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592 reviews in total 
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So-so "man on the run" thriller, 12 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Not to be confused with the PM Entertainment SUNSET STRIP with Jeff Conaway, this is an action-mystery only recommended if you want to see the titular location along with '80s California captured on film. Photographer Mark Jefferson (Tom Eplin) gets wrapped up in a mystery when his buddy who owns a club asks him to photograph an extortion. Sure enough, Mark is knocked out, the guy is killed and Mark left at the scene with the murder weapon. Of course, the police don't believe him so he is on the run trying to figure out who set him up and why. And, naturally, he is rekindling his romance with the club singer, Carol Wyatt (Cheri Cameron Newell). Writer-director William Webb does pretty much everything by the numbers here, so you won't be surprised by anything. As I mentioned earlier, it is interesting to see Sunset boulevard captured in all its 80s glory (look for uncredited Shabba Doo from BREAKIN' in an early scene) and there are some real vintage spots like when a chase extends into an L.A. Gear shop. The action highlight is probably a motorcycle and car chase through a parking garage. Webb would go on to make several more films, including the comedy DIRTY LAUNDRY (1987) and THE BANKER (1989) with Robert Forster and, full circle here, Jeff Conaway.

Interesting if you like checking out '80s regional cinema, 9 December 2013

Female TV journalist Zac McKay (Terry Reeves-Wolf) gets wrapped up in a drug running/murder investigation that may or may not involve her missing husband. On the case is Lt. Cochran (Chris Ginnaven), a young cop who initially butts heads with McKay over her reporting. Gee, I wonder if they will get along? This is a regional mystery from Arkansas that is professionally acceptable, but lacks a bit of punch in the script. The big reveal at the end is weird and really has no emotional impact. Lead Reeves-Wolf was one and done with this film, but she is fine in the role and it is interesting to hear someone with a real Arkansas accent in a lead. Her two children play her two children in the film. Perhaps the most "notable" person in the film is Dominique St. Croix, a former Penthouse pet who, naturally, supplies the film's nudity. The team behind this re- teamed a couple years later for the seemingly unreleased TOO SCARED TO LAUGH (1989).

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Excellent examination of the role of police, 22 November 2013

Inspector Marceau Leonetti (Lino Ventura) gets demoted after arresting a young kid whose father has connections. He is assigned to a small town where the biggest crime is helping a kid locate his stolen pigeons and, later, working alongside newbie Jeanne Dumas (Marlène Jobert) to bust perverts in movie theaters. Their careers take an upswing when, unbeknown to Leonetti, his former boss assigns him the futile task of finding a witness in 8 days before a major murder trial. What his superiors didn't count on was Leonetti's tenacity in finding this uncooperative witness and the fact that the accused also has some men out with the same task. This is the third film from director José Giovanni (writer of THE SICILIAN CLAN) and it proves to be a pretty grim affair. There is a lot of commentary on the rat (or should I say ant) race as Leonetti is just a cog in the wheel of justice (at one point Jeanne event comments on his unending searching, asking if he is a robot). Audiences will probably feel the most connection with Jobert's character as she is tackling the assignment with a fresh belief in "the system." Ventura is awesome in the lead role of the seen-it-all vet and he has a great fight scene toward the end. You'll probably see the end coming, but it still has quite an impact thanks to a matter-of-fact presentation by Giovanni.

Biting Hollywood satire that I wish was more focused, 22 November 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Struggling writer-director Cliff Munroe (Clete Keith, who also wrote the script) can't seem to get any Hollywood suit interested in his film noir script. This changes when his agent sets him up to meet cement businessman "Papa" Rotella, who immediately bankrolls the thing. Munroe isn't too bright to realize the true meaning of "cement businessman" and soon finds that "Papa" wants his idiot son Howard (Joseph Scott), who considers Burt Reynolds the greatest living actor, to play the film's lead. Things get worse when "Papa" ends up dead at the bottom of his pool and some "associates" come looking for the money. Resembling the Tinseltown mockery THE BIG PICTURE (1989) from the same year, this is a satire of Hollywood that is a little too innocuous to be effective. Director Harrison Ellenshaw is best known for his matte work in films like STAR WARS (1977) and THE BLACK HOLE (1979), so it is surprising at how little visual flair he adds (there are some nice, surreal dream sequences though). He also struggles in how to tell the story as it is sometimes shown as a documentary and then as a narrative film. There is a funny scene where Munroe is forced to sit though an advertising agency telling him what audiences want (folks in the Bible belt love cars, kids in LA love exploding heads, everyone likes oatmeal - so your movie should be about people whose heads explode due to alien-infected oatmeal and then they drive in crash derbies headless).

"I was trying to scare your fat ass off the couch to get a job.", 22 November 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Co-eds are being killed by some guy (the police alternately refer to him as the "Black Angel" or "Co-ed Strangler," to give you a sense of how fractured this movie is) in a ski mask and it is up to Det. Rydell King (William J. Kulzer) to find the killer. His investigation methods leave something to be desired as he just suspects anyone who knows the victims. Main girl Judy (Elizabeth Trosper) not only has to deal with her friends being offed, but also an overly protective brother and creepy phone calls. Killings happen randomly as characters are just introduced and offed before we finally find out who the killer is (director Howard Heard accidentally spoils it halfway through as he films the killer's distinct profile in shadow while he is on the phone). This slasher was started in 1981 but didn't get released until 1986. That is probably because of co-star Kevin Costner as a boyfriend/suspect. If you want a slasher devoid of blood and thrills, this is for you. I will admit that I did get a good laugh out of one scene where a girl in a gorilla mask scares her roommate. When asked why she did it, the girl replies, "I was trying to scare your fat ass off the couch to get a job." If only my parents had tried that on me.

D'Amato's swan song to the horror genre, 22 November 2013

Georgia (Cinzia Monreale) is a woman with psychic abilities who is always having premonitions of her son being beheaded. One day she is attacked at home by some kids who belong to a local biker gang and is saved by Ric (Donald O'Brien), a former boxer turned handyman. When the corrupt local authorities place the crime on Ric, he hangs himself in his cell. That is okay because Georgia, who is now in a coma, somehow reanimates his dead body and uses him as an instrument for revenge.

By the time the '90s had rolled around, the Italian exploitation industry was petering out. Nowhere was this more apparent than in this Joe D'Amato horror effort that is better suited by its original, more literal title (RITORNO DALLA MORTE meaning RETURN FROM DEATH). Folks hoping for an exciting variation on the Mary Shelley legend will be sadly disappointed in this one as the "monster" doesn't appear until an hour in and this is more of a variation of PATRICK (1978) than a mad scientist. This is strictly by the numbers for D'Amato, who already seemed to have his foot out the door to return to the much more lucrative porn business (he would release one more horror film, THE CRAWLERS (1993), but that was shot before this). I will say the look of O'Brien, who apparently had a stroke before filming this, is pretty good with his skull held on by big clamps and there are some goofy gore effects in the last half hour. The biggest kick I got from it was D'Amato - who famously had Americans watching the Super Bowl in tuxedos in MONSTER HUNTER (1981) - showing he still has no clue about other cultures by having a group of neo-Nazi bad guys having a costume party.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Slasher the shoulda, coulda, woulda been better, 22 November 2013

Not to be confused with MOONSTRUCK (1988), I was yelling "Snap out of it" and slapping myself in the face by the time this regional horror flick was done. An old man keeps his mentally unstable son Bernie (Blake Gibbons) locked up in a trailer, only unleashing him when pop wants some tourists killed for new appliances. Unfortunately, hauling the newly acquired microwave causes ol' dad to die of a heart attack and Bernie is on his own. Naturally, he heads home and begins offing winter camp counselors in training that are near his abode. You won't get much from this Nevada lensed slasher from writer-director Michael O'Rourke until the last half hour, where it turns surprisingly bloody as Bernie chops everyone with an ax. There is a pretty cool looking image of Bernie chained up in a straight jacket with a hood on, but that gets abandoned early on when he removes it and dresses in a cowboy hat (making him look like Powers Boothe for some odd reason). Surprisingly, Gibbons survived this mess and went on to be a featured played on GENERAL HOSPITAL. Helmer O'Rourke wasn't as lucky, disappearing from directing after this one (although he did script the truly bizarre HELLGATE [1990] the next year).

Curse of Chucky (2013) (V)
A surprising (and welcome) return to scary Chucky territory, 22 November 2013

Nearly a decade after SEED OF CHUCKY (2004) comes this new sequel that went direct-to-video. Paraplegic Nica (Fiona Dourif, daughter of Brad) and her mother Sarah (Chantal Quesnel) receive a mysterious package in the mail containing a Good Guy doll. That night, Sarah is found dead from a supposed suicide. Nica's sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti) and her family arrive for the funeral, but Barb also has ulterior motives as she wants to sell the house and put Nica in an assisted living home. Of course, pint sized doll Chucky aka Charles Lee Ray (as always, voiced by Brad Dourif) has his own plan.

You have to give Universal some credit for not going a remake and you might actually be surprised at how well done this 6th entry in the franchise is. Director Don Mancini - who has scripted the series since part 1 and directed the overly comical SEED - returns to the serious tone of the original. This starts as just another "family terrorized by Chucky" entry but, believe it or not, Mancini finds a way to tie the characters from this one with the original film. Fans of the other films will definitely be pleased (make sure to stick around for an extra scene past the credits). The FX are pretty good and they manage to seamlessly blend the animatronic and practical work. The unrated cut is also surprisingly gory.

Staunton Hill (2009) (V)
Great locations, horrible everything else, 4 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Cameron Romero, son of George, directs this lazy horror tale about - sigh - a crazy redneck family. Set during the fall of 1969, the film focuses on 5 kids heading through Virginia trying to make it up to the rallies in D.C. They encounter a local racist mechanic (Cooper Huckabee) before hitching a ride with a guy named Quentin. When his truck breaks down, they opt to spend the night in a barn they find. The bad news is the property belongs to a redneck family (2 old ladies, 1 retarded son) whose family business is harvesting organs. This was Romero's second feature (his debut THE SCREENING still remains unreleased) and anyone hoping for a Brandon Cronenberg type "apple didn't fall far from the tree" will be disappointed. This is pretty lazy stuff, offering none of the social commentary folks have come to expect from his father (the Vietnam war setting seems to have been only done to keep them away from cell phones). Even worse is how ordinary the script by David Rountree is, with a plot stolen from the earlier BLOOD SALVAGE (1990) while Romero thinking he can visually do THE Texas CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). He stumbles even when unfolding the story. For example, his reveal of a big twist is completely botched, exposing viewers to a character's duplicitous nature way too early. This lazy setup is doubly disappointing because the film actually looks nice and the location in rural Pennsylvania is absolutely gorgeous. I knew I was in trouble 15 minutes in when Romero has one of his characters ask, "Have you ever seen NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD?" C'mon, son (literally).

Effectively creepy without being graphic, 1 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Reporter Ruth (Julia Foster) is assigned to write up a new weight loss program started by a medical institute. While there, she takes a fancy to Ben (Warren Clarke) but it is short lived after he dies in a car accident. While at the funeral, she is approached by young mortician Andrew (Gerard Kelly), who tells her something strange is going on between the institute and the funeral home he works with. This is a fun little episode, but chances are you'll figure it out well before the reveal (the episode title mixed with some plot points practically give it away). There is solid work from the entire cast and director Peter Sasdy manages to offer some gruesome imagery without being overly graphic.

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