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Huo ping lang zi (1985)
Great Movie, Corner Pocket
First off, let me warn you - the ten I give this movie is due to entertainment value only. In terms of the usual standards we measure movies by - believable story lines, realistic character development, dialogue, etc. - this thing is atrocious, but trust me - you have never ever seen a movie like this, and as far as I'm concerned, there's no higher recommendation.
The story concerns the high stakes, cut-throat world of professional billiards in Hong Kong (although, oddly enough, they never play the game CutThroat once). That's really all you need to know, because this is the sort of movie that a mere description cannot possibly prepare you for. The box the movie comes in - whether VHS or DVD - is very vague about the story, and pitches it as a typical honor driven kung fu flick, which this is certainly not. Its depiction of the brutally violent hardcore rivalries amongst trick shot artists is incredible, and by the finale, you'll be roaring at how out of control the one upmanship between the two trick shot factions gets.
Brilliant, and I guarantee you - you have never seen another movie quite like this. It's too bad this director has not picked up the cult following he deserves.
Pauly Shore Is Dead (2003)
You might be surprised...
First off, let me say that I was never a fan of Pauly Shore. In fact, I could never understand how it was even possible that someone this unfunny was able to have a career as a comedian, but hey ... Despite my claims of hatred, though, I still managed to watch everything he'd done, in some kind of a masochistic, painful cycle, and my hatred for him continued to grow and grow.
So it was inevitable that I would eventually catch 'Pauly Shore Is Dead', but what was surprising is how truly funny the film turned out to be. It's not perfect, by any stretch, and has a few moments that seem a little forced and even sentimental (such as the guardian angel visits), but all in all, I have to say this is one hell of a funny movie, and whether you like him or not, I think it would be hard not to admit some kind of respect for a man who is so willing to make fun of himself.
It is his sense of humor about himself that ultimately makes the film work, and I must admit that between the self-effacing plot line and the surprising amount of work that went into making the film, Shore has really gone up in my book. I still think he might be in the wrong line of business, but at least he's grounded enough in reality to realize that possibility as well.
Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys watching any celebrity spoof themselves, as the film is loaded with numerous amusing cameos. Also check out the deleted scenes, a highlight being the rendition of the song 'It's Been A While'. Check it out, and you may be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
Good work, Wiez!
Peckinpah's true masterpiece
First I should say that Sam Peckinpah is, without a doubt, my favorite director of all time. Sure, his films are not perfect by any stretch, but I have never come across any other film maker whose failures fascinate me just as much as his successes. Peckinpah lived, breathed, and truly embodied his art, and so much of his personality is stamped over each and every one of his films that even the ones he himself wasn't too keen on doing ('Convoy', for example) truly add up to an endlessly fascinating, true body of work.
And after repeat viewings of all his films, it is 'Alfredo Garcia' that I find myself championing time and time again. Sure, 'The Wild Bunch' is considered his one masterpiece, and 'Straw Dogs' deserves its rep as the revenge film other revenge films want to be, and even 'Ride The High Country' gets kudos from viewers who didn't think they liked Peckinpah, but 'Alfredo' stands head and shoulders over them all.
It takes a little patience, believe me - the first time I watched this film, I wasn't too impressed, and was unsure exactly what to make of it - but so much of it stayed with me that when I gave it a second, more fair chance, I embraced all of it. It is definitely one of a kind, and although it was promoted initially as something of a 'Sierra Madre' type, it is even more devastating and hopeless than that classic.
Warren Oates gives the performance of his career (which in itself is saying something, as he is one of the finest and most under-appreciated actors in history, as far as I'm concerned) and is well matched by Isela Vega. Gig Young and Robert Weber make quite an impression as a couple of brutal hit men as well, and the supporting cast is rounded out with the same sort of perfect bit casting Peckinpah was always a pro at.
As for the plot, the less you know about this movie, the better. Just know that while it most definitely is not for all tastes, discriminating film buffs and serious cinephiles should either see this movie if they've never seen it before, or see it again if it's been a while. A true classic, one of my very favorites of all time ... I cannot heap enough praise on this one.
Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)
Absolutely brilliant in its own way
As a fan of the majority of Paul Morrissey's work, it might seem a bit strange that I would choose this as his second best film (after only its companion, the 'Dracula' film). These films, on the surface at least, are much more broad in terms of satire, targets, and commercialism than any of his previous films (and most of his following ones), but if you look closely and give it a little thought, this film not only fits in Morrissey's filmography, it stands out.
On first viewing, it may seem like just a slap-dash gore comedy with period trappings, but a closer inspection reveals many of Morrissey's favorite recurring themes. Still, if you're not looking for any deep cinematic experience, this still delivers in terms of what it sets out to do. It is quite gory, and if some of the effects leave a little to be desired (notably the severed head gag), they are so prominently, unashamedly displayed - usually by being thrust into the very front of the camera for the 3D effect - that this liability instead becomes a very amusing asset.
The acting is all over the map, from the hilariously grandiose and sermonizing speechifying of the incomparable Udo Kier, to the mumbling and seemingly uninterested Method-like stylings of Joe Dallesandro. Both leads are just right in their roles, though, with Dallesandro's out of place 'New Yawk' accent always hilarious, and Kier's forceful, straight-ahead delivery providing just enough of a touch of tainted genius that not only do you buy him as a mad scientist, you also laugh your ass off as you behold it.
Not for the squeamish, as it includes numerous impalings, beheadings, etc. The highlights are too numerous to list one by one, but in addition to some of the hilarious gore set pieces (especially the 'intestinophilia' scene and the moment where Kier, who has spent the whole movie sewing body parts together, tries desperately to shove his own severed hand back on the gushing stump before giving up and hurling it childishly at Dallessandro), it is worth noting that the idea of the doctor getting the head of the virginal wannabe monk is not only a hilarious little twist, it's also pretty dang clever.
All in all, a masterpiece. Highly recommended to those with a taste for something a little different, and not nearly as shallow as most viewers seem to think, 'Flesh for Frankenstein' is a great little movie. If you like this, I definitely recommend 'Blood for Dracula' - although not quite as gory, it's even funnier and, Kier and Dallessandro are again perfect in their roles.
One last note - it's odd how cinema fate works. Both Kier and Dallessandro were wonderful in this pair of movies, and while Kier continued to work steadily, usually in small character roles, Dallesandro never really got the credit, or the work, he deserved. Too bad, as he was - and still is - a strangely magnetic presence to watch.
Young Warriors (1983)
One of the best bad movies you could hope for
So I give it one star for true quality, but I'd give it an eight and a half for sheer enjoyability. An incredibly strange hybrid of sex comedy and vigilante thriller, "Young Warriors" is just the sort of bad movie you usually hope to find when poking around the video fringe, yet so rarely do. It starts off with about half an hour of wacky hi-jinx, sex jokes, and juvenile shenanigans (including an olive in the martini joke that has to be seen not to be believed). Then the main character's younger sister gets gang raped by a bunch of swarthy bikers (an objectionable scene that keeps me from giving this a 10 for entertainment value - rape is not entertainment!), and the main character gets the rest of his sex crazed frat brothers to help him in a quest to clean up the city, find the responsible bikers, and kill anybody slightly criminal they run into along the way.
It's hilarious, non-stop fun, apart from the very unpleasant rape scene, and is essential viewing to any serious bad movie fan. Trust me - I've put my time in on these things, and this is one of the best. Highlights include a wonderful visit to the library, a great flickering slo-mo shootout in a sleazy bar (with a shot of a guy blowing his own foot off that's pretty impressive), a couple of decent slumming actors (Richard Roundtree, Ernest Borgnine), a couple of semi-famous recognizable faces (Lynda Day George, scream queen Linnea Quigley), and a couple of relatives of famous people (Chuck Norris' brother Mike, Van Patten clan member James). It even has one of those great "What have we become?" type morality lesson endings, although the turning point comes when the vigilante fratboys gun down a couple of kids robbing a store with a toy gun. I've always wondered why that was the catalyst that got the hero thinking; after all, whether they were kids and not hardened criminals, and whether they had a real gun or not, they were in fact still robbing a store, so as far as I can tell, it was just another job well done for our vigilante frat boys, right? Wonderful stuff. Highly recommended, just don't blame me when you enjoy it despite yourself.
Night Train to Terror (1985)
Quite possibly, the greatest (bad) movie ever
This may very well be the greatest movie I've ever seen. Granted, it's a little unfair since it's really comprised of three separate movies, but hey, who's going to complain when you have a framework consisting of God playing himself (how did the producers manage to afford him?) and one of the funniest repeated songs you'll ever hear (although its repeated message, "Everybody's got something to do/Everybody but you" would strike me as a subversive insult if I were to give the makers of this movie any credit) and including three gloriously awful little movie/stories, all of which are hilarious, none of which make any sense, yet combine to produce a work so surreal, so indefinable, so one of a kind, that it's impossible not to enjoy this. Highly recommended to those who think they've seen it all, bad movie fans, and anyone looking for something downright different. Heck, I even watched this at my bachelor party last year ... now if I could just get my wife to admit she likes it too....