Saturday, June 15, 2024

Junesploitation 2024 Day 15: Free Space!




    I'll never get over how it seems NYC movie theaters always seem to come to my aid during Junesploitation! I saw all these features not knowing a thing about them (love to go in blind), and it turns out thematically all three are of a piece.

    "Satyabhama" is your typical Bollywood (Telugu actually) super-cop-as-hero-worship action tale, except it revolves around a female ACP (Kajal Aggarwal) who reminds me of Mariska Hargitay's Olivia Benson from "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." And like that show's penchant for over-the-top melodramatics, a sex-related crime (the killing of an abused wife by her high-on-drugs crazy husband) that Satyabhama can't let go of spirals into one crazy procedural pursuit for justice involving alleged terrorism, familial revenge, women trafficking, official corruption and media bias. I like that, unlike the unflappable supermen these films are usually stuffed with, Kajal Aggarwal is not afraid to show vulnerability (shaking her wrists in pain after knocking a dozen bad guys around) and Satyabhama's struggle to balance work with her newlywed life (to Naveen Chandra as the most patient/understanding husband ever). Fans of "SVU" will probably like this more than most. 3 VR GAMES SET IN EMPTY GARAGES (out of 5).

    The sequel to one of Pixar's most critically-acclaimed projects of the past decade (and my favorite movie of 2018), "Inside Out 2" follows the inner struggles that grown-up teenager Riley (Kensington Tallman) goes through during a weekend at a hockey camp that may decide the rest of her life. The original gang is back, displaced early on from command center by a new set of emotions (Maya Hawkes' Anxiety, Adèle Exarchopoulos' Ennui, etc.) that threaten to upset Riley and distance her from everyone that loves her. Except for Anxiety (who toward the end looks/acts more like "The Flash") the new emotions are underwhelming and not that interesting. The Pixar folks must have known this because we spend more time with Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and Fear (Tony Hale), who get the lion's share of the funniest lines and more dramatic beats. It doesn't break new visual or thematic ground (cool 3D though), but it didn't need to. As the uncle to a rebellious teen the same age as Riley, "IO2" amused me as much as it made me teary-eyed at the universal plight of loving a young person who is changing into a different person that I've known since 2000. It's not top-tier Pixar, but it's good enough. 3.85 CARTOONY BUNDLES OF 2D TNT STICKS (out of 5).

    Hardcore gamers are rarely depicted right in movies, but PG-13 horror flick "Latency" comes close to nailing it. Crippled by agoraphobia that keeps her locked in a small apartment (where the movie takes place and never leaves), professional gamer Hana (Sasha Luss) has her ability to compete in tournaments enhanced dramatically by a yet-to-be-released beta device that connects/syncs to her brainwaves. When she falls asleep during the linking process, though, the device reads Hana's emotions and turns her worst fears against her. Except for some "Doom 2016"-like creatures "Latency" isn't concerned with recreating graphics contemporary gamers are familiar with. The ton of little details around Hana's apartment (Astroboy and Super Mario Bros. plushies, Japanese PS2 and DS boxes, booming speakers, etc.) and her interactions with bestie Jen (Alexis Ren, the only other human character in the film) sell me that these are gamers. Alas, the bizarre monster (who looks like the little girl from the "F.E.A.R." games) and too-sudden ending (we get credits when the narrative should be ramping-up to a killer finale) feel like the filmmakers either didn't know how to end this or just gave up. Worth seeing for Sasha Luss' performance and an apartment that anyone with a gamer in their life will recognize. 3 CLASSIC GAMEBOYS WITH "TETRIS" CARTS (out of 5).

  2. Since I missed days 7-9, I dedicated today to covering those days' themes.

    Buddy Cops!: Busting (1974, dir. Peter Hyams)

    Two L.A. vice squad cops are relegated to busting cheap pr0stitutes and raiding g-a-y clubs, but when they get a lead on a powerful gangster making a big drug deal, they face opposition from not only the mobster's goons but also the corrupt higher-ups in the police department.

    The plot feels a little aimless and meandering at times, but Elliott Gould and Robert Blake have great on-screen chemistry as the two wisecracking veteran cops who have nothing else in their lives but their work, and Allen Garfield was made to play sleazy mobsters. And it's always a treat when Sid Haig pops up in a movie, even in a small role. Hyams keeps the movie energetic with long takes and a constantly moving camera.

    Kaiju!: Warning from Space (1956, dir. Koji Shima)

    This was on a 50-movie DVD boxset I own and I found it on a Letterboxd list of Kaiju movies, but turns out it doesn't really qualify as one. Thankfully it's really Free Space day.

    One-eyed aliens shaped like starfish (actors in funny costumes) try to warn humanity about a rogue planet on a collision course with Earth, but narrow-minded humans view the aliens as monsters.

    A fairly clichéd sci-fi plot and cheaply produced (obviously, it's a Japanese sci-fi movie from the 50's after all), but there's that certain charm that cheap, janky old sci-fi movies often have. The English dub I watched only enhanced that charm.

    Kung Fu!: Dirty Ho (1979, dir. Lau Kar-leung)

    Master Wang, a skilled martial artist and a prince in disguise, doesn't care about ruling and would much rather deal in fine art and wine. But after he thwarts an assassination attempt, he has to figure out which of the 13 other heirs to the throne sent them. He coerces Ho, a cocky thief, into acting as his bodyguard.

    The star of the movie is Gordon Liu as the prince who wants to keep his martial arts prowess a secret, so he disguises his moves as clumsiness or puppeteers other people to do his fighting for him. Those fights are fun and inventive, but some fight scenes go way overboard with the comedy, which I wasn't a fan of. The epic finale makes up for all that, though.

  3. The cat woke me up early, so i made the best of it

    Slay (2024): Drag queens help defend a biker bar from a vampire attack. This is seriously as fun and weird as it sounds. There's a lot of "Yass queen" or "You go girl" and various snarky one liner, but to me it's always funny. On Tubi, if you're curious, highly recommended.

    Navy Seals (1990): Sheen shines in SEAL movie. I got it too late for 90s Action Day (not counting DHL jerking me around), but I finally received my 4K edition from Vinegar Syndrome. Let me tell you something, they didn't need to go that hard on the set, some would say overdesigned, but I welcome it. Being the idiot that I am, I got the Limited Edition with the booklet and the case that closes with a magnet. At this point, the lack of Dolby Vision is disappointing, but I'm sure I'll survive, the movie still looks super good. I really didn't need this limited set, but what's 10-20$ more from the regular edition. Cool case, cool movie, very 90s, maybe a bit too long. Patrick, I hope you manage to get it at some point (but not now, it's Partners month at VS for the whole month of June).

    1. I really want to get this! Are they releasing a standard edition 4K? I might wait for that.

    2. They usually release a Limited Edition 4k and a Regular 4k, so you should be good. I'm pretty sure i saw it when i did my pre-order, but i can't confirm now because of Partners month. The LE is just for the crazies with money to burn like me.

  4. Infested (2024)

    (Genre: Spidersploitation). Ever since I was a little kid, I've enjoyed Spidersploitation. Spiders are inherently freaky. The challenge/problem these days, as with a lot of horror, is CGI makes it too easy to put out meh stories. But after a glowing review from Stephen King, I caught Infested. It rules. French flick focusing on residents of a poor tenement housing apartment. Really strong character writing combined with wonderfully freaky escalating spider mayhem. Would also play well as a perfect choice for scary movie month.

  5. The First Omen (2024) Nunsploitation!

    The miracle (and abject horror) of childbirth.

  6. THE BEACH BUM (2019)
    First-time watch on Movies Anywhere. 4/10.
    This movie looks gorgeous but fails to cure my Harmony Korine allergy. I freely admit that after absolutely loving GUMMO & getting motion sick during JULIEN DONKEY-BOY, I've never had interest in pursuing his work. I still don't. I had to watch this in chunks due to my Friday, so this was almost my Beach-day flick.

  7. On Free Days I usually like to do a deep dive into exploitation cinema, like 1970s drive-in movies. With all of the days connected to Roger Corman this month, however, I have had a chance to watch those kind of films already. For something a little different, I went with some classier films today that are still in the spirit of Junesploitation.

    THE BEAUTIFUL BLONDE FROM BASHFUL BEND (1949, dir. Preston Sturges)

    A western comedy from the 1940s about a violently jealous saloon girl, played by Betty Grable, is certainly a change of pace. After trying to shoot her cad boyfriend and the woman he is with, Grable goes on the run and assumes the identity of a deceased school teacher. The film veers into full-blown parody by the conclusion. There is no doubt BBFBB is a flawed film, feeling like a bunch of skits thrown together, but the zaniness is very much in line with the parodies of the past few decades. Preston Sturges, one of the great comedy directors of the 1940s, would see his film career end with the failure of this.

    THE 10th VICTIM (1965, dir. Elio Petri)

    Sometime in the future, The Big Hunt, a controlled human hunt for the benefit of society, is all the rage. Two of its participants are the attractive pair of Marcello Mastriani and Ursula Andress. When the two are assigned to kill each other, will it be death or love? The 10th Victim is an utterly 1960s film: the clothing, the décor, and the music. Some of the sequences are a bit Felliniesque. The constant veering between a serious treatment of the story and a camp approach works well with the overall satirical nature of the film. The film, however, never forgets that it is all about the cat-and-mouse game of the hunt. It manages to entertain while making you think.

  8. My second crazy, supernatural anime of the month:
    Vampire Hunter D (1985).

  9. Ghost in the Machine (1993, dir. Rachel Talalay)

    This movie is d.u.m.b. DUMB. Gloriously, Magnificently Dumb! Karen Allen accidentally leaves her address book in a store where the active serial killer: "The Address Book Killer" works. Oh no! But that's not even the dumb part. The Address Book Killer dies and somehow his soul is able to control computers and electricity and sometimes mechanical devices(?) to do his evil bidding.

    There is a scene in this movie where the ghost of the killer manipulates circuit breakers to somehow turn on a TV and play an instructional video that makes dogs want to swim. It works, the family dog watches the video then goes and drowns himself in the swimming pool. This was released in theaters in 1993!

    I won't spoil the rest, it has to be seen to be believed. If you like the energy of the end VR scene in Disclosure stop what you're doing and watch this movie immediately. 10/10 no notes.

  10. GETTING IT ON (1983)
    A teenage peeping Tom tries to stay out of trouble after he videotapes his peepings. That might sound filthy, but this is a relatively squeaky-clean movie. The plot’s really about the boy getting up the nerve to ask out his crush. Jokes and sexiness are few, while teen melodrama is plentiful. I guess this is fine if you want ‘80s nostalgia, but there are better alternatives.

    BRINK (1998)
    A “soul skater” who only skates for the joy of it must now join a corporate-sponsored skate team to help his family’s finances. But the movie’s more concerned with cool inline skating stunts than criticisms of capitalism. The humor is cornball, and the sloppy rock score is obnoxious, but that’s the type of movie this is. Hey, whatever happened to actor Erik Von Detten? Assuming there wasn’t some scandal, I’d say he’s due for a comeback.

    Bonus Universal Monster-sploitation: THE MUMMY’S TOMB (1942)
    Kharis the mummy leaves Egypt to instead menace small town USA. This sequel is a real low-budget cheapie, but our boy Kharis gets lots of screentime, killing off townsfolks one-by-one like it’s a slasher movie.

    1. As a 90s TV kid, I can't really give an objective opinion of Brink, but I'll stand by its prioritization of cool inline skating stunts over criticisms of capitalism (especially during Junesploitation)!

  11. Hard Cash (2002)

    I really should've liked this. It opens with Sara Downing pretending to be pregnant so she can hide Verne Troyer under her dress. That's in the first three minutes and it's never that campy again. The poster implies equal billing between Christian Slater and Val Kilmer as an ex-con and the FBI agent after him, but it's really Slater's movie and the ratio is way too lopsided for my liking. If you'd like a largely serious Christian Slater dirty money DTV flick, you'd like this. I just didn't.

  12. A Bucket of Blood (1959, dir. Roger Corman).

    I was a little worried about spending 90 minutes with a bunch of Beatniks (who were everything I expected them to be), but this movie was insanity charming. Hopefully I can squeeze in one more Corman produced movie this month.

    First-time watch. AGFA/Something Weird Blu. 6/10.
    This film's got it all: scenes, dialogue, a jazzy score, even a message:
    “I’ve been a nudist for many years now. I really believe it has made a better & more tolerant person out of me. Certainly a healthier & happier one.”
    Well, maybe not ALL... there's a distinct lack of oddball, Wishmanian cutaways.

  14. IT CONQUERED THE WORLD (1956) dir. Roger Corman

    There is a lot to recommend for this odd Invasions of the Body Snatchers clone. But it’s all worth your time and effort to see baby Lee Van Cleef battle the alien at the end of the movie.

  15. C.I.A. CODE NAME: ALEXA (1992)
    First-time watch. Freevee. 6/10.
    P.M Entertainment offers an action-flavored canned ham featuring C.I.A. guy Lorenzo Lamas trying to convince terrorist Alex Cord's girlfriend, Kathleen Kinmont, to betray Cord.
    Is there a dangerous microchip? Yes.
    Does O.J. Simpson play a cop named Murphy? That's in the movie.
    Nudeless shower scene? Got you covered.
    Sex scene we've been hoping for? I'm not telling.
    Agents & cops playing by the rules? Not a chance.
    Fun, easy, action fair with slicked-back hair, a ball-busting boss, an accent for Cord & lots of smoked-out sets.
    I really wish Kathleen Kinmont & Cynthia Rothrock had played sisters. I suppose it's not too late...

  16. It Lives Again (1978)

    Sometimes, you just need to watch a Larry Cohen film. This one had some choppy editing and lapses in logic, but I've seen enough Italian flicks to overcome these. What struck me most about this were the excellent performances (Kathleen Lloyd stood out in particular as the beleaguered mother) which really made this an emotional, human story with unhuman factors. Also loved Rick Baker's babies and the Bernard Hermann soundtrack.

  17. Face/Off (1997)

    Between viewings of Face/Off, I always forget just how insane it is. It feels like John Woo bet the writers they couldn't come up with a script ludicrous enough to stop him from making an entertaining movie, and both sides of the bet cashed. The plot is so wacky that even its own characters take notice and comment on its implausibility on multiple occasions.

  18. Old (2021) Beach Day!

    The only thing I hate more than the beach is rapid, uncontrollable aging.

  19. C.I.A. II: TARGET ALEXA (1993)
    First-time watch. Echo Bridge DVD. 6/10.
    “Two desert scorpions, locked in a tango…”
    Like any good sequel, TARGET ALEXA brings more villains, more action & cheesier music. Lorenzo Lamas joins the ranks of Charles Laughton, Dan Akroyd, Ryan Gosling, Larry Hagman, et al, by directing himself & his then-wife, Kathleen Kinmont, in this corned-beef-on-ham sandwich. She's gone rogue but there's still a vital microchip in the wind. John Savage is one of many terrorists trying to get ahold of the chip & he's the father of Kinmont's child! Savage has a new henchwoman: American Gladiator Lori Fetrick! Who can be trusted in this topsy-turvy world? Can Lamas direct himself to stop grinning? Is John Savage doing a bit, "acting" or taking direction from Lamas? No matter which devious nation gets the "EndGame" guidance system, Kinmont & Lamas divorced the year this came out.

  20. Scifi-sploitation

    Contact (1997): i always liked this movie, I'm a fan of pseudo-real sci-fi. Stories that happen in the real world and sound logic. The religious part is... flawed... but I manage to get over it every time just because I find the rest so good, not counting the stellar cast. And the punchline is so simple, yet always gets me.

  21. Shining-sploitation

    Doctor Sleep (2019): i watched the Theatrical Cut because it's the only version available in 4k on blu-ray. Why do they keep doing that, it's so annoying. Anyway, the movie is pretty good. There was no way it would ever be as good as The Shining, but the director did a good job to make a sequel that's worth the watch and expand the world in an interesting way. I hear the Director's Cut is better, I'm sure I'll get to it at some point

  22. The Haunting (1999) 90s Horror!

    Why did anyone agree to this?

  23. The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
    More AIP/Corman/Price goodness!
    I can still remember the first time I saw this at the Arlington Heights Memorial library one Sunday afternoon when I was ten. It scared the *^%#¥! out of me. Thanks, Roger. Thanks, Vincent.

  24. Monkey Man (2024)
    Holy shit. The most I've been surprised by how much I enjoyed a movie since last year's Dungeons and Dragons. I went into this wary about buying Patel as an action lead and now cannot fathom how empty my life will be if there aren't sequels. The John Wick comparisons are obvious but it really does enough to build it's own lore/world to feel unique.


    Buncha sick little freaks in this movie.