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Samoan Bob

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See Naples..., 23 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

NAPLES NEVER DIES follows the intersecting stories of a Chet Baker-like Jazz musician named B. Buster Pie (who, despite his all-American moniker, is a self-hating pharmaceutical addict), a half-black, half-gay drug lord named Cornell Parker (whose love of mindless violence is only matched by his love of abnormal, globular-bottomed sex), and an avenging angel named Gus Benedict (returning from the original Naples film, but with his face covered by a ski mask after the original film's star died and Stielstra opted to play the role himself).

Along the way, we meet a discount buffet-table's worth of unique characters, locations, events, cinematic styles and film quality, oftentimes within one scene. I'm not sure if the use of divergent film stocks was an homage to Oliver Stone or the result of the general incompetence of Stielstra's film crew, but it contributes to the film's dangerous, uneasy world where one minute you might be sitting down peacefully at a self-help meeting, and the next minute you might be in a one-chip video, getting a clip's worth of bullets shot into your lungs and pelvis.

Unfortunately, many of the characters don't get a chance to fully resonate. This is not to say that B. Buster Pie and Cornell Parker are lesser creations. Far from it. But it's somewhat difficult to follow Pie's arc of addiction and misogyny, or to fully understand Parker's conflicted identity issues demonstrated in his bisexual predilection--or his decision to undergo race re-assignment surgery. Compounding the issue are some questionable uses of screen-time, in Pie's case, an initially powerful but eventually overlong, unbroken master shot of him begging for a hit of paint, and in Parker's case, a couple of lengthy scenes involving his almost incapacitated mother stumbling around while the phone rings. The film overcomes this handicap with two powerfully shot and acted demises for each character. I won't spoil them here, but Stielstra has the ability to draw blood from a stone and tears from an audience for two despicable louts whose deaths they would cheer in any other film. Gus Benedict, as the film's surrogate protagonist, is reduced to a grim specter of death, not unlike The Shape in the original "Halloween".

Of course, the film has plenty of other fascinating characters, including the leader of a white supremacist group known as Anal Pride, a corrupt FBI agent, a doomed library worker dressed as a clown, a corrupt lawyer brilliantly played by deviant filmmaker and registered sex offender Michael Fredianelli, and Peanut, a Chicano, bicycle shorts-wearing cowboy whose very presence causes the film's editing to loop itself into a miasma of smash-zooms. This, just so the movie can make sure it's actually seeing what it thinks it's seeing.

Stielstra's film also boasts a good chunk of archival footage of public domain commercials, newscasts, children's cartoons, and scatological nature footage that seems to appear at random intervals throughout. Whether these were spliced into this negative on accident is still undetermined, but they contribute to the film's howling disenfranchisement with modern American culture.

As a whole, NAPLES NEVER DIES seems less an homage to European crime films (as the title would suggest), and more a madman's fever dream about the illicit underbelly of Arizona. Even in this patchwork quilt of a cut, NAPLES NEVER DIES is a film drunk on the possibilities of cinema. Literally. It wakes up and and messes itself on the couch of standard narrative storytelling.

In other words, it's a wake-up call from the drunk tank of motion pictures. Will you accept the charges? A million stars.

Apocrypha (2011)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
I don't like doing summaries, 14 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Despite the lukewarm response from people adverse to vampire films, I found this glass cleaner filtered flick one of Fredianelli's more solid efforts, with a few big problems that probably could have been fixed with another pass at the script. An editor for the San Francisco Chronicle suddenly finds himself getting a boner over the idea of sucking blood (a hemosexual, if you will) and we follow his descent into savagery as he fights against giving into his most base desires. Meanwhile, a gal with amnesia wakes up in a park somewhere with the same thirst. For some strange reason, a guy lets her live with him, supports her and even registers her for classes, and yet he never tries to get himself a piece of that amnesiac ass. Was he a gay? And if so, don't you think including two mythological beasts in one film is a little cluttered? Eventually the two hemogoblins meet up and all is revealed with some clunky expository flashbacks, along with a sudden, last minute explanation on how to stop the vampire curse. Along with the roommate's murky motivations and the tacked-on resolution, the film's biggest head scratcher is the editor's sudden turn from a conflicted man trying to suppress an insatiable thirst for blood to an amoral killer and devourer of chubby girls. A more nuanced slide into evil would've been more interesting, and some guilt on his part would've gone a long way too. Overall, the film has a good, professional look and some suspenseful kills, but more gore, nudity and character motivation were needed to truly overcome the convenient plot contrivances.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Visceral execution overpowers big narrative kinks., 7 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Minstrel Killer: Overall, this might be Fredianelli's best film. Technically, it definitely is. The pacing is much more brisk than the usual Wild Dogs offering, the cinematography successfully captures the feeling of the period, and the high concept premise is great, a complete distillation of the themes and obsessions of the entire Wild Dogs catalog. The setting also took a lot of balls, and while overall it gives the film a coherent feeling that the narrative lacks (more on that later) the execution ranges from brilliant (the cannibal sequence, the main character's home interior) to shoddy (I'm not going to pick out things like modern cars and microwaves *okay, I just did* but something about a 1970s hillbilly with a Celtic cross tattoo just don't seem right). The film really is a visual treat, the image of the Minstrel Killer is an iconic one, the deaths are *ahem* well executed (the hangings were particularly impressive, although the movie could have used more gore), the hillbilly cannibal sculptures gorgeous. It's also an aural treat. The sound mix is one of Wild Dog's best, with its overall lack of stock effects (like the infamous potato sack sounds of yesteryear) and the score by Aaron Stielstra which elevates the material so much it would be unthinkable as a film without it (it's like John Carpenter with some banjos).

However, I have two big problems with the film, and if it hadn't been so much fun overall they would likely sink the whole ship. Number 1: Tex, our main character. He's boring. A typically over-the-top Fredianelli beacon of hate, he's so much of a racist from the beginning that the revelations that come about at the end aren't shocking or interesting. When he bellows "I am not a racist!" in his final scene with his wife the audience I saw the film with couldn't help but laugh in a way I don't think was intended (especially the black people in the theater). A better bet, in my mind, would have been to start the character as someone who actually is repressing his racism so that when it blows up at the end it retains some shock and social relevance. Why watch a racist continue to be racist? There's no arc. This could have been the Straw Dogs for racists - a man convinces everyone he's not bigoted, including himself, but in the end his repression of it blows up in everyone's faces. I think that might have been the intention, but the character had too much of the Fredianelli anti-socialism to make it work. Number 2: The narrative. It needed a lot of ironing. The cannibal subplot is somewhat unnecessary but easily the highlight of the film (especially that bald fellow with the gout ridden leg) but other digressions don't add anything at all. The pig farm questioning was pointless (although I understand the temptation to keep the pig f-cking in the film), the redneck characters at the beginning were nigh unwatchable (I'm going to have to echo Stielstra's John Ford comparison. Dude, you have no place to talk about that one-eyed curmudgeon. I'm surprised the rednecks didn't break out in a round of Shall We Gather at the River before having a hilariously bloodless punch-up), and some of the exposition is repeated at greatly inappropriate times (I couldn't help but chuckle when our hero finds himself trapped in a house with the Minstrel Killer's next intended victim and he asks her if anyone would want to hurt her family and after a few seconds she goes into a long speech about how her family used to torture slaves…all while the killer is stalking them! Not only did it grind the film to a halt, all of the information was given in the previous scene!). I've also got to call out the dialogue. Sometimes it's great, other times repetitious and grating (almost everyone talks the same, I can't count how many different characters were calling each other goat cocks, hog cocks, dog cocks, cock cocks etc.) The film redeems itself nicely with the its whip-cracking climax and freeze frame ending, a great improvement on the original ending I read in an early draft of the script (which was shocking but unearned) and like I said, I can't fault the film on pure entertainment value, it just needed its kinks worked out to get its themes across, without any expense to the storyline. But as exploitation it works in spades and that's what I'm rating it on. 8.5 out of 10

24 out of 37 people found the following review useful:
A Rhyming Review, 31 May 2004

There was a film that I saw

Just the other day

And I sat there in awe

As it blew me away.

It was made by John Woo

Who is now a sell out

His fans he does screw

As the cash they shell out.

So get a six-pack

Full of cold, frosty beers

And then sit back

For Heroes Shed No Tears

Watch with devotion

This huge action feast

With enough blood to fill an ocean

To say the frickin' least

Our heroes in this tale

Are a group of Mercs

Who blast folks all to hell

'Specially drug lord jerks

There's fighting, there's stabbing

There's nuking, there's looting

There's biting, there's grabbing

There's puking, there's shooting

Punches are thrown

Black soldiers are eaten

Eyeballs are sewn

Children are beaten

A fight goes on

With nails and a tire

Our hero loses his son

Almost in a fire

There's tons of dying

But where the film falters

Is all the damn crying

Like it was Barbara Walters

When our hero does cry

It gets really lame

For the movie does lie

With its very own name

But please do not fret

It does little harm

And I'll make you a bet

About the scene with the arm

If you do not jump

When the dude gets the spears

Shoved straight up his rump

You've drunk too much beers

And if you don't find it nice

When the hut does explode

After the role of a dice

Then you're a humorless toad

So get off your fat ass

And get the hell out of here

Cuz you'll have a damn blast

With Heroes Shed No Tears

8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Not enough nudity or violence., 18 October 2003

The video box called this crapsterpiece "a stark naked picture that leaves its guts hanging out!" and went on to say "The Scavengers were rotten to the core - thoroughly disgusting and had a serious sexual'll probably love them." Well, the nudity is so incompetently filmed that most of the time it's nigh impossible to fully gather what's going on. Unfortunate, since most of the women are absolutely gorgeous with heaving (natural) breasts worthy of Russ Meyer (well one of them is the incomparable Uschi Digard). The action scenes are OK, but there's not enough of them. The editor on the film was Paul Hunt which makes the shootouts that much more of a disappointment. And no, the slow motion in this film isn't fit to lick the cow plop off of Sam Peckinpah's boots. The plot is somewhat involving, with some interesting touches and character motivations, but the film doesn't have enough talent behind it to be good art, and doesn't have enough sleaze to be good exploitation.

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Silent bad-assery., 29 March 2003

Anyone that thinks that Westerns didn't get tough and gritty until the 50s needs to see this excellent silent film starring William S. Hart (who also wrote the screenplay I believe). Hart plays an outlaw that goes gunning for revenge against the man who betrayed him, all the while trying to dodge local authorities. He comes across a single mother and her young son and wrestles with his conscience...something he thought he suppressed a long time ago. The plot is a direct precursor to the similarly-themed 'Shane' and 'Will Penny' and Hart is the forefather of the silent hard-ass (Clint Eastwood owes a lot to him). Beyond its historical value, this film is recommended just for being so damn good.

16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Elvis's best film., 29 March 2003

Elvis stars as a half-Indian in this exciting Don Siegel-helmed Western with a ton of action and a meanstreak. Elvis's character is surprisingly tough and hard-assed, plus the songs are kept to a minimum (he sings the title song and does a little hoe-down at the beginning...that's it). Anyway, Indians are massacring farmers in an attempt to take back their land, and Elvis is torn between the Indians and the racist white folk. Elvis gives a great, understated performance...he seems aware that this is a Siegel film, not an Elvis film. All in all it's the King's best foray into filmland.

0 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Corbucci shoots...and misses., 29 March 2003

Pre-'Django' Spaghetti Western from Sergio Corbucci has some good action scenes but the dull characters and bad pacing sink it. A group of Confederates massacre some Northern soldiers and steal some moola in order to restart the Confederacy or some such nonsense. Of course, one of the guys doesn't feel right about it and creates conflict within the group. Not completely devoid of interest, but there's a black hole at the center.

Contraband (1980)
9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Intestines and Testi, 29 March 2003

Lucio Fulci's ultraviolent crime film is an enjoyable and unintentionally hilarious action flick with the requisite amount of gore one expects from a Fulci film. Fabio Testi (tee-hee!) plays a cigarette smuggler who gets entangled in a bunch of gang-land shootings. Melting corpses, burning skin, shot-open necks, repeatedly shot paper mache heads, shotgun blasted intestines (that seem to be made out of foam) ensue. In addition to that, there's a decent shootout or punch-up here and there. The highlight is some nerdy guy getting massive breasts shoved in his face. Well, at least for me.

11 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
He was the boss., 29 March 2003

Fred Williamson and D'urville Martin are two black bounty hunters that stumble into a town that is sorely in need of a sheriff. So what do they do? Why make themselves the sheriff and deputy of course. Now we know the white folk won't take a liking to that, especially the local bandit (played by William Smith) and his gang a' crackers. Not particularly distinguished from the blaxploitation Western sub-sub genre and not nearly as wild as the name suggests, 'Boss N!gger' is still good fun with a lot of humor (supplied mostly by Martin) and well-directed action scenes.

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