for-the-time misunderstood outsiders, its themes/character humanity (good and bad, from tripping in a NO cemetery to behind-the-back redneck trash talk) remain locked in a timeless bubble. Jack Nicholson's "freedom" speech is as pertinent today as it was 52 years ago. :'( And holy crap, between this, "NOTLD" and "POTApes" '68 was THE year for bleak-but-unforgettable endings that hit audiences where it hurt most. Fonda and Hopper are a little too old for the characters they play, but that's nitpicking. 4.5 PHIL SPECTOR DRUG DEALS UNDER LANDING PLANES (out of 5)


    FEARLESS (2006, HD-DVD, Paul Calvert: 6/10/2017)

    Jet Li was past his physical prime in '06, but his acting had improved enough to tackle a meaty historical role. Li stars as Huo Yuanjia, a cocky, unstoppable and self-assured fighter before circumstances bring him down to size before the inevitable physical/emotional comeback. "Fearless" is bookended by a 1910 Shanghai fight tournament, and the lengthy chronological flashback is front-loaded with fighting red meat for Jet Li fans. This is the rare martial arts movie where every thrilling fight or memorable death comes back to haunt our hero, making the 2nd half slower-paced and story-heavy. Worth seeing if you can appreciate fight choreography at the service (not in substitution) of a good plot. 4 CUPS OF POISONED TEA (out of 5)

    SUNSHINE (2007, Blu-ray, Brent Petersen: 6/15/2019)
    Clearly director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland love their sci-fi, because this collects bits/pieces from everything ("The Core," "Mission to Mars," "Event Horizon," etc.) and gives it the best visual/realistic made-up science treatment available in '07. I just can't buy the final act bullshit "Sunshine" is selling; it's not that the 3rd act shits the bed as much as filmmakers make choices I find stunningly misguided. Shame, because some good actors (Yeoh, Curtis, Wong, Sanada, etc.) manage to sustain interest 'till the end, but just barely. 3 FROZEN-ON-ICE CAPTAIN AMERICAS... AGAIN! (out of 5)

    1. I think Fearless might be my favourite Jet Li movie. The directors cut is better, and doesn't have the fight tournament split between the beginning and the end of the movie. Apparently the studio wanted some of it put at the beginning to hook audiences. Which is silly because there's a great deal of wonderful fight scenes when he was a brash young man in the village (which is at the beginning of the DC).

      Sunshine (wow, you had a good movie day!) upon a recent viewing, I've fallen in love with the ending as is. The switch from pure sci-fi to sci-fi-horror is more gradual than people give it credit for, and there are loads of signs that it's going that way.

    2. The "Fearless" HD-DVD has a DVD version on the other side of the disc. I checked the difference between the DC and theatrical, and I honestly prefer the theatrical precisely because it splits the climactic fight between everybody else (opening) and Japan's Tanaka (Shidô Nakamura). There's a lot of slow-building story when Huo Yuanjia goes to work the rice paddy fields with Moon (Li Sun) that would sap viewer engagement if they weren't aware from the opening that this guy is going to bounce back and become a fighter again. And sorry, but lil' Yuanjia getting into fights with his will-grow-to-be-a-rival nemesis is no substitute for the epic 'Shanghai 1910' CGI long shot descending into the start of the tournament. If only Universal had requested the Hercules O'Brien fight be the first thing viewers saw. ;-)

      As for "Sunshine," it's exactly what Boyle and Garland wanted it to be. All I can report is that for the first two thirds I was somewhat engaged and letting the pseudo-science, the good cast and gorgeous visuals carry the pic. But man, when Mark Strong enters the final third and he starts spewing nonsense it loses me almost completely. Even the usually reliable Cillian Murphy is a bore to watch look confused and out of his depth throughout. I will rewatch it with commentaries and stuff, but "Sunshine" went from diamond-in-the-rough to coal in my stocking in under 2 hrs. :-(

    3. I think for Fearless, I actually saw the DC first. It was jarring later to theatrical version and have the ended front loaded. It's sometimes a case of preferring which version you've seen first/most. I think it added ~25 minutes of drama too, which perhaps isn't necessary. I'm glad you liked it!

  2. The Orphanage (2007, J. A Bayona)

    I'm always going to love a haunted large house movies. And Bayona pushese all the buttons I to respond to. Maybe that is why I built the movie a little up in my mind before I watched it. But in saying that, I was absoutley transfixed. It's an incrediably sad movie and where it ends is poetic, devastating and bleak at the same time. But should have ended about 30 seconds before it ended.

    Oculus (2013, Mike Flanagan)

    I think I might have tapped at the whole bitting into the light bulb thing.

    Flanagan really does not take his foot off the tension peddle. It was too much at times. But damn, Flanagan knows what he is doing. The way he intertwines the memory and the present, sane and insanity. It's an effective horror movie.

    Well, this was a Household Tramatic Childhood Double.

    1. "The Orphanage" knocked me on my ass the first time I saw it. Kudos to Spielberg & Co. for resurrecting Bayona's career (which kind of went nowhere for a decade after "Orphanage") by tapping him to direct "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom." Yes, it's a brain-dead blockbuster, but J.A. now has some box office clout to get more "Orphanage"-caliber projects off the ground. :-)

    2. I hope he does. The world needs more Orphanage style movies 😀

  3. Da 5 Bloods (2020, Spike Lee)

    Wow. I just finished watching it. And I'm not sure how to form this movie into something quippy. But I have always loved Lee's sense of, theatricalitly - as in of story telling, metre, tragedy. Which this movie has in spades. Also how Lee leans into his film geek. As much as 5 Bloods is fueled with anger and passion it leans in heavily to Vietnam movies that came before. So yes, I loved it.

  4. Blood Games (1990)

    Low budget rape-revengesploitation in which a female traveling softball team has to fight off horny murderous hillbillies in the woods. Starts with an interminable softball scene full of hooting yokels that makes the game in Sleepaway Camp look professional and doesn't get a whole lot better from there. T&A and blood and guts as expected, decently paced, but wholly underwhelming. Look out for the guy who plays Mac's dad on IASIP as the local whose death turns the menfolk from a bunch of lecherous pigs hell-bent on assault and rape to a bunch of lecherous pigs hell-bent on murder and rape.

    The director, Tanya Rosenberg, has this as her 1 and only credit on IMDb.

    The writer, Craig Clyde, has written and directed a ton of family and religious movies since this. Weird.

  5. Godzilla vs. Hedorah aka Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster (1971, dir. Yoshimitsu Banno)

    Probably the wackiest in the entire series. Contains some of the goofiest moments in the series (Godzilla flies) and some of the most horrific (The Smog Monster turns people into skeletons). I really liked the animated scene transitions as well. Bonus points for some psychadelic hippie party scenes. Far out man!

    1. Ebirah, Horror from the Deep rivals Godzilla vs. Hedorah on the goofiness level. Last fall there was a month-long marathon on an American movie channel of the early Godzilla films (1950s through the 1970s), and Ebirah was among my favorite watches. It was such fun, probably helped by watching it in Japanese. The dubs for those films can be a little hard to take.

  6. CASHBACK (2006)
    An insomniac gets a graveyard shift job an all-night supermarket, with a supporting cast of kooky characters. Also, he can stop time with his mind. The main character mopes through the movie, doing his woe-is-me-I-can’t-get-laid act, and he drags the audience down with him. Even when the comedy gets slapstick, it still has a morose, downbeat tone. And the movie is not kind (to put it mildly) to the female characters. Just a bummer.

    30 days of HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II, day 21
    Observations: 1) Why is the prom science-themed, with a big E=MC2 on one wall? Because the nerd Josh is one of the prom’s organizers. 2) Mary Lou changes her family’s answering machine message for a Freddy-style joke. I’m assuming this is supernatural weirdness, and not her actually fiddling with the machine – although might be funnier. 3) When a character pulls out some money, it’s clearly Canadian dollars. Nice to see a made-in-Canada movie owning its Canada-ness instead of pretending to be LA or something.

  7. Having a little Father’s Day Marathon up in here. Saw Krull already, now watching a very underrated 70’s sci fi Chosen Survivors. Kino put it out on Blu

  8. Wheels on Meals (1984) dir. Sammo Hung

    What is cinema? Is it two Chinese cousins running a foodcart out of their automated van im Spain? Is it that van then going on a high speed chase though the streets of Barcelona and jumping an overpass? Jackie Chan flitting around a plaza on a skateboard while harassing motorbike punks? Sammo Hung running a detective agency called Moby Dick? The neon pastel fits of a couple mideighties hunks? Shaking down a client on top of La Sagrada Familia? Breaking into a castle to have a finale where three man have a fencing standoff? Or how about Benny Urquidez and Jackie Chan boxing one-on-one for 20 minutes? My God, take your pick!

  9. DELINQUENT GIRL BOSS: WORTHLESS TO CONFESS (1971) – The least mean-spirited Japanese exploitation I can remember watching. It is about a group of young women who form a bond in prison that endures after they are all released. They are generally decent people, an unusual feature for this kind of film. The story ends up revolving around a somewhat comical yakuza gang. There is a lot of comedy in the film, actually. With the focus on relationships for most of the first hour, it can feel like a drama, but the film ends with a satisfying showdown. Certainly not the most exciting flick but worth a watch if you like these pinky violence films. Full of the styles of the era.

    DRUM (1976, dir. Steve Carver)

    Talk about a film that could not be made in today’s political climate. Wow! This sequel to the controversial film Mandingo, a story about breeding slaves like cattle in the period before the American Civil War, ups the ante considerably in provocation. Imagine a slavery melodrama filled with slave owners, both men and women, having sex with their slaves. A significant portion of that sexual activity is not consensual, either. The slaves are presented as people, filled with emotions and thoughts that their owners could never understand. Now imagine all of this happening with a complete lack of taste and restraint. That is Drum in a nutshell.

    Like Mandingo, my impression of Drum is overwhelmingly positive. There is an honesty in Drum that I admire, and the film is in no way intended to make the viewer feel comfortable. To the white slave owners, their property is just (insert the plural form of the N-word). And that is how the slaves are constantly referred to in the film. There is a rage generated by this treatment that is best exemplified by Blaise, Yaphet Kotto’s character. Blaise is not content to take it for the sake of peace or staying alive. Most of the other slaves take the cruelty and try to get by with a minimal amount of trouble.

    A great strength of Drum is the cast. Yaphet Kotto, Pam Grier, and Brenda Sykes are among the actors portraying the slaves. Ken Norton, who plays the title character, is not a good actor but has enough screen presence to be adequate. The owner of the breeding plantation is played by the great Warren Oates, who savors the role by being as obnoxious and racist as possible. He really puts on a show.

    I enjoy the challenge of an uncomfortable film. Though Drum is undoubtedly exploitation, it also makes you think about the daily realities of slavery. The violence at the end of the film, moreover, is likely to make a modern viewer squirm.

  10. Virtual Combat (1995, dir. Andrew Stevens)

    In the not-too-distant future, virtual reality is commonplace, and sex programs are (unsurprisingly) the most popular. A scientist manages to "clone" two female VR characters as flesh-and-blood humans (because science), but accidentally also gives life to the evil end boss from an impossibly hard fighting game. Featuring Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Rip Taylor and Michael Dorn's voice.

    The nonsense premise is presumably just there to justify having constant fight scenes and tits on screen, and then they squander it by needlessly complicating and over-explaining every aspect of the plot, leaving very little room for the stuff people want to see. The ending's pretty good, but the journey there is arduous.

    Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987, dir. Bruce Pittman)

    Love this movie! #IStandWithMac

  11. Blumhouse’s Fantasy Island (2020)

    Take a look at that title again, that’s actually how it appears onscreen, and it is a perfect encapsulation of the fact that what you are about to see is a product, not a movie. While on paper the concept of turning the 70’s TV staple into a horror movie is a solid idea, the execution leaves much to be desired, to put it lightly. A group of uniformly unlikable people arrive on an island paradise run by the enigmatic Mr. Roarke (Michael Peña) and find that either he or the island has the power to make their deepest fantasies come to life (which is more than I can say for Peña himself, who seems completely disengaged from the material).

    Naturally all of the fantasies go all monkey’s paw, but there’s such a tremendous lack of imagination at hand that everything goes south in the most obvious possible way at every turn. There is, of course, a twist at the end, but it makes very little sense and is predicated on characters behaving in a way that is clearly manufactured by a screenplay bending over backwards to make itself seem clever. At least Michael Rooker and Kim Coates show up briefly to inject a little bit of life into the proceedings, but it’s not enough to make it worth a look.

  12. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) dir. JONATHAN DEMME

    Every shot is a masterpiece, and every character actor just chews scenery like it's bubble gum. I love that Hopkins has crowsfeet scars like a cenobyte, given how he strings his victims up like one in the end. And I love how Ted Levine goes from iconic movie villain to legendary movie and TV cop.

    "Chilton", "Jack Crawford", "Multiple Miggs", "Catharine Martin". These names are as familiar to me as those of the saints. This is a big animal actor movie, too, whether it's the moths, the checkerboard beetles, a couple trained pigeons, and of course Darla, the same toy poodle from Elvira: Mistress of the Dark and Batman Returns. I appreciate that Paul Lazar, gets the invite to the ceremony at the end. "Do you every just go out for cheeseburgers and beer?" Hot Dogs and a Ballgame? How about FBI cake and Lemmons?

    Every night before bed, I want Charles Napier to say "If you're a gentlemen to us, you'll get three hots and a cot," before I am comfortably swaddled into my head and hand restraints. Because I, too, am no more than one generation away from poor white trash, and we begin by coveting things we see everyday.

  13. Day 21

    Force of Nature (2020)

    Another gem for the Lionsgate / Grindstone DTV empire. This stars Emilie Hirsch as a suicidal Puerto Rico cop (really?!?), old Kate Bosworth as the nurse with a big heart of gold, and Mel Gibson (who replaced Bruce Willis) as Kate's grouchy papi. Emilie is nothing more than whiny and annoyed than crazy suicidal, his scene where we see that he just might take his life, is full of so little emotion (especially when you compare it to something like Gibson's scene in LW1) that it sets a tone for a movie that is trying to much of anything except to make a few bucks off of stars that had their moment years ago. Gibson shows up with a terrible sounding accent (I think it sounded a New York one) and just looks bored through out. This movie has too many sub-stories and subplots for a 90 minute minute thriller. This movie sucked, I wasn't expecting much, I certainly wasn't expecting the movie to have a story about a meat eating creature in a closet.

  14. Extreme Prejudice (1987) - First time watch. I had never heard of this movie before Patrick's recent post about underrated 80's action movies. It sounded great, and I immediately ordered a copy of the DVD from Artisan Entertainment (yes, the picture quality is terrible). Simply put, this movie kicks all sorts of ass. Thanks again for another great recommendation, Patrick!

  15. Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994) Dir. Allen A. Goldstein

    Glad to wrap up my first time watch of the Death Wish series for Junesploitation. On the whole, it was better than I expected. Parts 3 and 4 will definately get a rewatch. But this one, not so much. This is probably the low point of the Bronson series. Its not as fun as 3 or 4, nor does it have the dramatic weight of the first 2. I thought Michael Parks would have more fun as the villain, but I found his scenes mostly boring. Bronson also looks very old here, I know he wasn't happy with the series after the first 2, so its a bit sad to see him doing these movies.

    Still better than the Eli Roth movie tho.

    1. Bronson was in his early seventies by this time, and it is doubtful he had plenty of work being offered to him. According to IMDB, there are only two more credits after Death Wish V.

      I have owned Death Wish 4 for many years; the time is coming to get a watch in. Death Wish 3 is a favorite and the defining cult movie of of my personal pantheon.

    2. I think the Bernie Goetz incidence soured him on the series, but by that time they were the only roles he could get. DW5 was his last theatrical role, his last credits were the Family of Cops movies, which I'm pretty certain were made for TV. I'm not exactly a huge Bronson fan or anything, but its a shame he had to bow out like this.

  16. Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)
    Slow-moving saga of hero dinosaur battling a monster from outer space made of industrial waste. Features animated political cartoons and agit-prop pop songs calling for a cleaner environment. Godzilla kicks ass.

  17. Shot Caller (2017) Netflix

    Feels like something that would be in one of Rob's Redboxing columns. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau stars as a guy who gets involved in a prison gang after going to jail for manslaughter (car accident while under the influence). After getting in pretty deep, he cuts off contact with his wife (Lake Bell) and kid. He eventually gets out of prison but is still under the gang's thumb, working with former inmate Shotgun (Jon Bernthal) on a gun deal.

    Not a great movie, but good Junesploitation viewing. That writer/director Ric Roman Waugh was tapped to direct Angel Has Fallen as his next feature following this is maybe a good indication of its quality. He also wrote and directed Snitch with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (and which also co-stars Jon Bernthal) so he's maybe solidified his career as a mid-quality action/thriller guy.

  18. The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973, dir. Gordon Hessler)

    I'm continuing my way through Ray Harryhausen's films! And I think I have a new favorite now.

    For me, this is a vastly superior sequel. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was a little better at having pretty constant monsters, and this one takes things a little slower till the second half. But the characters and actors are so much better here. John Phillip Law is awesome in the title role and it kinda breaks my heart he doesn't come back in the next film. He IS Sinbad for me. I know he isn't an Arabian actor, but at least he looks more authentic than Kerwin Matthews did. Baby steps? Also (as always) loved Caroline Monroe. I mean, good lord, there are no words.

    Awesome action, great characters, wonderfully sinister villain, and amazing monster effects. The is top-tier adventure!

  19. Streets of Fire (1984)

    A silly romp which delivers all the generic brawls, chases and explosions, but is clearly much more interested in how to stage its numerous musical numbers. By far the most interesting thing about the movie is the distinctive 80's-but-for-some-reason-channelling-50s style. The biggest problem? Story and acting, which is not a good sign. It would definitely help if our main hero was at all likeable, had a little bit more charisma (that is, a little more than none at all), and could refrain from punching women unconscious, but alas, this is what we get. Rick Moranis does a great turn as an obnoxious asshole, but apart from him the acting is pretty terrible top to bottom (again, the main guy being the worst offender). Also featuring: a very young Diane Lane and a theoretically young Willem Dafoe, but he's one of the people who were apparently born old. Truth be told, I've waited for a chance to watch this since F This Movie Fest 5, but it really wasn't worth the wait. Oh well, at least it's got an awesome poster.

  20. Valhalla (2019) dir. Fenar Ahmad

    This Danish movie based on the Norse legends would be wholly unique if Odin, Thor and Loki weren't already part of the most successful pop culture property of all time.

    The film is a children's story about two peasant siblings who become indentured servants to Thor and find themselves in Asgard on the eve of Ragnarok. Now, you see how all of these nouns are spoken for in your mental pallate. But, surprisingly that doesn't destroy the adventure.

    I didn't find it to be groundbreaking or singular about the kind of story it tells; kid with hidden destiny saves the world. I'm not certain if the film's mythology is faithful to the actual Norse mythology, but there is enough weird and wondrous elements to keep your attention. It's got an impressive visual style, even if the sets' small and constrictive nature betrays the modest budget.

    What I admired most of the filmmaker (an Iraqi-Danish director) who chose to omit horror elements, or attempts to make the story more gritty for style points. This is firmly a kid's movie and that plays to movies' strengths. When contemporary kid's stories are constantly apeing Harry Potter or post-apocalypses where teenagers murder each other, it is satisfying to see a movie play a straight fairy tale and own it.

  21. Futuresport (1998, dir. Ernest Dickerson)

    This movie has everything: a futuresport, Dean Cain as a douche, Vanessa Williams, eyepatches, Wesley Snipes in dreads doing a Jamaican accent, Ernest Dickerson directing, the '90s.

  22. The Baron (1977)

    Cool premise and tunes (Gil Scott Heron) with nothing too memorable. Would consider another watch. A couple of cool, cut up car chases for good measure.

  23. Sugar Hill (1974)

    Now this is a movie that can carry itself through tone, bad assery, and kick-ass dialogue. There’s a great score and awesome silver eyed zombies to boot.

  24. Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987) dir. Andy Sedaris

    Based on the director's family name, I assumed this film would have cosmopolitan anecdotes, punctuated with delightful bon mots, and high energy, mad cap humor.

    And I was right, 10/10 stars

  25. Happy Death Day 2U (2019)

    Used Junesploitation to catch up with these movies and thought they were both great. Liked how the sequel wasn't just a complete rehash of the original, and enjoyed the shift to a lighter tone. And they both manage to be emotional and satisfying in different ways.

  26. Shanghai Noon (2000)

    Seeing we watched all the Rush Hour movies this month, and they're not making Rush Hour 4 anytime soon, our family decided to tackle these movies. Pretty enjoyable and funny. I wished Lucy Liu was kicking more butt in the movie. Apart from once or twice, she mostly functions as a "damsel in distress".

  27. Child's Play (2019):

    Not a disaster, but not sure it justifies a remake.

    Da 5 Bloods (2020):

    When Spike hits, he hits. And this one really hits.

  28. White Fire

    1984, dir. Jean-Marie Pallardy
    Streaming on Arrow Video channel

    I was super intrigued by this one based on the premise blurb and the artwork for the Arrow release. There’s a consistent lost in translation quality to this movie that affects the tone and style in ways that make it rather inextricable. The violence is so unnecessarily over the top that it’s comical, the action is so poorly choreographed that characters are literally wandering around aimlessly during machine gun battles, the dubbing is at times very surreal, and the fucking huge diamond that literally melts flesh (because it’s radioactive?) is one of the most insane MacGuffins ever. Fred Williamson is the hero we need in this movie, but unfortunately, Robert Ginty is the hero we deserve. Aside from dressing like Magnum P.U., Ginty’s other double-take-worthy obsession leads to one of the most insane plot catalysts that I’ve seen since ‘Scalpel’, which incidentally is another Arrow Video title. It’s such an insane detail that’s never adequately dealt with, where other movies (again, ’Scalpel’) completely fixate on that for the rest of the runtime. Despite all of this insanity, the movie is enjoyable enough because you at least get the sense that everyone is having fun and doing their best. It’s a weird and often incompetent movie, but at least it’s not a joyless one.

    EDIT: Started work again this weekend and forgot to post a few days, catching up now, oops.

    1. You got a job? Lucky dog, buy yourself some lottery tickets. :-)