Saturday, June 27, 2020

Junesploitation 2020 Day 27: Lethal Ladies!

The gang war of the sexes!


  1. LADY MACBETH (2016, Epix)
    This set-in-1865-rural-England British adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s Russian novel (itself heavily inspired by Shakespeare's tragedy) stars Florence Pugh (PUGH-SPLOITATION!) as background-never-explained young bride Katherine. Treated like property by wealthy-but-sexually-inadequate husband Alexander (Paul Hilton) and even worse by authoritarian father-in-law Boris (Christopher Fairbank), Katherine spends her days stewing silently in the castle's living room. The men's lengthy absences on business errands lead to an affair with hired farmhand Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis). Though she treats her kindly, Katherine takes advantage of maid Anna (Naomi Ackie) by letting her affair with Sebastian take on a life of its own. Rather than back down when confronted with her infidelities, though, Katherine aggressively pursues what she believes she's entitled to plus more... lot's more.

    "Lady MacBeth's" filmmakers take advantage of their adaptation's British setting and Pugh's magnetism (she's both femme fatale and idealized female empowerment role model) to comment on race and social class. We're as far removed from "Little Women" as costume period dramas could be, though sadly this one resonates more in 2020 than it did three years ago. The last third takes a drastic 180 degree from the source material that'll make you question whether Katherine is worth rooting for, which of course we can't help but do because Florence Pugh's charisma (in her first leading role) keeps us intrigued and engaged until the very end. Must-see for Pugh fans. So, to quote Gary Oldman in "Léon: The Professional," EEVVERYYYOONNEE!!! :-P 4.5 GUILTY-AS-SIN CONSCIENCES (out of 5)

    MAY (2003, VUDU, Mikko Viinikka: 6/12/2017)
    Somehow I knew nothing about this one going in. Now? I can't wait to listen to the FTM podcast from a few years back! The least you know going in the better. As good as the actors are (Angela Bettis, Anna Faris, Jeremy Sisto, etc.) the real star of "May" is writer/director Lucky McKee (and co-editor Rian Johnson :-O). McKee knows what he's doing, takes his time getting to where he's going and lets us know enough about the principals (except Nichole Hiltz, because she really's just a pair of legs) to make it heartbreaking that things took this particular turn. In my mind May and Adam went to that screening of Argento's "Trauma" at the New Beverly and things worked out. Then again, Soozy and her cracking glass display might have different plans. Knowing where things are headed 30 minutes before they happen adds the best kind of anticipation anxiety: the character-driven one. 4 GATORADE-FILLED CHAMPAGNE GLASSES (out of 5)

    HIGH SCHOOL HELLCATS (1958, A.Prime, Unknown: 6/10/2015)
    Most AIP delinquent teen movies get away with the threat of the protagonists' bad behavior being exposed to teachers, parents, other students, etc. as the source of drama. This one has an actual body count, a whodunit element (a weak one because the perp is obvious from frame one) and the most clueless 50's father about his teenage daughter (Yvonne Lime's Joyce) being a thinking human being I've ever seen. Picked this flick because Brett Halsey (Joyce's beau) eventually appeared in many late-career Fulci movies ("The Devil's Honey," "Touch of Death"), but I got a lot more from the never-fails-to-entertain juxtaposition of 50's morality with what at the time was considered out-of-control youth culture. If they only knew about them in 2020. :-( 3.5 RECYCLED AIP CREDITS BLACKBOARDS (out of 5)

  2. THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR (1993, TUBI, Gabby Ferro: 6/24/2014)
    From the director of "Fearless," "Bride of Chucky" and "Freddy vs. Jason" (what a resume!) comes this violent and romantic Chinese fairy tale about warring factions in ancient times struggling when the heirs to leadership positions fall in love with one another. Ace warrior Cho Yat-Hang (Leslie Cheung) doesn't want to rule the Wu-Tang clan despite pleas from his master and siblings. In a powerful underworld cult about to engage in battle after laying dormant for two decades (don't ask) a powerful-but-nameless female orphan (Brigitte Lin), who met Yat-Hang as a child and saved him from a pack of wolves, accidentally meet at a sanctuary fountain after an epic bloodbath. At first antagonistic to one another, the young couple naturally fall in love and promise to trust each other implicitly. In typical "Romeo & Juliet" fashion, the warrior clans put their animosity to one another in front of their youthful warriors' personal interests. And this being a Ronny Yu film, lengthy battles and dramatic duels will unfold in "framey" slow-motion that'll test most viewers' patience. We were so lucky that "Fearless" got spared this particular Yu-ism. :-)

    Though she ends up offing a large number of foes with that amazing hair that stabs enemies like piercing lances, Brigitte Lin's "Bride" is kind-of secondary to the plot. The bad guys (castaway twins attached physically to their back) want to corrupt and negate their orphaned pupil, even though not all Wu-Tang clan's generals have their elder leader's positive intentions. You need a scorecard to keep up with all the characters and factions at war (or to have played enough KOEI "Dynasty Warriors" videogames), but there's a solid 15-20 minutes of wall-to-wall action and mayhem. Enemies are split in half and decapitated like this was a historical "Starship Troopers," but personally I like the Bride more when her new boyfriend names her 'Lien Ni-Chang' and hasn't turned white haired. Eventually these two team up to defeat the ultimate evil, but only after their emotional buttons have been pushed to their limits. Very messy and uneven movie, but entertaining if you can accept that romance is as important as the supernatural kung-fu sword fights. 3 RED FLOWERS GLOWING IN ICE-COVERED HILLS (out of 5)

  3. The Arena (1974, dir. Steve Carver)

    In ancient Rome, when the public is tired of seeing male gladiators fight in the arena, female slaves are forced to fight instead. But what they didn't count on was the badassery of the women who fight for freedom instead of each other.

    I've yet to see Pam Grier in a movie where she isn't the best thing in it. And I was just saying to myself yesterday while watching Hell of the Living Dead what a distinctive face Franco Garofalo has. And here he is again!

    The copy I watched on Prime seemed to be pretty heavily edited, it abruptly jumped forward any time anyone was about to die. I'd love to see an uncut version (if one exists).

    The Craft (1996, dir. Andrew Fleming)

    Fairuza Balk totally steals the show. Christine Taylor's insult to Rachel True actually shocked me. Didn't expect to hear that in a 90's teen movie.

    SO did Charmed totally rip off this movie, down to its theme song?

    1. I like to think WB asboutley stole from Charmed. Though rumour has it that Flemmung did take charmed to WB who declined ...... at first. Que The Smiths.

  4. Concealed Weapon (1994)

    Saw the 1h12m runtime, and I was in (busy day today). Bad choice. Uninteresting plot. Very bored man doing voice over. Pointless rape. Annoying generic soundtrack. The DVD cover is titillating, but doesn't have anything to do with the movie. I think they just created the catchy/sleazy DVD cover, made up a title to match, and tacked it onto a completely random movie. Thank goodness it's only a 1h12m movie. I should have watched an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess instead.

  5. Jawbreaker (1999)

    At the risk of sounding crazy, when I first started planning my viewing schedule for June, this was one of the movies I was looking forward to the most (yes, really). On paper, it seems tailor-made for my tastes. The 90s? Check. High school? Check. Black comedy? Check. Female-centric story? Check. Heavily inspired by Heathers (one of my all time favorite movies)? A resounding check. Oh, I've been warned, of course, including on this very website. I knew its reputation wasn't good. Still, I had to see for myself. After all, a movie that checks so many of my boxes can't be that bad, can it?

    Yes, it can. Jawbreaker is bad, guys.

    It's a smug, pretentious, crass, unfunny and utterly charmless comedy that's nowhere near as smart as it thinks it is. The characters are all horrible (and not in a good way) and the jokes are mostly in poor taste - both of which could be saved by solid acting, but there's no solid acting to be found here (even the supposedly feisty Rose McGowan performance is nothing to write home about.) The story echoes Heathers, yes, but only in the most shallow, superficial way possible - it's as if someone watched Heathers and took all the wrong lessons from it.
    Is there anything positive to say about Jawbreaker at all? Well, I really liked the costumes and the overall candy-colored esthetic. Pam Grier has a small role, and although her presence doesn't amount to anything, she's always a welcome addition. And the movie's mercifully short, clocking in at under 90 minutes, so at least there's that.

  6. Huang jia nu jiang aka She Shoots Straight aka Lethal Lady (1990 - Corey Yuen)
    I'm very impressed by this movie. It has characters with depth and complexity (even the bad guys), really great action sequences, a backstory which includes real life struggles and politics, it is fast paced and has a kick-ass female dominated cast. I really, really liked this one and only can recommend seeing this.

  7. Enemy Gold (1993, Drew Sidaris)
    Agents Chris Cannon, Mark Austin and Becky Midnite track down lost Confederate gold while being chased by evil drugrunner Santiago and his deadly assassin Jewel Panther.


    Tits, guns, gas-powered vehicles and a score that should make the Stevie Ray Vaughn estate lunge to their rolodex to find their lawyer’s number.

    What can I say? I knew what I was getting into when I picked this one. I’ll just give the one line that actually made me laugh:

    Santiago draws the shower curtain at his stripclub to find two dancers bathing together:

    Stripper #1: “What’s up?”
    Santiago: “Me!”

  8. Yes, Madam! (1985)

    Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock team up to kick many many people in their stupid criminal faces. Movie, you had me at Michelle Yeoh and Cynthia Rothrock team up. The plot is basic action movie nonsense: a pair of bumbling petty criminals accidentally come into possession of microfilm (remember microfilm?) that’s wanted by some much bigger criminals, and cop Yeoh and Scotland Yard inspector Rothrock team up to get to the bottom of it and kick everyone who needs kickin’.

    There’s a lot of slapsticky silliness amongst the criminals, but we’re here for the action and that’s where the movie delivers. This was Yeoh’s first starring role and it stands as proof that she was awesome right out of the gate, she’s as compelling a presence as she’s ever been. Rothrock has a little less to bring to the table acting-wise, but she’s an agile fighter and it’s fun to watch her together with Yeoh. Also, her introduction features her kicking a man standing directly behind her square in the face while her other foot never leaves the ground, and that in itself should qualify her for all of the Oscars. I would be hard-pressed to call this a great movie, but it’s a fun one and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

  9. Nekromantik 2 (1991, dir. Jorg Buttgereit)

    Pretty rough stuff. When it's not in gross-out mode it's intentionally slow and plodding (there are literally shots of snails to hammer it home). I had to fast-forward past the footage of the actual dead seal being vivisected. Too extreme for me.

  10. Had 'The Wild Angels'(1966) or 'Black Mama White Mama'(1973) on my list to watch today but again couldn't find or didn't feel like paying to watch them so I pulled a switch.
    What I watched was not good but is one that I was surprised I hadn't heard of before.
    Necropolis(1986 or 87)
    The tale of a evil witch reincarnated in the future who hunts down the decendants of those that killed her for trying to kill them. Look it makes no sense. Why does the witch dance like shes in a 80's french aerobics video before the ceremony? Did they have fishnet clothing in 1680s? After she dies how is she resurrected in present day? Did she really scour the newspapers daily hoping to see her ring on sale? Bad acting and writing abound in this. But I still say watch it. Get as many of your friends as you can safely confine together with and watch this movie.

    1. I next watched Red Sonja(1985). It was a first time watch for me. I liked Ernie Reyes Jr and his scenes everything else can go except maybe Sandhal Bergman*who should have been Sonja).
      My last lethal lady is one of my favorites.
      The Long Kiss Goodnight(1996). Shane Black and Renny Harlin should have made this a Bond like series for Geena Davis with Jackson as her partner. Love this movie. Such wonderfully funny snark and some really good action scenes.

  11. Picasso Trigger (1988) Somehow I’ve only seen Malibu Express and Hard Ticket to Hawaii before today- I really need to see all of Andy Sidaris’ work. I watched this on the old DVD and Julie Strain popping up in the intro was a little bittersweet. Picasso Trigger is ridiculous and a lot of fun. Hope Marie Carlton and Dona Spier should be better known as 80s icons- In a just universe, the BBB movies would be as revered as James Bond is and movie Twitter would be arguing over who should take over the roles of Taryn and Donna.

  12. Blood Games (1990)

    Been sitting on this for a couple weeks since I got the Blu-ray from Vinegar syndrome and saving it for lethal ladies day. I was really excited to see this one and it did not disappoint. A female baseball team is playing a bunch of redneck guys in the middle of nowhere (for reasons I still don’t understand) and things get ugly when they beat the men. Things escalate, people get killed, and the girls are on the run until they are forced to fight the guys in the forest. It’s better paced than I expected. I feel like a lot of movies like this start off well enough and lose steam in the end before a solid finale. Well, this one kept me entertained the whole time and never really seemed to dip. Although, I gotta say, there is a pretty ugly rape scene about an hour in that I could have done without.

    It’s not amazing movie, but it’s better than I expected and the ladies do kick a lot of ass and seeing them get revenge on these guys is really satisfying.

  13. Scorched Earth (2018) Amazon Prime

    I'm glad Gina Carano is in The Mandalorian. Hopefully she won't have to waste her time doing more stuff like this. John Hannah is wasted here also but he also works a ton and has already had some great roles in his career so I don't feel as bad for him.

    As a post-apocalyptic bounty hunter/revenge movie this isn't the worst. I can overlook the fact that the movie ignores its own rules, setting up face masks as being important due to air quality bad enough to eventually cause black lung, and then having the characters rarely use them. I get why you wouldn't want to cover your actors' faces for most of the movie, although the begs the question of why they didn't just write that out of the script. Really my biggest issue with the movie is how low energy it is despite the premise. There's nothing particularly dynamic about any of the action, and the plot and villains feel like they came out of an episode of a low-quality knock-off of Firefly.

  14. Now work has started to settle down, I can finally partake in some Junesploitation fun.

    Salt (2010, dir. Phillip Noyce)
    A sleek, pulpy action thing. Favourite bit is Angelina Jolie uttering ‘nah, I didn’t do anything’ before jumping off an overpass. Baller move.

    Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003, dir. Jonathan Mostow)
    I really like this instalment of the Terminator franchise. It has nothing on the first two entries, but I still draw a lot of entertainment out of this. The car chase sequence with the crane has a level of coherence that I miss in current action movies. Also, great ending!

    1. T3 is the last good Terminator movie (yeah, i said it). If only for the reason that it's just a good action flick that's not trying to be anything else than what it is (okay, maybe trying to be T2)

  15. THE VILLAINESS (2017)
    A mysterious woman is torn between living a normal life and the life of an elite hired killer. The first hour has the most action, and it’s great. Flashy choreography and over-the-top gore, plus a first-person POV scene that puts others like it to shame. As the movie progresses, it turns into less of an action flick and more of a drama. I appreciate that the filmmakers want to tell a more meaningful story, but I fear a lot of viewers will be checking their watches while waiting for the next punch-em-up.

    30 days of HELLO MARY LOU, PROM NIGHT II, day 27
    There’s a gag where one of the computers in the school computer lab is secretly a mini-fridge, opened by hitting a key on a keyboard. We see it’s filled with something called Labatt. I just looked it up, and it’s a popular (?) Canadian beer. Is this because it’s prom night, or is this classroom normally stocked with beer? Also, they have this room doubling as the darkroom, with photos being developed under red lamps on the other corner of the room. That’s not how darkrooms work!

    1. Labatt was popular a long time ago, but nowadays it's relegated to cheap beer to drink for the sole purpose of getting drunk, much like Budweiser and the likes. I don't know any of my friends who still drink this, but i couldn't say what the 20-something generatiin drinks (i'm guessing not this)

    2. Thanks for the info! Sounds like something some teens might have stashed away in their computer lab.

    3. I lived in Buffalo NY until I was about 25, and Labatt Blue is probably the #1 beer in that area. It's based in Toronto and pretty popular in that region. I'd compare it favorably to something like Budweiser. In summation, I like it.

    4. If you haven't seen it look up Michael Ironside's advert for Labatt on youtube. He does it as his Highlander 2 character!

  16. BONNIE’S KIDS (1972, Arthur Marks) on Amazon Prime

    “Come on, man, it’s a chance. How many people ever get a chance?” - Ellie

    Tiffany Bolling, who plays Ellie, gives my favorite performance of the month as a young woman who appears to have had very little luck or love in life. She is what one would call streetwise and knows a good opportunity when it comes along, even if it entails a lot risk. Though she is sometimes reluctantly a lethal lady, she certainly is one. She is also very loyal to her sister.

    Bonnie’s Kids is prime drive-in cinema, exploitation all the way but with a strange made-for-tv movie vibe at moments. It is a good lovers-on-the-run type of story, and the characters are fleshed out better than is usually the case with this type of film. Alex Rocco gives a standout performance in an enforcer/hit man role.

    I am sucker for this kind of film, and it might be a top-five watch when this month ends. I will see what the last few days determines.

    1. I am a sucker for...

      I had this in my Prime queue for close to two years. It was well worth the wait.

  17. Lady Bloodfight (2016)

    An American woman joins an underground fighting tournament in Hong Kong in the hope of finding out what happened to her father.

    I love, love, love tournament movies and the fight scenes in this had my adrenaline up! Some great exploitation moments too, particularly in a women's locker room haha. There's also some mystical stuff happening which should have been weird but was played so seriously that I couldn't find it ridiculous.

  18. Blood Games (1990, dir. Tanya Rosenberg)

    Our Vinegar Syndrome order finally arrived today, so naturally I put this on first. I'll echo everything Matthew B. already said above: this is a winner. There's some Peckinpah in here. At one point it becomes Fury Road but with a softball team. One of the best discoveries of a very mixed Junesploitation.

    1. Yay! Glad you enjoyed it as well! I love the Peckinpah and Fury road comparisons. I can’t believe the director only directed this one movie, because I thought she did a really great job. I think I liked it even more than I initially thought after thinking about it for a bit. It’s a real hidden gem and I’m really glad Vinegar syndrome put it on my radar.

    2. Guys, I expected to love this, and I surely did. But I didn't expect to be in tears by the end.

  19. Ninja III: The Domination (1984) Dir. Sam Firstenberg

    As insane and incoherent as it's reputation claims. But, quite honestly, I didn't have much fun with it, I think because so much of the runtime was obvious filler. Not to mention its a ninja movie featuring wholesale ripoff scenes from the Exorcist, Poltergeist and whatever else I didn't notice.

  20. Day 27

    Hard Hunted (1993)

    A very lame movie that saves it's sex and action scenes until the last ten minutes but by then it's too late. So much nothingness has happened, that I was more interested in how much time was left in the movie, or just taking a nap. Fake titties can only go so far!!

  21. Big Bad Mama (1974, Steve Carver)

    Corman's Depression Bonnie and Clyde movies tend to get repetitive, but Corman was never about to change a formula that worked. And really you love this movie because of the cast. Angie Dickinson is amazing, and watching her own this movie and also, Tom Skerrit, William Shattner and Dick Miller, who are also brillant in this running around the back roads creating shenanigans movie.

  22. Coffy (1973)

    Always great to have an excuse to watch a Pam Grieg exploitation movie. Available on Amazon Prime but leaving at the end of the month!! Glad I caught it in time. Awesome sequences, great acting, very enjoyable.

  23. The Villainess

    2017, dir. Jung Byung-Gil
    Streaming on Hulu

    Sometimes an action movie is only worth watching for the action scenes and that’s totally okay. You’re immediately kicked in the fucking head for the first few minutes of non-stop, brutal, gimmicky fighting that seems to be trying to put the ‘Oldboy’ and ‘Daredevil’ hallway fights to bed. The film then becomes essentially a remake of ‘La Femme Nikita’, with all the beats you’d expect. I particularly didn’t care for the third act, which stops the narrative cold to shift into almost RomCom mode for much too long but the movie at least ends on a banger last note. Kim Ok-bin is pretty amazing as the ass-kicking assassin-ess, a turn you wouldn’t see coming if you’ve only seen her more mundane roles in stuff like Park Chan-wook’s ’Thirst’ or Kim Seong-je’s ‘Minority Opinion’. Despite the first person, long take action and fight scenes being heavily manipulated via editing and VFX, there is an incredibly propulsive and dynamic quality to them that I’d love to see shake up some western action flicks.