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Alien degli abissi (1989)
Yesterday's leftovers reheated into a delicious genre casserole!
Oh, how I loved this movie. It is filled to bursting with everything you could want from Margheritti, and then some! Lots of exploding miniatures, plenty of running through the jungle, and a heroine who keeps finding ways to lose her pants. The real charm of the movie is trying to count the myriad other films it is trying to rip off. Obvious nods to ALIENS abound, (flamethrowers,a battle with a towering monster and a big yellow vehicle), with plenty of allusions to the first ALIEN thrown in for good measure (building the weapons, the chamber filled with hanging chains). Amusingly the first hour seems to be a curious mishmash of either THE CHINA SYNDROME or SILKWOOD with, of all things, ROMANCING THE STONE!!!! It is all daffily endearing.
Under the Hood (2009)
A lost opportunity
Saw this last night and it was a chore to get through. It would make a mildly diverting extra feature on a WATCHMEN DVD but as a companion piece to "Tales of the Black Freighter," and considered on its own terms, it feels forced and cheap. And more than anything, overt and obvious. Performances are uneven, with Matt Frewer being the most evocative and Steven McHattie trying hard but coming off bland. Jeffery Dean Morgan has a whopping single line that is silly and on the nose, like much of the piece. Almost everyone employs the "stare pensively at hands to convey being lost in deep thought" style of unrehearsed acting.
Most of the production seems grabbed between takes on set during principal photography. Compositions are tight and cramped so as not to reveal set edges and lack of extras, and costumes are the same as seen in the film. Scripting is open with room to improvise, but goes nowhere beyond the familiar, and tends to bludgeon subtle points in the book and film (Hollis had a crush on Sally, the Comedian was a rapist, etc). "Archive photos" look poorly photoshopped and "archive footage" fakely aged with scratches and altered frame rates. Nice to see the Silhouette though :) Seemingly told from the POV of the mid-80s, a "re-presentation" of a classic news show from the 70s, other obvious opportunities to present plot threads lost from the film are glaringly absent. Big Figure gets some much-needed extra screen time, as does Lawrence Shexnayder, but their character moments are trite ("I'm a respectable businessman " BF says from his cell, while Larry declares, "Sally was my biggest earner.") And Hooded Justice, a prominent subject of the comic's UNDER THE HOOD, gets short shrift and no development further than what was touched on in the movie. Lots of coverage of the Minutemen, but no mention of, or elaboration on their fates, something the film had no time for, so why not here instead? Mention of their HUAC troubles was a welcome addition though.
Bernard the newsvendor finally gets some lines, but other minor characters suffer from goofy, awkward and obvious improvised dialogue, such as Rorschach's psychiatrist dreaming of the day he "gets to analyze one of these super heroes." Gee, do you think that will ever happen? Promisingly, early on we go into a fake commercial break advertising NOSTALGIA perfume, which seems to be a fan-made contest winning entry? (I recall seeing a few dozen fake Veidt TV ads on Youtube months ago.) Sadly it looks like it was shot last week and is hardly the sort of cheap production a man of Veidt's means would produce. Other commercial breaks follow throughout, but are, bafflingly, legitimate TV spots for actual 80s products. A Seiko digital chronograph ad is a lot of fun showing the "future of watches," but a toilet bowl cleanser? Why? Seems like they could have sprung for some fake Veidt action figure spots or at least a Gunga Diner lunch special promo.
Ultimately, an opportunity lost. Instead of further developing the world of WATCHMEN, like the original UNDER THE HOOD did, this short instead ends up treading familiar water and winds up as a result feeling repetitive, not complementary, to people familiar with the WATCHMEN film.
Achingly funny experience on DVD!
I saw this as a part of THE RON VAN CLIEF/CLEEF COLLECTION, which also has WAY OF THE BLACK DRAGON included. DEATH OF BRUCE LEE is absolutely hysterical in terms of its cruddy presentation. The print used on the DVD seems to be close to the definition of "worst imaginable." As wrecked as possible while still telling some semblance of story and having images accompanied by sound --- barely. It is filthy, scratched, faded, littered with brutal jumpcuts, and at some point was transferred over to video, which is what was used for this DVD. You can see tape damage rolling in some scenes! On top of all of this is the spastic, nauseating panning & scanning throughout. The operator was REALLY INTO IT and whips his lens all over the original frame, often LOSING TRACK of characters, or unsure of where to focus, especially during conversations when a character unexpectedly begins speaking and the lens bangs over to frame right only to jar suddenly back left to capture the response (often too late). The panner also exhibits moments of squeamishness and will often pan AWAY from a moment of violence on screen! The print's audio track was also at some point clumsily edited to exclude all spoken references to "Bruce Lee," resulting in jarring jumps in dialogue, bad grammar, and general plot confusion. All the characters seem to be investigating the death of "Bruce," or "Him." It is almost impossible to tell if the film was well-made to begin with. I somehow doubt it, if the corny cackling villains and absurd zooms in-and-out are any indication. But the cast, especially the 2 male leads, are magnetic and charming, and super cool. This is the first "Ron Van Clief" (spelled "Cliff" in the credits and "Cleef" on the box art!) film I've ever seen, and it makes me wonder why he is not more famous; he's a cool dude who looks like he could break me in half. He's fast and HUGE and dresses like a pimp crossed with Hunter Thompson. His fight scenes and honestly his mere presence light up the screen and demand attention. His final confrontation with the bad guy was truly remarkable and savage. The fact that the film's merits can survive the ravages of abuse and technician interference noted above should be compelling evidence enough to give it a shot if this is the kind of thing you like.
The Soul of Nigger Charley (1973)
"Blax" DVD edition review
This is a review of the BLAX FILM DVD edition, as information on the title seems to be spare, and the film seems available in no other manner. Basically I'd say I did not get ripped off as I only paid about 3 or 4 dollars for the thing ... Plus I'd always had curiosity about a movie with such a lurid title.
Source material seems to be an aged film print, possibly 35mm. It is scratched, filthy, and faded throughout. Contrast almost nonexistent and the wrong lens is used for the "transfer." Box promises 2.35:1 aspect ration but what you get is closer to 1.85:1 and a slightly scrunched image. Focus problems persist throughout and an operator actually wrestles with it at one point and attempts to manually adjust it as the film plays (!!!). The print's raggedy nature adds to the appeal for this viewer but your results may vary. There is hiss and crackle on the soundtrack from beginning to end. Menu screen has a button for "trailers" and "feature" but both result in starting the film. No extras are present.
This sequel to "Legend of N. Charley" is a step in the right direction for whoever decided to make a franchise out of character with such a tasteless name. Charley finds his legend has spread and he is now a well-known folk hero that children worship and fawn over. Film is tonally imbalanced in a 1970's way that seems to straddle grim nihilism and do-gooder adventure simultaneously. Film seems firmly set in "PG" territory until a downer montage showing lots of characters' bloody deaths pops up in the third act. Fred Williamson tries to express emotions such as laughter and sadness as opposed to just 'looking bad and looking cool' and the results are debatable at best. Still, Fred is a fine movie presence and it is his fans that will want to see this movie despite the low quality of the DVD.
Buyers will want to be aware that the "Blax" DVD plays fine and has nice art applied to it but is probably as unprofessional a presentation as one could hope to find outside a NYC sidewalk vendor. Print is bottom-of-the-barrel AWFUL but if you are insatiably curious it gets the job done. However, I would still advise spending as little as possible.
The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972)
"Blax Films" DVD review of "Legend of N. Charley!"
As of this writing the only way I know of to see this title is thru the "Blax" DVD edition available at Amazon or on ebay. I finally took the plunge and got this disc and watched it last night. The news is not good. But if you, like me, wanted more information about the DVD, here you go.
The DVD is fullscreen. It is transferred from a videotape source, most likely 3/4" betamax. It seems likely the film was originally taped off-air as there seem to be "reception" problems such as a static-filled hiss on occasion, like one might hear when watching an antenna broadcast and a plane flies overhead. Also the image is unclear at times, "ghosting" is present, and there are pervasive video "dropouts" (white dots and lines) throughout. On occasion there is video "wrinkle" that is unique to 3/4" broadcast elements.
The film is edited for broadcast standards. Mild swear words are muted, so phrases come out like "you God-... son of a...," although there are pervasive uses of the "n-word" throughout. Some scenes seem to indicate clumsy editing for content ... Love scenes seem truncated, especially, and there is no blood to be seen on screen.
The film itself has low production values and is little more than a curiosity piece based on the inflammatory title. The cinematography is very soft-focused with tons of diffused lighting and the sound is too hot in interiors, which all lends the impression of a cheap movie made for TV. I was constantly reminded of "Roots" and I suspect the film might have been trying to capitalize on that series' popularity and challenging subject matter. Its nice to see Free Williamson in anything though, and fans will want to see the movie despite the shortcomings of this DVD.
DVD also includes 2 unrelated trailers, one for DOLEMITE and another for DR. BLACK AND MR. HYDE, both of which have been lifted from VHS trailer tapes made by "Something Weird Video," and they retain the SWV watermark in the corner.
I suspect that "Blax" is not necessarily a legitimate, up-and-up DVD label, and viewers should be aware that if a seller claims the film is "factory sealed," that carries very little real merit and the buyer should expect a viewable film but of little more than solid "bootleg" quality.
The Culpepper Cattle Co. (1972)
FINALLY on DVD! Another great "Nam Western"
My Mom HATED this movie in 1974 during a "Summer Youth Cinema" series sponsored by my elementary school ... For $2 we could go see whatever we wanted in the series on Saturdays during the Summer break, and since this was rated "PG," and a Western, we opted in. I was 6 years old. 90 minutes later she was fuming over all the gruesome bloodletting, but after viewing the DVD last night, I suspect she was none too pleased with the lack of any moral center, abundant profanity, absence of "heroes," and the generally gritty and unpleasant tone of the thing.
Needless to say I now love it! Its a wonderful time capsule of a time in America when our own ideals and previous successes were being tested in Vietnam, and pop culture, especially established genres, were reflective of this time. Together with John Wayne's THE COWBOYS, we see a previous location of American Honor and Success, The "Western," turned on its ear to show instead growing doubts about our own worth and integrity, and serious fears about the corruption of our youth. In CULPEPPER, we are shown an idealistic young man yearning to find a place in a traditionally (in terms of cinema at least) honorable profession of cowboying. When finally accepted into this world, he finds it completely at odds with his previous vision, and is confronted with ugly truth after ugly truth, and has to grow up fast. I'd suggest this is an allegory for the US Military experience of the Vietnam era, where John Wayne can recruit you, but Sam Peckinpah is your Sergeant. Big difference. Gone are the heroic ideals of the classic Western, the polished spurs and men of integrity, replaced with unwashed scoundrels who'd sooner fight amongst themselves than show charity or mercy to people in need.
The final shootout, while abrupt as noted previously, is a home run in terms of the Cynical Seventies, where our scruffy anti-heroes FINALLY decide to make a stand for a worthy cause, only to be cut down in a hail of bullets and left unceremoniously to rot in the sun by the very people they were fighting for. Is this an allegory for the indifference of the South Vietnamese towards US aid? Or perhaps it symbolizes the apathy of the US war machine towards young men fighting for a cause that is half-fueled by wishful thinking and imagination? Either way, it is a shocking and poignant end to a gritty, funny, and very realistic film, and regardless of your own conclusions about relevance, it remains a great, if underrated, Nam Era Western.
Ultimate Avengers (2006)
An unbiased, adult, comic-reader's review
The glowing praise heaped on this atrocity must be from paid Marvel shills, because this "film" is a DISASTER. At best it is "a missed opportunity" at making even a passable film, at worst it is just plain God-awful. And BORING. And really and truly lousy-looking. With terrible voice casting and writers who may very well never have read a Marvel comic in their life. DON'T BE FOOLED if you are on the fence or unsure of the level of quality involved. This is nothing more than a cheapjack attempt at selling DVDs to suckers who think THE ULTIMATES is the best thing out there. Well --- this is no ULTIMATES. Not even close. The producers can dance around questions relating to Hank Pym's spousal abuse (absent), or the Hulk eating people and being a horndog (absent), or Janet's clothes falling off when she shrinks (absent), but what it all boils down to is an embarrassingly inept piece of drivel that at 70 minutes is about 3 times too long, and that's only because in the last 10 minutes there is a big bloodless fight.
Now don't go getting your panties in a wad about "critiquing something for what it ISN'T as opposed to what it IS." Sure, I am disappointed that the name "ultimate" fished me in. But even if this project merely veered off-page a bit in order to get a PG-13 doesn't excuse the astounding level of amateurism on display. Its got everything: lame aliens, lamer spaceships, herky-jerky animation outclassed by even the laziest episode of GI JOE, an Iron Man who sounds almost exactly like "Satan" from South Park, a Hulk who speaks in complete sentences, and characters who move as if a splintered broomhandle were inserted in their posteriors. Utter drek from start to finish. I actually found myself admiring the sound mix, in a desperate move to hold my attention just a little further.
There are a few high points, but in this context, that isn't saying much. There are a handful of nonthreatening scenes that look a bit like panels from the comic. Oh boy. The WW2 preface plays out in a similar manner as the comic, only lacking in gravitas or spectacle. Hank vs Hulk is peppered with a couple fun lines of dialogue. Hulk vs Thor features one shot that seemed like it gobbled up the entire animation budget, as the characters actually move and flow in an almost-believable manner. Hank's costume looks like Bryan Hitch designed it. Oh, and the DVD box art is very nice as well.
But ... are these things worth enduring the rest of this misery for??? You be the judge. Just don't say you were never warned. Hardcore completists will want to spin this at least once, but it will be a chore. If you've never seen much animation, you may like this. If you are a parent, this a dream-come-true for inoffensive hero action to babysit your nerdlings with. But if you are looking for anything even remotely resembling THE ULTIMATES, or something satisfying on any level other than camp, stay well away from this.
War of the Worlds (2005)
As a self-described WOTW "completist" I was compelled to rent this thing by merit of the title alone. My reaction is similar to the Mr. Show episode "Coupon: The Movie," where everyone excitedly proclaims, "I got THAT over with!!!" While not utterly devoid of merit, it reeks of by-the-numbers opportunism to capitalize on the superior Spielberg version currently in theaters. Howell does a remarkable job of keeping a straight face throughout, and the plot keeps pace well with Wells' novel, but ultimately the film just begs the question of "What's the point?" Other than a handful of modern slang words ("assclowns," "ginormous"), and a severely truncated first act, it brings nothing new to the burgeoning sub-genre of "War of the Worlds adaptations." FX are of the desktop variety and might seem impressive in a fan film being used as a pitch for another, "actual" film, but here just seem cheap. (Although it should be noted that after seemingly endless lengths of "Howell walking" scenes, one starts to yearn for more FX, no matter how crude.) Peter Greene, second-billed as Howell's brother, is introduced and dispatched in the same brief scene, prompting this viewer to wonder what he got paid for his afternoon's work, and if he still has heroin problems. Busey fares slightly better, as his whopping two scenes are at least spread out over the narrative, adding the tiniest bit of resonance. (Also worth noting is Busey's hilariously foul mouth, something of a high point for me.) The female lead shows a bit of "fan appreciation" early on, but is otherwise useless, as is Howell's strangely androgynous son. Most of the action seems to occur either immediately before our heroes arrive, or just after they leave. Often it sounds as if a battle may be occurring just out of reach of the camera's lens. Pretty much the most exciting scenes are those featured on the DVD box art, but alas, neither image actually makes its way into the film itself. This WOTW might not be a total disaster, but it is rather unimpressive, and I found myself far more entertained by the trailers for other Asylum movies at the beginning of the disc. JOLLY ROGER seems to be a bloody ripoff of THE FOG, only with strippers, and ALIEN ABDUCTION, sporting one the blandest titles I've ever heard, features a very appealing lead actress with apparently no secrets to hide about how she looks without clothes on. Bravo, lass.
Going Back (2001)
HA HA HA
The above is what fell out of my mouth during the final 20 minutes of this film. I've never laughed so hard at bad acting, cheesy sentiment, and overwrought "drama" before seeing this farce. Utterly ludicrous dialogue permeates the film but it never seems overly unwatchable until we enter the home stretch. Until then, it is a mildly enjoyable exercise, filled with decent costumes, vehicles, and locations (including genuine Vietnam footage --- nice). I'd rented on a whim expecting nothing, so I was surprised that it at least looked accurate and wasn't boring.
However, the movie's ultimate undoing is its commitment to the most overt and silly sentimentality this side of the "tell me I'm a good man" framing sequence from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. The filmmakers milk it for all its worth and believe me it isn't worth much. Endless 'crying' scenes in slow motion, repeated 'breaking down' scenes, slamming of fists against walls, brotherly hugs, etc, beg the question if this was not all meant as satire.
A handful of scenes work fairly well --- the battle for Hue City is harrowing and exciting, and a "tunnel rat" sequence is suspenseful even though preceeded by the silliest on-the-nose dialogue imaginable. One bit involving a spare fuel pod in a treeline is cartoonishly innovative but seems more fit to MISSING IN ACTION than a movie meant to be taken seriously.
Ultimately the movie fails as it adds nothing to the played-out genre of the 'Vietnam film.' "War is bad!" --- check. "You wouldn't understand because you weren't there!" --- check. "It was a massacre!!!" --- check. All it lacks is a gruff Air Cav officer admonishing his troops that CHARLIE DON'T SURF!!!! Then we'd have had something.
Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
You know a movie is provocative, when ...
... unpaid 'reviewers' write their dissertations on it and then post them to IMDB. I mean, it took me longer to read some of these posts than it did to actually watch the movie! Regardless, I found the film intriguing, but frustrating in that "you decide" kind of way. Maybe not a good movie for a lazy afternoon when you don't wish to think too hard.