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Top Gear USA (2008)
Plenty of potential for everyone, save for the TG-UK fanboys.....
As a regular viewer of the original UK version of Top Gear, I must say that I'm two episodes into the American version, and I'm already reasonably impressed. Top Gear is a car review program, and car markets differ the world over. In other words, this isn't "mindless American remake" territory, but rather a program that NEEDS to be localized to reflect differing automotive landscapes.
Top Gear's trademark direction and editing are spot-on (I loved the Murcielago bull fight in episode 1, and the gorgeous shots of the Aston Martins racing at El Mirage in episode 2), the upcoming challenges look entertaining, and unlike the original version of the program, the test track appears to be set up as an actual TRACK, rather than just two stacks of tires on an old runway somewhere.
One of the foremost criticisms so far of Top Gear USA is that the hosts are "flat," although honestly I don't see them as significantly more characterless than the current UK hosts. The UK version is hosted by "Creepy-Looking Tall Guy," "Short Guy With Really White Teeth," and "Mild-Mannered Oddball With Crazy Hair," whereas the US version is hosted by "Scrawny Japanophile," "Full-Faced Neckbeard," and "Jersey Shore Reject." Pah-tah-toe, pah-tay-toe. Fanboys will never be pleased.
One area of legitimate criticism is that the interplay between the hosts is still a bit awkward and forced (although not nearly as bad as it was between Clarkson, May, and Hammond in their first series together in the UK), and the "Big Star, Small Car" interviews are almost painful to watch. It's obvious that none of the three hosts know even the basics about conducting an interview; this mars an otherwise excellent localization of the program.
All in all, after two episodes, I've got to give it 10 out of 10. If the show is this strong only two episodes in, I can foresee it being practically flawless by the end of the season. My original expectations for an American version of Top Gear were fairly low, but they've gone above and beyond. Good stuff.
Circumsized Cinema (2005)
In the tradition of "What's Up, Tiger Lilly?"....
Circumsized cinema is a frequently hilarious half hour show in which bad Mexican (usually action) films are re-edited and re-dubbed into comedies with some sort of hispanic relevance (i.e., Luke Borderwalker, the Dos Equis Files, etc.). The films themselves look to be wonderfully cheesy, but with the new and (quite intentionally, I'm sure) terribly dubbed dialogue they're only made all the more amusing.
If there is one complaint about Circumsized Cinema, it's that it's a little too hip, and many of the references will probably rapidly date the the show. References to low-carb diets, Pilates, Crawford Ranch, Trading Spaces, and the last Star Wars film will insure that this show is remembered as being an early 2000s show, if it's remembered at all, thanks to the largely unwatched digital satellite channel it is shown on (SiTV, which as far as I know is only available on Dish Network).
For anyone who is into re-dubbed films or anything of that nature (somehow I think Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans will like it), Circumsized Cinema is definitely worth a look.
The Touch of Satan (1971)
It isn't THAT bad
Currently over 58% of this films votes are "1", probably because it appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000. While it was great material for the show, this movie isn't completely without merit. The core idea of the movie was interesting (although amateurishly handled), and Micheal Berry gives a decent performance as the protagonist (or maybe the worse actors in the film just made him seem better). Some of the scoring and directing here is effective, as well.
Overall, this film is a 4/10. But if you see it, see it on MST3K. Not only did it make for one of the best episodes (proof that the worst movies don't make the best episodes), but it makes some of the duller parts of the film seem lively.
Vanishing Point (1971)
Look back on your life torn asunder...then throw it into third gear and floor it.
Barry Newman is "Kowalski", an enigmatic figure who has tried everything in his life from stock car racing to the military, and failed at every one of his endeavors. Working as an auto delivery man, he gets an order to transport a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T to San Francisco, and makes a bet with a few friends that it can be done in an impossibly short time. After loading up on "ups" and throttling the car westward, he is soon pursued vigorously by the police and embraced by the public as something of a hero. During a time when national speed limits were all controversy, this film provides a compelling argument against them: A fast car in the hands of a capable driver is not dangerous. Even the police, so caught up in their own system, don't realize that they are the only ones causing accidents and endangering the public while blindly trying to keep up with and capture Kowalski.
While the film sounds at first to be a simple action film, it's really much more than that. Kowalksi's past is revealed little by little through flashbacks, making the film something of a character study. Kowalski's trip becomes a road trip of existentialism as he runs across various strange characters: Solitary hippies, gay bandits, a boogie-woogie snake handling Christian cult, and the blind soul station DJ (brilliantly played by Cleavon Little) who is attempting to guide him on his journey from within the car's radio.
Topping it off is a great soundtrack, breathtaking cinematography and direction, and automotive action that has seen no equal. This film manages to be both compelling and exciting. Just watch it already.
The Supernaturals (1986)
The Supernaturals is a highly flawed, sometimes corny, but occasionally scary film. Although the dialogue is bad, numerous technical mistakes are made (especially the entire nature of military training exercises), and the climax is somewhat confusing, the film maintains an unsettling atmosphere, which is surprising given that the best parts of the film take place in broad daylight. Anyone who likes a ghost story or "living dead" films (this could conceivably fit into either category) should enjoy it.
Black Cadillac (2003)
Nothing to see here
*POSSIBLE SPOILERS - IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT, YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN'T READ THIS.*
"Black Cadillac" is another one of those "mysterious black vehicle chases some people" movies, and it's one of the worst. Apart from solid acting and occasionally witty dialogue (and the eye candy that is the '57 Cadillac), there is little left to this film.
The story is quite silly with a non-shocking climactic "twist", and there are several "Huh?"-inducing moments, like the question of how a small-town sheriff could afford a classic car that normally sells for well over $20,000 (and just carelessly fling it around on top of that), or maybe how our heroes manage to restart their car after they lock the engine in it. If the car overheats to the point that the engine locks, nothing short of a new engine is going to get it back on the road...and I don't think the shop they broke into had a new Saab engine block and an engine hoist conveniently left inside.
All in all, this film is very similar to "A Friday Night Date" (or "Road Rage" as it was called here in the U.S.), except considerably less exciting and better acted. The two films have several similar plot elements, right down to the ending. The difference is "Road Rage" at least manages to be entertaining enough for the viewer to forget how awful it is, and this movie doesn't.
The Hitcher (1986)
Hang on tight
"The Hitcher", along with the Terminator films, is a perfect example of how to do an action film: Combine nailbiting suspense, surreal horror, and crackerjack violence then shake vigorously.
Jim Halsey is caught in a nightmarish situation...he's being pursued by a murderous, sadistic hitchhiker with a death wish who seems not so much intent on killing Jim as toying with him in an attempt to drive him over the edge. The hitcher is omnipresent, following unseen and then popping up just long enough to do serious damage to people and property alike, cleverly setting our hero up for every crime. As the hitcher continues to pile bodies over the Texas countryside, a manhunt for Jim ensues. The police soon turn into robotic killers hidden behind their chilling, garbled radio messages, proving themselves to be almost as dangerous as the hitcher himself. Jim ends up doing the only thing he can do: Fight his way out, hoping to keep both life and sanity intact.
The acting, directing, action, score, writing, and pacing are excellent, making this film one of the best of it's genre. It's a wild ride.
A Friday Night Date (2000)
I'm torn. Really torn.
"Road Rage" (as it's called here in the U.S. of A) is one of those movies that I really can't say that I like or dislike. One hand, the film is undeniably amateurish. Although the two leads are decent enough actors (the awful dialogue makes them sound worse than they are), the rest of the acting is terrible, in particular Joseph Griffin. The directing is sharp during the action sequences, but there are MAJOR continuity problems with the cars...damage appears and disappears, rollbars are visible in the interior, etc. Some of the story elements are completely stupid, including (but not limited to) stealing a truck when they were sure that they had wrecked their pursuer, and the "plot twist" that's so blasted obvious I laughed for two full minutes when it was "revealed".
I already mentioned the dialogue, but it really deserves a separate paragraph since this was the worst (or best, depending on your mentality while watching) part of the film. Stilted lines like "Do you think a girl would drive a beast like that?" prevail here, and the "this is the game" conversation between Bo and Zack is the most hilariously banal exchange this side of an episode of "Sealab 2021".
Now the reason that I can't say I hate the movie: It's certainly never dull. The stunt driving is great (how did they hire such good drivers for such a cheap movie?), there is the occasional flash of humor, and the score, although generic, is energetic. For these elements alone, I can't actually dislike this movie no matter how hard I try.
If you don't mind hokum and you like car chases, this movie delivers both in droves.
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
So bad it's hilarious
"The Fast and the Furious" is probably the best comedy of 2001. An impressive feat, considering it isn't supposed to be a comedy.
Somewhere amongst all the ridiculous looking fluorescent sports cars (are these things really supposed to be "cool"?), the inane dialogue, the annoying music, and Paul Walker (that guy can't act his way out of a wet paper bag) we get a plot that's a complete rip-off of "Point Break" and racing scenes that are laughably overdone and NOT INTERESTING.
Another irritating part for me (being a car nut) is the sheer ignorance of cars and of car tuning displayed in this mess. Here are a few of the things I "learned" from this movie:
*Mazda RX-7s have six cylinder engines with overhead cams
*Nitrous oxide is volatile
*NOS is an acronym, and should be pronounced "NAWWWS"
*A 10 second Toyota Supra will have difficulty outrunning a 13 second Ferrari 355 but will have no trouble whatsoever keeping up with a 9 second Dodge Charger
*Nitrous can "blow the welds off" of an intake
*Mitsubishi Eclipses have 7-speed transmissions
*It's possible to invest $100,000 into the engine of a Honda S2000 without putting a jet engine in it
*Experienced drag racers are afraid of 9 second cars
I could really go on forever, but this is just a small sampling. Maybe this film is funniest to someone with car experience, but any bad movie buff is sure to find something to love in it.
1/10 (in terms of cinematic quality) 5/10 (in terms of "Ed Wood" quality)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Bombastic and abrasive.
I honestly tried to like this film - both times that I watched it. In the end, however, I did no more than waste four hours of my life. The film is an annoying assault on the senses, often projecting non-sequitur words into the background and adding a laugh track to scenes for apparently no reason other than "it would be really cool".
Everything about this overlong music video was apparently designed to make the viewers' heads explode: Woody Harrelson's terrible country-fried accent, Juliette Lewis' retardate imitation (something she has done in almost every one of her movies since...yeah, you're braindead, we get it), completely random and pointless killings (could we at least get SOME semblance of a motive?) and the utterly disgusting "romance" between the two that made me wish for nothing more than "Dirty" Harry Callahan to pop out of nowhere and give them three plugs each from his .44 magnum. Anything to end this tripe.