Friday, June 30, 2023

Junesploitation 2023 Day 30: Sequels!


  1. I think I'm going to stick to Cannon sequels today. Starting off the day with a turd; American Ninja 5. I honestly have no idea last time I watched this. From there, Exterminator 2, maybe Delta Force 2 or TCM 2.



    Because when you think third entry in a controversial 80's slasher series about a killer Santa Claus that continues to recycle chunks of footage from the first movie, the director of "Two-Lane Blacktop" immediately comes to mind. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Seriously, this one is a lot better than it has any right to be considering Mr. 'GARBAGE DAAAAY!' was clearly dead at the end of "Part 2." Now played by a surprisingly subdued Bill Moseley ("Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2") like a Frankenstein-type brute with his brain exposed (!), Ricky is awakened from his six-year coma by the bad combo of (a) a blind woman with psychic powers synching with Ricky's wavelength and (b) a drunken Santa that wonders into Ricky's room on Christmas eve. Most actors are either really bad (Samantha Scully's blind protagonist), wasted (Robert Culp as a cop) or not given much to do (Richard Baymer's Dr. Newman should look/act a lot crazier than a CPA). Cinematography looks kind-of 'artsy' flat for a DTV slasher, one that starts classy (only showing gory aftermath of Ricky's murder spree) before descending into perfunctory formula. 'It's fine. 3 RENTAL VHS COPIES FOR $89.99 (out of 5... see trailer included on Vestron BD).


    The director and many of the crew from both "Bride of Re-Animator" and "Society" (composer Richard Band, make-up man Screaming Mad George, screenwriter Woody Keith, etc.) basically reboot the series, starting with cool opening credits that remind me of Hitchcock's "Vertigo." There's no killer Santa this time, and whether the 'Ricky' in this version (played by Clint Howard with the zeal of a madman) is the same as in the previous films is entirely up to viewer interpretation. There's even a timely-for-'23 female protagonist (Neith Hunter's Kim) trying to make it past the old boys club at an investigative TV show looking into the death of a woman on fire who fell off an L.A. residence building. I'd rather you discover what this one's about on your own (it helps to go in blind) but you can count on typical Yuzna formula tropes (mediocre-to-good acting, silly humor, social commentary) and Screaming Mad George's gooey latex mixed with gore effects to liven things up. 'It's [a little better than] fine.' 3.25 ROACHES ON THE SINK (YUCK! out of 5).


    The only sequel in the series with direct continuity to its predecessor (same behind-the-scenes crew and a few actors/characters from "Initiation" return), which only means Brian Yuzna (writing/producing) got his daughter on-camera to ask a mall Santa for a VHS copy of "Bride of Re-Animator." Cheeky. A visibly embarrassed Mickey Rooney plays toy maker 'Joe Petto' (get it?) with an a-hole teenage son named 'Pino' ("Pumpkinhead's" Brian Bremer) who, along with a little kid and his mother, are stalked by a stranger that makes Petto's toys come to deadly life. The twist at the end is almost breathtaking in its stupidity. Might as well turn the movie off after the opening kill of Derek's useless dad because nothing after it comes close to topping it. I'd say avoid it, but it's included in the Vestron BD box set. 2 COOL OPENING CREDIT SEQUENCES IN A ROW (out of 5).


    A cheap (made in South Africa) beat-for-beat remake/reboot of Schwarzenegger's last good-but-not-great action movie of the 90's, even down to a final confrontation with the bad guys on the docks atop cargo containers with the hero marshal (Dominic Sherwood) assisted by a guy he helped erase at the beginning (Eddie Ramos' Sugar Jax, this flick's Joe Regalbuto)... except it's daytime and there are no laser weapons (that costs money!). Streaming content doesn't get more vanilla and paycheck-driven than this. 2 ANGRY HIPPOS SAVING THE DAY (out of 5).


  3. Fright Night Part II (1988, dir. Tommy Lee Wallace)

    A fun and worthy sequel to the original classic. Doesn't quite hit the highs of the original, but I appreciate a sequel that delivers on what you enjoyed from the original. Side note: The more times I see Jon Gries in movies the more he's becoming one of my favorite character actors. The dude is just a natural ham in a good way. Highly Recommended.

  4. Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999, dir. Takao Okawara)

    A lone scientist and his daughter call themselves the Godzilla Prediction Network and are tracking its attack on Japan. Meanwhile a governmental body finds a mysterious meteor, which turns out to be a millions-of-years-old extraterrestrial UFO which takes flight to fight Godzilla.

    Fun fact: this was the second time Toho "pulled a Halloween" by rebooting the franchise and making a sequel to just the original film (the first one was 1984's The Return of Godzilla).

    The first hour is pretty dour, with a lot of people running around wondering what's happening and not that much Godzilla, but the final action sequence is pretty spectacular. The Godzilla suit still looks great and the composite shots and practical effects aren't bad, but there's some ugly CGI that really didn't need to be there. But I guess that's to be expected of a movie with both 2000 and Millennium in the title.

    For some reason, the version of the movie I own is dubbed in English (the other six movies on the box set are all in Japanese), which didn't do the movie any favors.

    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982, dir. Nicholas Meyer)

    The Enterprise crew comes face to face with Khan Noonien Singh, whom Captain Kirk once exiled on a barren planet and who now seeks revenge.

    Wanted to finish the month with something reliably good, and this is that. The Motion Picture is my favorite Star Trek movie, but I can't argue against this being the best. The script is excellent, bringing back the one charismatic villain from the original show who warranted a revisit was a a great decision, the main actors know their characters inside and out, and Ricardo Montalban is delicious as the villain. Plus the ending is emotional and the ear worms still elicit a visceral reaction.

    I only have one slight quibble that's always bothered me (spoilers I guess): during the final battle, Spock says Khan isn't great at space battles because his thinking is two-dimensional, but then the Enterprise crew don't take full advantage of the three dimensions either. They come up behind Khan's ship and only then open fire, when they could've turned their ship and blown Khan up from below.

    Thank you all for another great Junesploitation! Only three months until Scary Movie Month!

  5. New-to-me: VICE ACADEMY 3 (1991)
    Everybody’s favorite cheeky lady cops return for more cheeky lady cop hijinks. The 1989 BATMAN movie appears to be some influence on this one. There’s a green-haired villain who’s a little Joker-ish, and the score is maybe a little Danny Elfman-ish. Beyond that, it’s the same naughty-but-not-too-naughty comedy of the first two. Kudos to Ginger Lynn Allen and the rest of the cast for not being afraid to look foolish on camera. Sure, this is low-budget trash with no budget, but I can’t hate it. Everybody’s having too much of a good time.

    New-to-me: THE MANGLER REBORN (2005)
    The plan for this morning was to watch THE MANGLER 2, but that movie’s been banished to the Island of the Unavailable. Instead, here’s the reboot-quel that came out years later. Tobe Hooper and Robert Englund are sorely missed. A schlubby guy in the suburbs gets hold of an evil laundry machine, and he gathers victims to feed it. (Is this the same machine from the original? The movie doesn’t say.) Reggie Bannister of PHANTASM has an extended cameo to give some horror cred. Other than that, this is all shot in one house, flatly framed and brightly lit the whole time. I’d say it looks like a soap opera, but the soaps are probably more visually interesting.

    Old fave: TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991)
    My first memory of this movie is not trailers or commercials, but some fast food place’s cups with the T2 logo. My friends and I were all, “They’re making a second one?!?” I don’t know if I can call this the best sequel of all time, but it’s absolutely one of the best. Amazing how many scenes and lines are burned into all our collective consciousness. Also how so many movies since then have tried to replicate this movie’s magic, but even the good ones didn’t quite get it. Even as part of a mega-franchise, it’s one of a kind.

    And once again, HUGE thanks to Patrick and the F This Community for another awesome #Junesploitation! It's been a hectic month for me, too, but this event is always a great way to track down and see movies I wouldn't otherwise have seen. Hasta la... you know the rest.

  6. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012)

    There’s no reason why sixth Universal Soldier movie is so good.

    There’s also no reason why it goes so hard, because this is an NC-17 movie that starts with the hero, John (Scott Adkins), watching his wife and young daughter get shot in the head in a POV shot by Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), who until now has been the hero of the UniSols.

    And I mean, who could have guessed that director John Hyams would bring Apocalypse Now, The Manchurian Candidate, Chinatown and Invasion of the Body Snatchers to — again — the sixth movie in the series that started with a blockbuster.

    John wakes up from a coma, only to learn that Luc is on the run and a sleeper agent named Magnus (Andrei Arlovski, the most winning fighter in UFC history) is on the loose, wiping out an entire brothel before a clone of Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren) wipes his memory clear and frees him.

    So yes, in the midst of this brave new world, Deveraux and Scott are gathering UniSols and radicalizing them against the U.S. government. I am all for this wildness.

    John also learns that he was once a truck driver, that he was in love with Sarah (Mariah Bonner) and that he can regrow body parts because he’s an unstoppable killing machine. There’s also that original John, who has been co-opted by the government and the idea that everything that the new John believes is just weeks, not years, old.

    Spoilers on, because the act of removing John’s memories drives him insane and he starts killing every UniSol, but that’s all part of Deveraux’s plan, to find a successor and sacrifice himself to him so that the dream of a new world order of UniSols can finally come true.

    Written by Hyams, Doug Magnuson and Jon Greenlagh, this is a movie that starts with a doomed little girl saying “There are monsters in this house” and ends with Van Damme and Adkins having a strobe-lit, face-painted death match with machetes.

    “From this moment on, you are no longer a slave to the government. From this moment on, your mind is your own. From this moment on, you will seek vengeance from your oppressors. Freedom is yours.”

    Show me any action movie — hell, movie! — that tries for such loftier ideals and does it with three action stars and an MMA fighter in its cast. The fact that it took me so long to absorb this movie is a bit of stupidity I am going to pay back by being an evangelist for this film.

    Thanks for having me. Here are all my Junesploitation movie picks:

  7. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023)

    Won't give any spoilers here, but this is about on par with Crystal Skull for me. 4 or 5 charming scenes, action scenes that go on way too long (including one of the least dynamic car chases I've ever seen), a LOT of wheel spinning, and an ending that I absolutely cannot co-sign.

    The de-aging technology just really isn't there. Not quite Tarkin-town, but close enough. It was video game cut scene quality at times. There are 4 credited screenwriters here, and it shows. Characters play huge roles in early scenes, them disappear entirely. However, I was entertained whenever Mads Mikkelsen was on screen. So, there's that. Real mixed bag here.

  8. The Crow: City of Angels (1996)

    You know the drill: an innocent man murdered by bad people comes back from the dead to dress in leather, put on Ozzy Osbourne makeup and get revenge in the most dramatic way imaginable. I was surprised by how much I dug this, knowing that its reputation is not great. I don't know, maybe I just have more tolerance to all this unironically gothic crap than some. It's close enough to the original to feel like a real deal, but different enough in story details and especially in visual style to keep it from feeling simply like a lesser carbon copy. Vincent Perez doesn't have the natural charisma of Brandon Lee, but he does a perfectly fine job as the tortured avenger. Replacing a teenage sidekick with a love interest is a nice change of dynamics. The "everything is brown" color palette takes some adjusting to, but it does lend the movie a distinct look (together with all the Dia de los Muertos imagery) so overall I'd say it's a plus. Lastly, the soundtrack, featuring Pj Harvey and Hole, might be even more up my alley than the first one. A very solid end to the month for me.

    This concludes my 4th Junesploitation. Thanks for the ride, this was a blast. My top 6 watches of the month (because I can't be bothered to cut it down to 5): The Legend of Billie Jean, Repo Man, The Muppet Movie, High Plains Drifter, Hollywood Shuffle, The Crow: City of Angels.
    See y'all in October!

  9. Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)

    I think Die Hard is my favorite trilogy. All three movies are Grade A action flicks in my estimation. The first is my favorite, and forced to choose, I'd probably slot 2 just ahead of 3, but I really like what Adam said on Reserved Seating about liking 2 better during Christmastime and 3 better during summertime.

    Speaking of Reserved Seating, one thing I love about Junesploitation is seeing comments, podcasts, etc. of what people watched on a certain day, getting excited about those movies, and finding a way to watch them under a different category on another day. The Reserved Seating episode (for Revenge! day) got me pumped for a Die Hard 3 rewatch, and, lo and behold, Sequels! day rolls around as a perfect opportunity.

    Regarding the water jug problem... the method they use in the movie DOES work, but it leaves out the initial steps (which I think is sort of fun, since it acts as a hint, but still allows you to solve on your own). There are multiple solutions, but the one in the movie is: Fill 5-gallon jug, pour that into 3-gallon jug until full. Now 2 gallons are in the 5-gallon jug. Empty 3-gallon jug. Pour the 2 gallons from the 5-gallon jug into the 3-gallon jug. Now 2 gallons are in the 3-gallon jug. THIS is where McClane's partial explanation begins: Fill the 5-gallon jug again, then pour it into the 3-gallon jug until full (which requires 1 gallon), leaving 4 gallons in the 5-gallon jug.

  10. TRUE STORY OF A WOMAN IN JAIL 3: HELL OF LOVE (1976, d. Koyu Ohara)
    First-time watch on Impulse/Synapse DVD, 6/10.
    The final chapter of this loose Nikkatsu trilogy finds Hitomi Kozue landing back in jail after slicing up her cheating boyfriend & his mistress. This is the weakest of the three, but not by much. It's photographed well, offering illicit lust, a shower fight, vengeance, emotional manipulation & a torture chamber with a dangerous vibrator. The finale is a real splash.


    ROCKY II (1979)/ROCKY IV: ROCKY VS. DRAGO (1985/2021, 4K BLU-RAY)

    Don't remember much about "II" (only seen it twice ages ago). With the cumulative "Rocky"/"Creed" sagas knowledge it's nice that back in '79 Stallone didn't feel the need to re-invent the wheel. It's a simple melodramatic follow-up ("Rocky Lite"?) that repeats its predecessor's beats with the events from last time coloring everybody's actions/perspectives. Burt Young's Paulie is actually likable and nowhere the cartoon moron he'd become later on, Talia Shire looks radiant expressing affection toward her no-good-with-money husband (thank God she woke-up from that coma in time for Roc to train before the rematch! :-P), Burgess Meredith is still a hilarious cartoony bastard of a trainer and Carl Weathers remains a cool mofo despite never smiling once. Sly and his editors got so good at making slick fighting/training montages in the 80's the ones here look archaic by comparison. For Rocky/Adrian shippers this is the last time their relationship mattered enough to warrant half the film's running time. 3.75 JOE SPINELL'S "CONDOMINIUM" SUGGESTIONS (out of 5).

    No need to recap "Rocky IV" (it's iconic for a reason) or rewatch "III" because a hell of a lot more of the latter now opens this fascinating tinkering of "IV" by its writer/director. I've always loved Michael Pataki's over-the-top Russian boxer handler, so getting a few snippets more of him, Weathers and Shire is already a win in my book. Stallone is clearly ashamed of (a) the robot (gone!) and (b) Roc's jingoistic speech after the big fight ending the Cold War (fake Gorby doesn't stand up to clap, Drago gets a nod of respect from the champ without the American flag raised and "Eye of the Tiger" plays first during the credits). We get more Tony Burton (yay), less of Pauly/Sly's son (meh) and almost no Brigitte Nielsen (grudge against the ex, Sly?). None of the major set-pieces, fight outcomes or montages have been dramatically altered. Just tinkered-enough (B&W instead of color, punching loudness reduced, etc.) for your muscle memory to notice. "IV" will always be a 4.5 in my book, so "Rocky vs. Drago" gets 4.15 RUSSIAN CARS LEFT EATING ROCKY'S DUST (out of 5).


    Despite its slicker look and glossier techno-terrorism veneer dragging the franchise into the 21st century after a 12-year absence, director Len Wiseman ("Underworld") doesn't forget the appeal of John McClane not being part of the plan as the ointment that spoils Timothy Olyphant's cooked-to-cyber-perfection 'fire sale' plan. John's random saving of hacker Justin Long (who starts a dick but eventually becomes lovable) doesn't get him a seat at the clueless Feds' table, but the one ally that helps him go where the action is. I don't mind our hero punching the shit out of a girl (Maggie Q) because she's clearly bad news, and the 'what to do you get for being a hero?' quiet scenes stick out as great little franchise moments. It's when Bruce Willis-as-McClane throws cars at helicopters or plays chicken with F-35 fighter jets with the cockiness of an a-hole (the neutered-for-'PG-13' violence/language doesn't help) that things take a nosedive, aka most of the final act. 3.25 CREEPY PRESIDENTIAL THREAT MONTAGES (out of 5).

    Alas, McClane is in raging a-hole mode the moment he lands in Russia to try and help his son Jack. Jai Courtney and his dad could have prevented lots of death and destruction if they had just talked like normal people ONCE, and the 'Chernobyl hides a secret' finale seems lifted from an unrelated Jason Bourne or 007 movie... ironic since this is the only film written from scratch as a "DH" vehicle. Despite making over $300 million worldwide "A Good Day To Die Hard" ends a good action franchise with the sourest of tastes. 2.5 SINATRA-LOVING RUSKIE CAB DRIVERS (out of 5).

    And that's all he wrote. See you next summer, you freaking weirdos! :-)

  12. Saw II (2005)

    Several years back I was like, I'm gonna watch all the Saw movies. Today I finally made it to the second one. Maybe this #ScaryMovieMonth I'll finally work through the series.

  13. Step Up 3D (2010)

    They dance a lot. Way to give the people what they came for.

  14. HOWLING 2: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF (1985, dir. Phillip Mora)

    I have heard this film discussed many times on FThisMovie, usually in unfavorable terms. Today seemed like the appropriate moment to finally get to it. And it is… bad. Sometimes a film that is a complete mess like this is fun, but I am leaning toward it just being bad. It is at least very exploitative. The ingredients are certainly there for an entertaining film. Unfortunately, Christopher Lee is not given much to do, and Sybil Danning is sometimes made to look ridiculous with her outfits and stupid dialogue. She is a fun presence in the film, however. Reb Brown is being Reb Brown, which I expected. The biggest issue for me was how confusing the story details get.

    Thank you Patrick and the FThisMovie community for another delightful Junesploitation. This was my seventh year participating. To finish the full calendar, last night I watched SODA CRACKER (1989) for Fred Williamson's day.