Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Junesploitation 2020 Day 23: Teenagers!

There's more to do in the snow than ski!



    ANGEL (1984, TUBI, JP: 6/29/2016)

    370 reviews over eight Junesploitation! events did not prepare me for the religious experience that my first-time viewing of "Angel" turned out to be. The movie's poster remains burned in my fragile VHS-renting kid brain, but I never watched it. Turns out behind the provocative image of Donna Wilkes posing as her two alter egos, straight 'A' high school student Molly Stewart and Hollywood Boulevard prostitute 'Angel,' there's an exceptional feature film. Actually, like "Superman: The Movie," there are three different movies happening here: (1) a "10 to Midnight"-style serial killer ("Stargate's" John Diehl) targeting prostitutes to deal with a traumatic past, (2) a group of society outcasts (denizens of Hollywood Blvd. performing for tourists) bonding through genuine friendships that reveal their humanity (a West Coast "Midnight Cowboy"), and (3) a young woman's pursuit for normalcy amidst personal setbacks. Unlike "Superman," "Angel" intertwines its three separate narratives and plants story/character seeds that eventually pay off huge. The cinematography by Andrew Davis (in-between his "Final Terror" and "Code of Silence" directorial gigs) is surprisingly able to give each of the three narratives its own distinctive look while being consistent with one another. "Angel's" $3 million budget is all on the screen, particularly on-the-street location shooting that builds and builds until the narrative/characters reach a visual, emotional and action crescendo.

    You'd think the prostitution and serial killer angles would make this a sour, downbeat and depressing affair. But there's joy in the supporting performances (Dick Shawn's know-it-all Mae, Rory Calhoun's trigger-happy "Kit Carson," Susan Tyrrell's ready-for-"SNL" Solly, Steve Porter's heartbroken Yoyo Charlie, etc.) and a wholesome tenderness to Donna Milkes' performance (de-emphasizing her hooking lifestyle to highlight her humanity as a still-forming adult) that reflect the highs and lows of their interactions. Nobody asks for pity or sorrow for their choices in life, and sometimes they laugh at themselves because... well, cheating at cards is funny. Even the stock role of concerned police detective looking out for Angel's well being (Cliff Gorman) is twisted from norm just enough, although I'm still trying to wrap my head around how Craig Safan's score is used. Sorry, but Molly running through a football field in tears after her after-school activities become known to all students is not the time to play a heroic, triumphant theme. Then again, it stood out and I just wrote about it. What the hell do I know?

    It took a series of unrelated circumstances (the quality of Robert Vincent O'Neil's co-writing/directing, the particular chemistry of these actors, the adult cinephile that I've become since I first saw the VHS cover 35 years ago, etc.) that maybe no other human being will experience watching "Angel," for the first (or 30th) time. I can only share with you my overwhelming anxiety when the killer broke into Molly's apartment when somebody else was there. I was physically anxious that some harm would come to a character (one of many) the filmmakers made me care about. It's also disappointing to find out there are two in-name-only follow-ups to "Angel." The natural high from seeing the original for the first time cannot be replicated, and I intend to hold onto mine for as long as humanly possible. 10,000 DAVID DECOTEAU CRAFT SERVICE TABLES (out of 5) Best J! experience of the past eight years. :-)

    1. I had the chance to see Angel at the drive-in a few years ago, J.M. The other films that night were Ms. 45 and Lady Terminator. I had a great time, definitely one of the best nights at the Mahoning.

      The resiliency of Angel is what makes that film engaging. In spite of the odds against her, she does not give up.

    2. Molly/Angel is a rounded character with a life, thoughts and personality outside of "high school student" and "hooker." Shit, when the lieutenant kept calling her 'Angel' I shouted back at the screen 'She's Molly, you jerk!' :-P


    HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (1958, A.Prime, Charles Lewis: 6/15/2017)

    Like 1973's "The Spirit of the Beehive" (streaming on Criterion Channel), this American International flick beats with the collective heart of filmmakers in love with Universal Monsters lore. Character actor supreme Robert H. Harris plays a veteran make-up man about to be fired from his 25-year tenure by the studio's new NBN owners. Pissed off, Pete uses his latest concoction (a make-up appliance that causes "hypnotizing lobotomy") to make the teenage actors he's working with become tools of vengeance against the suits. Cameos by "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein" star Gary Conway and props from other AIP movies, plus fire... in color (but only for the last 13 minutes)! It's fine, and a must-see for creature feature grown-up kids like JB. 3.5 ♫ YOU GOTTA HAVE EE-OO ♫ LYRICS (out of 5)

    HIGH SCHOOL USA (1983, PLEX, Chaybee: 6/20/2015)
    It wasn't their intention at the time, but the people behind this made-for-TV feature basically made "The Avengers" of sitcom stars circa 1983. I don't watch sitcoms (can't stand the laugh track) but I'm a fan of old gameshows in which these same actors guest appeared as judges, contestants, etc. "High School USA" packs luminaries from the past (Bob Denver and Dawn Wells, David Nelson, Tony Dow, etc.) and then-present (Dana Plato and Todd Bridges, Crystal Bernard, etc.) in a story that, frankly, could be set in the 1950's instead of 1983 and wouldn't feel/play much different. Sure, Otto's robot would look more like "Lost in Space's" Robbie and Milton's muscle car would be a 50's hotrod, but those are small details.

    The old-fashioned heart and soul of the movie is Michael J. Fox as the prince of charm that gets along with everybody except Beau Middleton's thugs, because rich = a-hole bully. I can see Steven Spielberg saying to Robert Zemeckis (like Rick Dalton to Cliff Booth): 'This kid would be a great Marty McFly replacement if that Eric Stoltz fella doesn't work out.' :-P Fox and Nancy McKeon are the sitcom power couple holding the film together. More of them and Tom Villard (best "$100K Pyramid" player ever), less of Crispin Glover and Michael Zorek, please. 3.75 ANTHONY EDWARD'S MAN ASS POLAROIDS (out of 5)

    GREASE 2 (1982, Pluto, Rob DiCristino: 6/15/2017)
    This unnecessary follow-up to the '78 smash hit had already lost me by its second musical number. Despite a game effort by choreographer/director Patricia Birch and young performers (particularly "Better Things" star Pamela Adlon and "Supergirl's" Maureen Teefy) a sequel can't catch lightning in a bottle again at a studio's behest. The new soundtrack is forgettable (instrumental sexy sax bike ride?), the mix of 80's percussions (that 'Charades' power ballad) doesn't fit in the 1961 setting, and cameos by "Grease" veterans (turns out Frenchie flunked beauty school, again!) only remind you that Maxwell Caulfield/Michelle Pfeiffer are no John Travolta/Olivia Newton John. Pfeiffer acquits herself nicely, and Christopher MacDonald's Soundwave easily outshines Adrian Zmed's Megatron whenever they share a scene. Like the T-Birds' constant threats to Sandy's cousin, "Grease 2" is full of loud toothless outbursts that add up to zilch. 2 'NOT EVERY FILM IN '82 WAS GOLD' LESSONS (out of 5)

  3. HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS (1958) on Amazon Prime

    Joyce Martin, the new girl in town, believes that joining the girl gang of her school, The Hellcats, will make her life easier. She is very much mistaken, for The Hellcats have something of a delinquency streak about them. At an economical 69 minutes, High School Hellcats breezes by with a story about belonging, jealousy, and the relationship between parents and children. Unlike my choice yesterday, this is a re-watch I do not regret.

    This American International release has some time capsule qualities to it. The most fascinating one is the dress code of the school: female students are not allowed to wear pants- referred to as slacks- in school. How times have changed.

    HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH (1968) on Amazon Prime

    I had not even heard of this British film before encountering it on Prime. Being a fan of 1960s films, I gave it a shot. HERE WE GO…. completely charmed me. The protagonist, Jamie, is a young man obsessed with birds, but they are not the kind of birds that have wings and fly. Girls tend to be on his mind more than his studies. Though being played by an actor noticeably older than the character’s age, Jamie very much feels like a believable teenager. The story chronicles his adventures trying get with as many young ladies as possible while keeping an eye on one in particular. Along the way, Jamie learns something about himself.

    There is much I liked about the film. Unlike most British sex comedies from this period of time, there is no prudery to the humor. Sex is not presented as something dirty. The music and the fashions of 1968 are on full display. The filmmaking style can get full-on avant-garde in Jamie’s fantasy sequences. The film also takes a cue from the 1966 film Alfie by frequently breaking the fourth wall.

    I do not know if the late 1960s were as innocent as portrayed in HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH, but it is a fantasy I did not mind inhabiting for ninety minutes.

    1. Amazon Prime's killing it this year as THE primary destination for most of our Junesploitation! needs. :-D

    2. Prime is an embarrassment of cinematic riches, but I have relied less on it this year than last year. More than half of my watches have come on disc (including Netflix rentals) or from my DVR. Certain days I have had to rely on streaming more than others.

    3. Oh, I try (if possible) to go with alternative streaming sites (Tubi, Pluto, Flex, Hulu, etc.) and physical media. Otherwise my reviews would be all Prime all the time.

    4. It seems like every J. Lee Thompson/Chuck Bronson collaboration is on Prime, too. Further bolstering your claim about it being Junesploitation heaven.

    5. Prime also has a bunch of Albert Puyn films. 😎🥳

  4. DEATH OF A CHEERLEADER aka A FRIEND TO DIE FOR (1994, William Graham)

    I decided to go for A Very Special Episode. A TV movie on the perils of wanting to be popular and wanting to be Tori Spellings friend. A TV movie from 94 that was giving all the fashion flashbacks, from 'Blossom' Hats, baggu jeans, scrunches and headbands of all kinds.

    For me A Friend to Die For, felt like the ultra serious version of Heathers or what Heathers was mocking after it was made. But with another 91210 alum. The first half is actually fun, a sligtly sleazy but never going over the edge but I swear was hitting on Tori Spelling Terry O'Quinn as a Principle/Terrible motivational speaker. And Kellie Martin, who goes delightfully manic when she's reaching her I really want to be want to be popular faze. But the second half gets more douer and moralistic in a traditional religious way that I didn't connect with. But over all it really did feel like a just say no to popularity in a very special episode. I think there was a Nancy Reagan reference. I think I might have been dreaming that part.

  5. Horror High aka Kiss the Teacher... Goodbye! aka Twisted Brain (1973, dir. Larry N. Stouffer)

    Nerdy high school student Vernon Potts gets revenge on his tormentors, teachers and fellow students alike, when he accidentally develops a potion that turns him into a murderous madman. Which doesn't come as a huge surprise after the first scene showed the class watching a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde movie.

    The story's nothing to write home about, but there are some nice directorial flourishes and the weirdly playful score keeps things interesting. I laughed out loud when a cop, practically the movie's only black character, made his entrance and a funky bassline started playing.

  6. Lords of Flatbush (1974 dir. Martin Davidson and Stephen Verona)

    Jesus. Fucking. Christ. These kids are assholes. This movie is insufferable. The only thing that could have saved this movie for me was if every last one of the four titular boys died in a fucking flaming car wreck.

    I understand the nostalgic appeal to the 50s greaser bad boy era: leather jackets, motorcycles and pomade. But, they're chauvinist bullies who chase girls and steal cars. They don't learn anything and aren't charming enough to overcome how shitty they are. Maybe I just have a beef with macho pricks who knock up teenagers.

    There is some notable film history here: this being Sylvester Stallone's breakout role as well as Henry Winkler prototyping The Fonz. This is definitely indie film history and a whole slew of New York filmmakers in the 70s probably were inspired by this. Still, I can't make a good argument for a rewatch.

    It wasn't all bad, the most entertaining for me was Sly's sililoquy about the power of imagination in front of a chicken coop (that must been one of the scenes Stallone was allowed to improvise). The barbershop quartet practice at the malt shop was a tiny shard of delight in an ocean of droll. Then there's a wedding scene with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Armande Assante (Judge Dredd cinematic universe???) lurking in the background.

    Young Stallone is the enduring reason and a cinemaphile would seek out this movie. But, do so at your own peril.

  7. VALLEY GIRL (2020 remake)

    I mean its not great, but its harmless. Its a longer episode of Glee, with the bright and sunny Jessica Rothe leading the way.

    Trying to watch both THE BEACH GIRLS &/or HOT MOVES, but coming up short in finding them.

  8. Blackboard Jungle (1955)

    I’ve been aware of this movie forever but I hadn’t gotten around to seeing it until now despite being a fan of Glenn Ford, Sidney Poitier, and the man who wrote the novel it’s based on, Evan Hunter (better known to mystery/crime fans as the great Ed McBain). Ford is terrific as a new teacher at a school full of troublesome teens (notably Poitier and Vic Morrow), he clearly wants to get through to them but he’s also fully capable of kicking their petulant little asses when necessary (which is surprisingly often).

    What really surprised me was how well this would play as a double-feature alongside any given entry in my beloved Substitute series, which only goes to show how little times have changed in the forty-plus years in between. Some of the violence and dialogue (particularly the racially-charged stuff) still has the power to shock, and it never gets bogged down in preachiness like a lot of other movies that cover similar material. Great movie, very happy I finally caught up with it.

  9. 47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED (2019)

    Screaming fish, underwater spiral vortexes, tight cave spaces, and, oh yeah, prehistoric sharks. An underwater nightmare adventure slasher "Descent." The thrills are there.

  10. Class of 1984

    1982, Mark Lester
    Streaming on Shudder

    I’m genuinely surprised how entertained I was by this movie considering it’s just naked “fear the youth” propaganda. Besides the gang of five punks, who are truly despicable, the rest of the student population just seem to be regular teens by all standards. It feels as if the movie is trying to say “these extreme measures are needed at this school because the kids are out of control” but in hindsight, it seems much more obvious that the kids are the way they are largely as a result of being treated like criminals from the moment they set foot on campus and because teachers are more concerned with “teaching them a lesson” rather than just teaching them. Although I guess it wouldn’t be an exploitation movie if the situation was being handled better. Perry King does a serviceable job as the lead, Roddy McDowall is fun as usual, baby Michael (J.) Fox is chubby and cute, but I was most surprised to see Timothy Van Patten as the lead punk. I had to double check that he was, in fact, the director who’s been a longtime HBO stalwart, specifically with ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire’. The nightmare journey the naive new teacher goes through is worth it for the final showdown that turns into a slasher of sorts. I’m very curious now to see the sequel, which if my hunch is correct, somehow involves fucking robots(?)(!) We’ll see…

  11. HAIR HIGH (2004)
    Animator Bill Plympton’s long-in-the-making cartoon epic about romance and weirdness among ‘50s teens. It’s mostly plotless, a series of weird gags that are excuses for characters to grossly distort their faces and bodies. I get the sense that Plympton is more entertaining himself than the audience. This is an hour and 20 minutes, but felt like 3 hours.

    30 days of HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II, day 23
    The opening flashback scene concludes in the school’s basement “prop room,” with a shot of a skull sitting on the floor. What is this skull? If I’m right and both Mary Lou and Vicki are being manipulated by an unseen supernatural evil, then this might our only glimpse at the “face” of that evil. Or, maybe it’s an old theater prop. Some things are just unknowable.

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  13. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1982). One of my favorite discoveries this month. Everything good, bad, and fucking frustrating about teenagers. Wonderful.

  14. Masterminds (1997, dir. Roger Christian)

    Die Hard in a High School starring Patrick Stewart in the Hans Gruber role and Brenda Fricker as the noble principal. Fairly standard and tedious to get through, but it is fun seeing Stewart in one of his rare villain turns hamming it up quite a bit. This movie features Patrick Stewart running over Brenda Fricker with an ATV, so it's got that going for it...

  15. The Cool and the Crazy (1958) Amazon Prime

    Drug panic movie about some teens that get involved with marijuana and the subsequent desperation and consequences of withdrawal (you're going to get shot robbing a bank or die in a flaming car wreck). Best part is the hard-boiled cop explaining the moral to the surviving teens while watching the aforementioned flaming wreck and throwing away his cigarette in disgust to close out the movie.

  16. St. Elmo's Fire (1985):

    Not teens, technically, but any Brat Pack production should count. First time watch. One of those movies I wish I'd grown up with. RIP Joel Schumacher.

    My Bodyguard (1980):

    A lot of teachers (like me) complain that high school movies don't properly depict real life. Honestly, I prefer it that way. I like that these movies depict high school the way it FEELS when we're there. They're moody, melancholy, and centered in the moment. That's how it should be.

  17. Class of 1984 (1982, dir. Mark L. Lester)

    Teenager Panic! The American justice system panic! Right-to-due-process panic!

    This has got to be THE perfect movie to watch for this day. Like Aaron said above, it's incredibly entertaining propaganda. Very trashy, but also very well made. Like Patrick often points out, Mark L. Lester really knows how to make a movie.

  18. First, let me just say that I love teen movies. If there's one category out of them all that I could easily build a Junesploitation-type marathon around and never get bored or tired, it's teen movies. I don't know what that says about me, but it's a fact. So it's only fitting that my first ever Junesploitation double feature happened on teenage day. Interestingly enough, both movies I watched today are from 1979 and both talk about youth rebellion, but they approach the subject in drastically different ways.

    The Warriors (1979)

    What a difference five years make (in reverse). Just two days ago I complained about Streets of Fire being a big disappointment. Well, The Warriors, one of Walter Hill's earliest movies, was the complete opposite of that for me. It's fun, it's meaty, it's over the top in all the right ways, and it never stops moving forward. The various gang themes are as ridiculous as they are amazing (The Baseball Furies are obviously the best, although I suspect the guys dressed up like mimes would've given them a run for their money if they just had a chance to shine). The movie's shot with a great sense of style and those little comic book transitions are so neat I started thinking this gimmick should be used more often (preferably all the time, in all kinds of movies). This colorful, romanticized vision of gang violence reads more like a fairy tale than any sort of commentary on real issues, so it's in no way a heavy watch. Unlike...

    Over the Edge (1979)

    Talk about heavy. This little high school drama starts out slow and very low-key, only to sneak up on you later and deliver a gut punch of an ending. In a lot of ways it reminded me of Pump Up the Volume: at first things seem innocuous enough, with bored kids just doing dumb stuff to blow off some steam, then as frustrations grow the situation gradually escalates until there's a real tragedy, police gets seriously involved and suddenly things get out of hand and characters realize there's no turning back. And like in Pump Up the Volume, all the grown ups in this world are caricatures or scumbags, or both, and the kids feel like they have to fend for themselves, because no one is on their side (the one adult who kind of "gets" the kids ends up shouted down by the oppressive majority). The movie paints a really bleak picture of growing up in small-town America in the 70s, but I feel its concerns are much more universal than that (Lord knows I grew up in an entirely different decade in an entirely different part of the world, but I had no problem tuning into this particular wavelength). Also, it's got a killer soundtrack (The Cars, Van Halen, Cheap Trick, Ramones), so that's one more reason to check it out.

  19. Sunset Cove (1978, dir. Al Adamson)

    The teen sex comedy by way of Al Adamson, which means it feels three hours long. A group of horny teens wants to save the beach from some greedy land developers. John Carradine shows up. It's Junesploitation.

  20. Day 23

    Mac & Me (1988)
    A terrible, awful movie full of nothing but product placement for Coke and McDs. Everything in this movie screamed why was I made and who the fuck was braindead enough to think any of this shit would work. The score by Alan Silvestri (who I think is normally awesome) doesn't match up with anything on screen. The budget for this movie 14 million 1988 dollars, what the fuck was that money spent on? The epic wheelchair fall into the water, the dance party at the McDs, the bogus looking makeup / and puppet effects.

    High School Musical (2006)
    The movie was infectious when it didn't try so hard but this movie just wasn't going to work for me, it just not my type of musical. Everything was too shiny, too happy, too perfect with all the rich kids. My youngest son liked it though, so I guess that is a win.

    10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
    I love this entire cast, especially Heath and Gordon-Levitt, I always put off seeing this movie because I thought it looked like just another teen high school movie. Boy was I ever wrong. This movie was awesome from when Allison Janney's dirty writings to Verona / Kat working it out in the end. Everyone in this movie was fantastic, I laughed so much during it. I love this movie.

    The Outsiders: The Complete Novel (1983)
    Great first hour is grounded to a halt by just C. Thomas and Ralph Macchio just being alone in the church, they don't have the acting chops, or just any kind of screen anything to carry the movie on their own. The movie comes back to the life when the family is brought back into the events. Disappointing. I was expecting more from Francis Ford Coppola.

  21. Foxes (1980)
    Drama about four young women in the late 70s early 80s deciding which paths to take in life and dealing with issues that come along the way Thats my fancy box blurb synopsis. Really it just about how hard it is to be a teenager and how easy it is to make dumb decisions when your on the verge of adulthood and the methods people use to cope.
    Its a decent enough movie that has a serious after school special vibe to it. There's one moment during a freeze on Fosters face before the credits roll that I half expected a title card to pop up on the screen with some kind of 1-800 number offering help for addiction or abuse. Or even what to do if your 16 year old friend is dating grown ass Randy Quaid. The acting across the board is really good. Foster and Currie being the stand out alongside a scene stealing Scott Baiao performance. One thing to note is how a lot of the issues are still relevant. The others is Adults are still yelling at their teenagers about the same stuff 40 years later.

    I do have one gripe and this is more of a personal thing that really shouldn't affect anyone else's opinion of the movie but, let Laura Dern in your party when she asks. Dicks

  22. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

    Having watched the show I was always curious about the movie that preceded it. I would have loved to see the series where they kept the Valley Girl characterization and more comedic tone. I don't think it would have worked at all especially over many seasons but I would still have liked to see what it would be.
    The cast is great, Paul Reubens is doing a lot, 1992 Luke Perry is so dreamy. The action is kinda terrible, the plot is nothing, but just the look and feel and 90s-ness of it was super enjoyable.

  23. Attack the Block, dir. Joe Cornish (2011)

    Finally caught up with this 2011 gem and I have really no good excuse why I've not seen this sooner... i will admit that in lesser hands this could very easily have been some god awful Danny Dyer-esque wannabe rude boy (that term is still a thing right?)cringe fest BUT thanks to writer/director Joe Cornish knowing exactly what he is doing this is a whip-smart take on the alien invasion movie that won me over because A) it takes it's central invasion plot seriously, the humor comes from the characters NOT the situation and B) it isn't afraid to have actual consequences! It doesn't sugarcoat our central protagonists, these young kids are very much the anti-heroes but I'll admit they won me over by the end and you do get a wonderful star making turn by John Boyega as the quietly charismatic Moses... Plus the creatures themselves are some of the best I've seen in a movie in a long time both effectively simple in their design and genuinely scary... This film was a blast!

  24. Class of 1999 (1990, dir. Mark L. Lestor)

    This was a pretty good follow up to Class of 1984. The teachers are still losing their shit, but his time they're robots. The effects near the end were pretty good. I couldn't tell if they were stop motion, animatronics, or really good makeup (probably a mix).