Monday, June 29, 2020

Junesploitation 2020 Day 29: Free Space!

Doing what they do best out West!

48 comments:

  1. JUNESPLOITATION! 2020 GOING-OUT-OF-BUSINESS GIVEAWAY! EVERY UNUSED REVIEW MUST GO!

    WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE (1986, Blu-ray)

    Terrorist leader Malak Al Rahim (Gene Simmons) comes to Los Angeles to spearhead a wave of attacks on civilian targets. Despite the entire alphabet soup of government agencies out to stop Malak, 'The Company' point man Philmore Walker (Robert Guillaume) knows that freelance bounty hunter Nick Randall (Rutger Hauer) is the right man for the job. Nick wants out, so the quarter million he stands to earn by bringing Malak in is worth putting up with interference by Walker's cohorts trying to use Randall as bait to lure the bad guys out. But Malak is as clever as he is ruthless, and Nick could pay too high a price for underestimating his opponent.

    A pitch-perfect L.A. noir, character study and action thriller with the right amount of self-aware humor (a movie theater bombed by terrorists is showing "Rambo," Nick Randall is meant to be a direct descendant of the Steve McQueen character from the TV series of the same name, etc.), "Wanted: Dead or Alive" feels old-fashioned by taking its time making sure you get to know what makes our hero tick. Director Gary Sherman ("Dead & Buried," "Deathline") and his screenwriters execute a didn't-see-it-coming plot twist that makes the eventual showdown between Nick and Malak worth the wait. This is as good as low-budget action pictures could be made back in the mid-80's. 4 HEARD-IN-THE SOUNDTRACK HARMONICAS (out of 5)

    THE SENTINEL (1977, Blu-ray, Justin B.: 6/3/2018)
    What "Rosemary's Baby" was to NYC-set 1960's supernatural horror living next door "The Sentinel" is to the 1970's, with the former's subtlety and insinuation of evil's existence giving way to a batshit freak show. This being a Michael Winner joint ("Death Wish 1-3," "The Wicked Lady") we get needlessly topless females, meant-to-be-revolting lesbians (Mrs. Griswold? :-O), grotesque imagery (young daughter stumbling on her elder father's orgy with cake-eating fat ladies) and make-up ace Dick Smith getting close to slasher territory. Cristina Raines is a likable protagonist in peril with an unrecognizable Chris Sarandon as her over-his-head boyfriend, but the supporting cast is stacked! From Eli Wallach and Christopher Walken as inquisitive cops to Jeff Goldblum and pimp-looking Jerry Orbach as fashion photographers, and from Burgess Meredith's cat-loving antics to Ava Gardner's cold blooded real estate agent, "The Sentinel" is primo 70's exploitation goodness. 4 $400-A-MONTH BROOKLYN APARTMENTS... YEAH, RIGHT! (out of 5)

    METAMORPHOSIS (1990, A. Prime, Frank Lavesque: 6/20/2017)
    GEORGE EASTMAN STRIKES AGAIN! Made during the dying breaths of Italy's golden exploitation era, Eastman wrote/directed this too-obvious ripoff of Cronenberg's "The Fly" (minus the fly part). More Jekyll & Hyde than creature feature (until the very end... spoilers!), "Metamorphosis" at least nails the petty jealousies of academia professors fighting for recognition. The needle-through-the-eye mechanism only pays off via the film's cool poster, and none of the characters (particularly the central casting hot scientist experimenting with himself) is worth rooting for. For a guy dying from DNA reconfiguration Dr. Houseman looks an awful lot like "Watchmen's" Rorschach, complete with hat and trench coat outfit. Not even a batshit final reveal can lift this from the ranks of worst Italian exploitation flicks I've ever seen. Sorry, George. :'( 1.25 SCREAMING BABOONS (out of 5)

    MORE TO COME.

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    1. Gene Simmons in brown face... Ugh

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    2. But since he's of Israeli descent and speaks fluently multiple languages (per IMDB trivia, so beware) Gene really doesn't come across as pulling a brown face. He's embodying a Middle Eastern terrorist better than your typical one-dimensional portrayal, and Simmons' final scene with Hauer ('Fuck the bonus!') is glorious. Hate the movie game, not the KISS player. :-)

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  2. Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971, Roy Ward Baker)

    Hammer Horror is catnip for me. I adore the mixture of period drama and penny dreadful. And also I'm becoming a huge Roy Ward Baker fan. There are so many wonderful gothic touches he puts into this movie that makes it more haunting than what is in the script.

    Only problem is I think they tried to push Ralph Bates' Dr. Jekyll into a tragic anti-hero, and I didn't exactly really it. Baker does a nice job of making Martine Beswick (sister Hyde) and Bates as the same side of the same coin, but neither performance did anything for me, maybe a little too understated for a Hammer. But this movie is very pretty too look at.

    What Keeps You Alive (2018, Colin Minihan)

    Now to two performances I really loved. What Keeps You Alive is a lean thriller. Mainly a two hander between Brittany Allen and Hannah Anderson; I don't want to say too much, it was fun to go into this completely blind. Allen and Anderson play off each other well.

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  3. Doctor Sleep (2019, dir. Mike Flanagan)

    I love this movie. Not only does it give me a reason to stare at Rebecca Ferguson and Ewan McGregor for a couple of hours, it revels in the oddities of a Stephen King world while fully embracing the emotional baggage that comes with it. Also I will NEVER get over that baseball kid scene.

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  4. BAD BOYS II (2003, Blu-ray, Brent Petersen: 6/10/2019)
    First time viewing, and wow! There will never be another $130 million action spectacle like this ever made, mostly because the industry's move to CG special effects has substituted the mix of practical stunt work and destructible sets/vehicles this one still relied on. Even the newest "Bad Boys" sequel doesn't try to top what Jerry Bruckheimer & Co. pulled off 17 years ago. I sat with my mouth hanging wide open for 2.5 hrs. as this blunt instrument of a motion picture hit me over the head (hard!), pummeling my movie-loving heart into submission as it shouted outloud 'ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED, MOTHERFUCKER?' So many supporting actors (Gabrielle Union, Jon Seda, Peter Stormare, Henry Rollins, Joe Pantoliano, etc.), so little oxygen for them or cartoony villain Johnny Tapia (Jordi Mollà) to breath amidst the orgy of destruction and one-liners raining down from the holy trinity of Bay, Smith and Bruckheimer. Sorry Martin Lawrence. :-(

    Licking his bruised ego from the perceived underperforming and critical shellacking of 2001's "Pearl Harbor," Michael Bay throws himself whole into "Bad Boys II" like a man protecting his seat at the Hollywood elite table. Martin Lawrence and Will Smith rely on their honed-by-sitcom-training timing to sell what is at its core a violent comedy that doubles down on mean spiritedness for cheap laughs (a Bay staple). While I'll admit to laughing at Marcus and Mike using their badges/guns to scare straight the former's teenage daughter's 15-year old date, the current 'Black Lives Matter' moment made me feel guilty as hell. But that opening shootout with KKK drug dealers in front of a burning cross (Michael Shannon waves hello)? The blatant machismo and gun porn dialed up to 11? Again, guilty of finding these and many scenes in "BBII" amusing precisely because going way over the top with the violence, jokes and uncomfortable situations (that morgue scene... barf!) is the whole point. There's no subtext here, just text underlined so hard the proverbial red ink spills onto the screen. If you thought the shanty town stunt in Jackie Chan's "Police Story" needed those houses to BLOW UP SKY HIGH! then this one's for you. 3.75 DAN MARINO TEST-DRIVEN LUXURY CARS (out of 5).

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  5. I went with three random picks from the DVR.

    KISS OF DEATH (1947, dir. Henry Hathaway)

    Victor Mature portrays Nick Bianco, a convict who gets out of prison by turning on his former accomplices. In the process of giving evidence he makes an enemy of a criminal who has no qualms about ending Bianco’s life. That character, played by Richard Widmark in his big screen debut, is the best reason to watch Kiss of Death. Widmark has long been one my favorite actors from the 1940s and ‘50s. Kiss of Death is well worth seeking out.

    THE TARTARS (1960)

    Barbarian spectacle from the golden age of Italian spectacles. Orson Welles is the king of the Tartars and Victor Mature- him again - is the leader of Vikings fighting in what is now Russia. A brooding Welles and the Europeans playing the Tartar warriors are the villains in this case. There is conflict and several battle scenes ensue, including an impressive final confrontation. Even as a spectacle movie The Tartars is not great, yet I have watched worse examples.

    DON’T MAKE WAVES (1967)

    Part beach film, part drama, part comedy, part… something else. Don’t Make Waves varies considerably in tone. It is about Carlo Colefield, played by Tony Curtis, who get things simply because he knows how to master appearances, being whomever he needs to be at any given moment. Maybe those things, whether material possessions or people, do not bring the kind of satisfaction expected. By the conclusion the film completely falls apart, literally and figuratively. Along the way there are plenty of bodybuilders working out, Sharon Tate frolicking in a bikini, and a catchy theme song performed by the rock group The Byrds. It was not a complete disappoint because of the cast. (I cannot turn down 1960s Claudia Cardinale).

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    1. Hey, random DVR picks! That's a great idea, BRB. :-)

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  6. The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975, dir. J. Lee Thompson)

    This was my first non-Bronson J. Lee T. joint and a what a pleasant surprise. Instead of cartoonish Fox-News-Dad action films, this is a supernatural mystery. Michael Sarrazin plays Peter, a professor who is haunted by dreams of being murdered in a past life. Margot Kidder plays his wife from the previous life, and the the present day version (in terrible "old age" makeup). Peter travels to New England to find out more and falls in love with his "daughter."

    I'm glad Margot Kidder went on to define her career in the Superman movies because this movie gets ugly, and she bears the weight of it. There's a lot of "fuck you, I'm a 70s movie" here. It's strange because the movie coheres and then just slowly falls apart, which is an interesting choice, but one that's a little disappointing as the viewer. Again, fuck you, I'm a 70s movie.

    Michael Sarrazin is such a bizarre choice for a leading man: he's got a Michael J. Pollard face with a Burt Reynolds body. He's good here and does a lot of the dramatic heavy lifting in his performance, but something doesn't work for me.

    Bonus points on the Jerry Goldsmith score. It's more Planet of the Apes and less Star Trek, and it's weirdness helps sell the weirdness of the story. Also, I dug the frenetic editing that helps to juxtapose the past memories from Peter's present.

    There's a square dancing scene (yes, I know) and the song
    is "Little Brown Jug, I Love Thee" Something about a love song to a large container of moonshine makes me giddy.

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  7. KUNG FU KILLER (2014, dir. Teddy Chan)

    Apparently my appetite for action movies with inept HK cops has no bounds. Donnie Yen is great as usual, even though he is just playing the guy he always plays (moral center, but festering anger issues), but the real winner is the concept, which is a serial killer who wants to kill martial arts masters with their own mastered art.

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    1. Not enough martial arts serial killer movies tbh. I love this one. The last fight is just spectacular I thought

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  8. Dream House (2011, dir. Jim Sheridan)

    This was on my watchlist but I didn't remember why. Then while I was watching it, I started getting vague flashbacks to an old episode of FTM where Doug and Patrick laughed at how bad this movie was. So turns out it was on my list because I'm a masochist. Thankfully, I didn't remember the specifics, so I could experience its badness for myself. Definitely worth a watch if you're an aficionado of dumb "twisty" movies. (For the record, the ep was The Others from 2012.)

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  9. Attrition (2018)

    Ok, this one was a bit of a surprise. It’s not even remotely good, but for a current-era (era) Steven Seagal movie it’s surprisingly watchable (they should have put “surprisingly watchable” on the DVD case...watch your back, Top Critic Heather Wixson). This was a passion project for Seagal (who, with his shoe-polish-black hair system and goatee, now looks like if Count Chocula was one of the Sopranos), and it shows. He also wrote the script, which you can tell because 90% of it is devoted to characters telling each other (or telling him directly) how awesome his character is.

    Axe (Seagal) is a former soldier who now lives in Thailand as a humble (sure, Jan) healer in an attempt to make up for all of the violence of his military career. He is also a kung fu expert (or at least his staggeringly obvious stunt double is), and this is as close to a classic kung fu movie as Seagal has ever made. Basically, it’s pretty clear he watched Ip Man and wanted to prove he could do it better (narrator: he couldn’t). There are a few genuinely good fight sequences, mostly courtesy of Louis Fan Siu-Wong (Ricky from Riki-Oh) as Seagal’s protege, but there are also plenty of the ponderous speeches full of fortune-cookie Eastern philosophy you’d expect from a Seagal screenplay.

    Bonus points for the footage of Seagal performing a blues song (out of character) over the closing credits, and bonus bonus points for the lone special feature on the DVD, a 15-minute making-of that consists solely of Seagal, the crew, and his costars talking about how amazing and strong he is and what an honor it was to work with him. It is one of the ego-strokingest ego strokes you will ever see.

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    1. There are zero reviews registered on the Rotten Tomatoes page for the movie. I'm not surprised in the least. Thanks for taking one for the team.

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    2. Just got back from checking out the trailer and... I'm kind of sold on it, it sure looks like it's been made with a fair bit more care than the usual later day Seagal! I mean even at least two of his previous DTV's are actually worth a watch with Belly of the Beast, Into the Sun and Pistol Whipped having a way more invested than usual Seagal and being well made with good action

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    3. Pistol Whipped was good! This one is miles ahead of anything else he’s done lately, faint as that praise may be.

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    4. Is it better than Segal's 2016 opus The Perfect Weapon? 🥵

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  10. CASTLE FREAK (1995, TUBI, Frank Levesque: 6/6/2017)
    If I had seen this back when I was younger I would have probably ranked it much lower than Stuart Gordon's 80's collaborations with Jeffrey Combs ("Re-Animator") and Barbara Crampton ("From Beyond"). As a now wiser (and wider! :'( ) middle-aged cinephile I see all three movies as a piece, with "Castle Freak" benefitting most from this particular cast and crew being comfortable after a decade of knowing each other's strengths. Thin premise: an American family inherits and comes to visit an old Italian castle; mayhem eventually ensues when an unknown resident hidden deep whithin its catacombs springs out. Crampton plays the strong half of the crumbling marriage after Combs, a recovering alcoholic riddled with guilt for the harm he brought upon his children a year prior, seeks the solace of a bottle in another woman's arms after his wife shoots down his latest clumsy crack at a reconciliation.

    While Gordon isn't shy to push boundaries of taste (flaccid ball sack dangling in front of the camera) or gore (bitten breasts, ouch!), he and co-writer Dennis Paoli unfold what amounts to an indictment of parents messing up their children's future. And that's before the freak in the castle's basements (a Universal Monster acolyte) becomes violent not by nature, but for pulling a 'monkey see, monkey do' when exposed to unsavory human behavior. It helps the movie's atmosphere of dread that Charles Band still cared enough about his Full Moon product in '95 to have an atmospheric Italian castle at the filmmakers' disposal. I personally get more overall entertainment from "Re-Animator" and "From Beyond," but "Castle Freak" stands taller than both as the acting/thematic peak of the Gordon/Combs/Crampton collaborations. Shame that Richard Band shit the bed with an awful synth score. 4 SLIPPERY SEGA GAME GEARS (out of 5)

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    1. I think it's arguably Combs' finest work and it is a film that gets better with age!

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    2. Agree, Combs really shines (and Crampton ain't too far behind) and "Castle Freak" will probably hit viewers hardest when they've grown older and become parents. Even the relationship between the cop that beats Combs at the police station and the prostitute hits hard during the movie's final shot. :'(

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  11. Batman Forever (1995)

    Revisiting as a tribute to Joel. Bat nipples will live on forever.

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  12. November (2017, dir. Rainer Sarnet)

    A fantasy/horror/fairytale gorgeously shot in black and white, steeped in old Estonian folktales and superstitions. Or at least I'm assuming that's where all the absurd imagery and surreal logic comes from. With the 18th century village setting and the dreamlike but deliberate cinematography, it's hard not to compare it to 2015's The Witch, but whereas The Witch slowly builds towards a crazy conclusion, November turns on the surreal from minute one.

    These days, whenever a movie is touted as "something you've never seen before", I tend to dismiss it as an exaggeration. But I definitely hadn't seen a rickety machine constructed out of sickles and gears and imbued with the soul of a ghost lift off like a helicopter blade, carrying a cow.

    As a Finnish speaker, it's a little discombobulating watching an Estonian movie with English subtitles. The Estonian language is closely related to Finnish, so the cadence is familiar and I recognize a lot of the vocabulary. But not nearly enough to fully understand what's said, so I rely on the English subs, which of course are nothing akin to Finnish. Took a while for my brain to adjust.

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  13. Double Impact (1991) - First time watch. This is only the second Jean-Claude Van Damme movie I've ever seen. The first was last year, also for Junesploitation. So, at this rate, according to IMDB, Junesploitation will have to last another 40 years for me to get through his feature film work. Anyway, this one's pretty good. He plays twins(!), one of whom is named "Chad."

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    1. Or you couId double/triple 'em and get your JCVD freak on at a higher, more intense dosage. ����

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  14. Black Fist (1977)

    Pretty okay street fighter flick. Some honkeys just need to be taught a lesson. Would be a cool pairing with TNT Jackson.

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  15. The Last Starfighter (1984)

    My epic quest to belatedly catch up on F This Movie Fest 5 continues. After Streets of Fire, it was Last Starfighter's turn today (the final missing link, Night of the Comet, will probably have to wait until next June).
    What can I say about the movie? It's good wholesome entertainment for the whole family. Lance Guest has a cool screen presence and it's a shame he didn't became a bigger star. The early CGI is super clunky now, but must have looked totally rad in 1984. And I must say it was quite refreshing to see a movie so devoid of any kind of cynicism.

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  16. Mandy (2018) I missed Nic Cage day, so I watched Mandy today. Jesus, that was something. Trippy as fuck, violent as fuck, Cage as fuck. My highest recommendation.

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  17. Storm of the Century (1999, dir. Craig R. Baxley)

    Ok, I cheated, this is a TV miniseries, but it's free space day...

    I was not on board at all for the first two installments. Surprisingly bland characters for Stephen King, and I think Colm Feore is either miscast as the devilish villain, or it is just not a great character. However the final installment won me over with a unique and unexpected ending. I still like Rose Red the best of any Stephen King miniseries! (don't @ me).

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  18. DEMON SEED (1977)
    A supercomputer traps a woman inside a fully-automated house, and things get real dark. On the plus side, the practical effects are cool, especially a diamond-like “body” the computer builds for itself in the basement, which can unfold into a snake-like thing. It’s some really cool puppetry. There’s also some neat early-CGI dream sequences. On the other hand, things get really extreme as to how much our female hero is terrorized. It’s hugely uncomfortable, so much so that I just can’t recommend this.

    30 days of HELLO MARY LOU, PROM NIGHT II, day 29
    I think I’ve reached “weird Shining documentary” levels of watching this movie. Like, Vicki goes into a nightmare sequence at a hallway drinking fountain, but is next seen walking out of the school library. Did the evil magic teleport her there, or was she running around like crazy during the nightmare? Similarly, when Craig is in the prop room at the end, he goes through a door into an empty room, and then through another door into a third room with a sarcophagus among the old junk. Are these still theater props, or is this some deeper level of the evil magic? Haven’t seen a minotaur, though.

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  19. - - PRIVATE RESORT (1985)

    80s juvenile comedy, so you know what comes with the territory. But you may not expect this farce to be so watchable, entertaining and funny. Johnny Depp, The Diceman, Leslie Easterbrook, Hector Elizondo ensue in some beach hijinks that, at times, can be pretty funny. Emily Longstreth (a new favorite) provides the heart.



    - - PRIVATE SCHOOL (1983)

    My second movie in the "Private" Trilogy after Private Resort, and this one is even more cliched, more ludicrous, more rowdy and unquestionably more raunchy. The 80s had clear movie stars though, and Phoebe Cates was one of them. Even in this subpar juvenile romp with nothing on it's mind except bad behavior, she excels and comes away unscathed. Also genre hero Betsy Russell is the "mean girl" that you just cannot help but to love. She is actively trying to prank Cates and steal her man (Modine) but the movie is so fast and loose it can't slow down to have consequences that rise higher than a "watch this" get-back stunt, and its all the better for
    it.

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  20. Danger: Diabolik (1968, dir. Mario Bava)

    An anti-authority cult movie where the cops couldn't be more useless and the criminals couldn't be more sexy.

    I reeaally enjoyed this weird movie. The lead character, Diabolik, has absolutely no personality but the movie makes up for it by having enough personality for everyone. The sets, costumes and score are just to die for. It has such an amazing sexy cool '60s vibe, and I just know I'll be coming back to it just to live in that.

    And such a weird (WEIRD) ending that I was not expecting. Great new release from Shout Factory!

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    1. Producer Dino Di Laurentiis produced this and Barbarella around the same time. It is amazing how much better Diabolik is at only a fraction of the budget for Barbarella.

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    2. Interesting! I've still never seen Barbarella. I'm sure Mario Bava is a big reason this one is better.

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  21. Nashville Girl (1976)

    PCP comes through again with a great recommendation.

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  22. The Lighthouse (2019)

    I am very confused! But that's ok. If you watch this and are very confused, don't worry. Just let the movie wash over you. Because watching Willem Dafor and Robert Pattinson do their thing is incredible even if you don't know what is happening...

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  23. Patty Hearst (1988, dir. Paul Schrader)

    Vinegar Syndrome gave us a chance to finally catch up with this one. It's really good.

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  24. THEY'RE PLAYING WITH FIRE (1984, TUBI, Matt Sollenberger: 6/14/2017)
    This movie's poster and opening ten minutes hint strongly at this being a humorless "Porky's" ripoff in which college professor Sybil Danning beds her student-turned-yacht-handyman Jay. Eric Brown's peculiar performance makes Jay look/act much younger/naive than his age implies. And that's before professor Sybil's older hubby (Andrew Prine), Jay's rubber-necking ex-girlfriend and a bunch of red-herring characters (including the chocolate kid from "Friday the 13th Part V") turn this into a psychological thriller/slasher hybrid. Heck, at one point this movie tries to out-slash "Silent Night, Deadly Night" with a killer Santa of its own... the same year both flicks were theatrically out.

    You never feel confident these filmmakers can pull off what they're attempting, especially when they trot out Danning's twin peaks like clockwork to hold viewers' attention. For such a hodgepodge flick (one with a killer whose identity becomes obvious early on) Sybil D. gives one of her better performances that pretty much holds the thing together from start to finish. Worth seeing for the curio factor, which extends beyond Danning's proven sex appeal. 3 OCEANVIEW COLLEGE CREDITS (out of 5)

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    1. watched this one too a couple a days ago. it was wild.

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  25. Lord Shango (1975) awesome little voodoo flick that is mostly interesting because you’re not sure where or what the turn is going to be. Highly recommend.

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  26. Armour of God II: Operation Condor (1991)

    After a couple weeks in transit and customs my blu ray from 88 Films arrived today, just in time to fit a little more Jackie Chan into my Junesploitation. There's a uncut version one here but I'm not well versed in the movie enough to know what the exact differences are.

    This is a fun one though. Despite being an early '90s movie it has the feel of an '80s adventure/comedy and early on especially there some humor that's a little more risque than you tend to get out of a Jackie Chan movie. There's also one of Jackie's more brutal accidents in the outtakes which dislocated his sternum. Side note: 88 recently announced Dragon Lord and The Fearless Hyena as their next 2k Chan restorations. These guys are doing good work.

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  27. Day 29

    The Last Airbender (2010)

    Not worse movie I have ever seen. It's so bad because it so terribly and just the same as every thing else that has been out in the last 20 years. This movie offers nothing new on anything. It all just leads to ... on a potential sequel, thanks goodness this movie bombed in every conceivable way so that will never happen.

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    1. Critically yes, it's a dud. But moneywise?

      IMDB:
      Budget: $150,000,000 (estimated)
      Gross USA: $131,772,187
      Cumulative Worldwide Gross: $319,713,881

      It's hard to call a movie that made almost $320 million a bomb. Then again, how the hell does something so lame and flavorless cost $150 million? :-O

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  28. SHOCKING DARK, aka "TERMINATOR II" (1989, A.Prime, Derk: 6/15/2019)
    Orgy of rip-offs maestro Bruno Mattei strikes again. A cool opening premise (future Venice's polluted waters need cleaning to ensure humanity's survival) gives way to a shameless "Aliens" ripoff, but set in an endless series of tunnels/corridors and with "DNA scrambled" monsters instead of outer space creatures. Remember how unbelievable it was in '86 that James Cameron made a handful of guys in alien suits feel like an endless wave? In "Shocking Dark" you'll have no trouble believing Mattei only had a handful of monster suits that he reused constantly. :-D Then, 15 minutes before it ends, the filmmakers remember that this flick is being sold as a sequel to "The Terminator" and throw in some killer robot, time-traveling bullshit to wrap things up. It's like getting two Italian rip-offs of Cameron 80's action classics for the price of one... except not really.

    Even by the era's standards the acting and line deliveries in "Shocking Dark" are endearingly terrible, to the point that whenever characters spoke or posed for the camera (Geretta Geretta's Vasquez-like Koster, Christopher Ahrens's Samuel Fuller, etc.) I was mesmerized at how awful everyone is. There's even a Newt-like innocent girl (Dominica Coulson's Samantha) and a Ripley-type scientist (Haven Tyler), minus the character development to make us give a shit about either one. Even the motion tracker from "Aliens" is here, with loud beeping trying (and failing) to substitute for the device not giving any visual clues. The exploitation bubble was about to burst when Mattei made this, which might explain why the movie sat on a shelf for a couple of years. The last third before the batshit finale really drags and nearly kills the pace. Oh well, more time to sit back and let the terrible acting/dub barely carry the film to the finish line. For Italian exploitation fans only. 3 ALL-RED, VIRTUAL BOY-LIKE COMPUTER MONITORS (out of 5)

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  29. Bride Of Chucky (1998)

    This was the best Chucky movie yet (I've slowly been watching them in order since last SMM). Entertaining story, good movie of scares and laughs, and double the fun puppets.

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  30. Ghosts of Mars

    2001, dir. John Carpenter

    I have always avoided this title and ‘The Ward’, hearing nothing but negative things about both and since I love Carpenter, I didn’t want my impressions of his final years in filmmaking to be colored by these two duds. This movie was certainly not good, but it was much more entertaining than it had any right to be. It is essentially a western - desert, train, miners, prisoner transfer, outlaws, etc. I’d also venture to say this might be the most inspired by Carpenter’s love for video games, at least in its visual stylings and plot sensibilities.

    The cast is almost entirely known faces who were either hot at the time, just getting hot, or Carpenter regulars. I can also see a world where just a few years later Statham would’ve been the lead and honestly, that’s not a movie I’m at all interested in. Cube is mostly doing his usual schtick but at least he’s having fun and Henstridge might be at her best.

    The visual effects are terrible as expected but the practicals (courtesy of KNB) are pretty solid. Think lots of decapitations and severed limbs via flying saw blades. I do think this might be Carpenter’s worst score, although it is certainly a product of its time considering how much douche metal was hitting at the time. All in all, glad I finally gave in and watched it, but I can’t see myself going back to it any time soon.

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