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An accidental masterpiece of shock and dread
Let's get the problems out of the way first: the dubbing is clunky and oddly unconvincing; there are huge holes in the logic of events and plot points (for instance, it's entirely unlikely that a woman who dropped dead in the middle of a seance would be "buried alive" once the police were involved - there'd be certificates of death, autopsies, embalming, etc); most of the acting is no better than it needs to be (I'm looking at YOU, Christopher George) ; the director overuses some camera techniques - he zooms in with closeups of eyes so often that you'd think Jesse Franco owed him money; and an unsatisfying ending that seems unjustified by everything that came before it.
But even so, Fulci seemed to catch lighting in a bottle with this one. If you just turn your mind off and let the movie roll over you, you will have (I'm not sure the term "enjoy" applies here) quite the experience.
What really ties things together for me is the utter conviction on display in every frame, and the way the movie just "goes for it" without holding anything back. And the awesome soundtrack numbs the critical mind with mesmerizing washes of sound.
So it's cheese, but it's GREAT cheese. If you like this sort of thing, you should check it out.
As Above, So Below (2014)
Pretty fair "Found Footage" Horror/Suspense film with obvious (but forgiveable) flaws
All right, I just have have to get this out of the way up front: Professional archaeologist and her experienced catacomb-spelunking expedition companions go on an exploratory trip into the unknown depths of the Paris catacombs...and they don't bring GLOVES ???
With that out of the way, my other complaint is that most of the illusions/hallucinations/traps that came to life to bedevil our heroes and heroines were pretty flat and unconvincing. Maybe there needed to be a bit more backstory for the characters in the party, or maybe the art direction and design (which probably looked pretty good on the storyboards) needed a little more polish and revision. Whatever, with very few exceptions, the revenants and wraiths just weren't scary in and of themselves. I sort of had to persuade yourself that the characters would find them convincing.
And this isn't really a complaint, but the movie just had more ideas and subplots than it knew what to do with, leaving a lot of the suggestions and subplots unresolved or unanswered. It's seems possible that a lot of material got left on the cutting room floor as the editors tried to keep the movie from being over long and too hard to watch. That sure beats the alternative of thin plots being stretched out too far or editors having to pad the film with extraneous junk, but it's still a problem.
Now, in its favor: the movie got a lot of things right. Unlike most similarly themed movies, the screenplay incorporated many of the classic Grail, Inferno, and alchemical mythic tropes, which lent it a lot of oomph for people who are up on those things (so it's as much suspense as it is horror). Unlike "Tomb Raider", the protagonists are not larger than life icons whose safety and survival are guaranteed (which ramps up the tension and uncertainty). The sense of claustrophobia, creepiness, and isolation as the expedition ventures further and further down the rabbit hole with no way back, is very well done. The actors are attractive, interesting, and likable (except maybe for the character of "Zed", who doesn't seem to have much purpose other than to fill out the party and doesn't have a lot to say or do that any other character could have done.)
So: worth watching if you enjoy this sort of thing. Different enough (with its mythical themes and ideas) from the typical monster or revenant movie to feel fairly fresh. Fairly well acted, with a lot of energy at times, and a good sense of suspense for most of the movie. I liked it enough to purchase a copy of it after I rented it.
Perfectly acceptable, even enjoyable, but not "important".
There are science fiction films that shoot for the stars and try to mold or redefine what the genre is and what it can do, and there are science fiction films that just try to fill in a couple hours and send the viewer out feeling OK about the way he spent the last couple of hours. Three guesses which category "Debug" fits into.
But there was a lot to like about this film. Although the CGI backgrounds made everything too shiny and bright to be believable, it was fun to explore the derelict ship and see all the visual eye candy. Everything looked good, well thought out and integrated together, all the sets made sense, and all the little design details made for a very visually appealing film. (I wished I could be on that ship with the cast!) And it seemed to me that the script and editing did a good job of helping the viewer understand "where" all the characters were in the ship and in relation to each other. Also nice: the ideas of the HUDs for all the characters which took advantage of the TV-level attractiveness and charisma of the young actors while punching up the closeups with more animation and eye candy.
Acting was fine on a 'direct to cable' level. (I'm not dissing the cast here). Everyone was capable of holding long direct closeups, some of the cast was very photogenic indeed, and everyone pulled together. Some characters seemed a bit superfluous and didn't have anything all that interesting to do (aside from getting chomped by the AI). The heavy playing "I AM" seemed to be phoning his part in, but I can see that there was all that much for him to latch onto since his part was so broadly written.
I have a complaint about the sudden "deus ex machina" introduction of the lead heroine's cybernetic alter-ego in the last 20 minutes or so. The level of design and technical virtuosity such an independent avatar would require doesn't really jive with the revealed technical capabilities of anyone in the cast, or the (admittedly very cool) VR gear the cast is packing for their jobs. No one in the cast was doing anything like this previously in the movie - all they did was enter commands at the CLI and swipe holographic menu choices. But it's obvious some decided they wanted cybernetic sword-fights.
Similarly, the climactic final battle between the heroine's avatar and the AI was OK, but won't make you forget similar clashes in "The Matrix" or even "Lawnmower Man II". And the resolution comes out of left field - it's never shown how the other "avatars" of the crew that come to her aid got free.
So: Yes, I liked it fine. My impression is that "Debug' wasn't quite as good as it could have been, though; a little deeper writing and thinking about the implications of the technology, and some slightly more developed characters might have boosted this movie to the level of something like "Event Horizon", which fans still chew on 20+ years after its creation. But I fear that no one but absolute fanatic fans of the genre will know or care about "Debug" even 5 years from now.
I Spit on Your Grave 2 (2013)
Technically well done, but why would anyone want to watch it?
All right, so I watched it, but only to see how it compared to the original.
I didn't really want to see the harrowing first half, but knew I had to get through it to see the "vengeance is mine" driven 2nd part. To keep things short: yes, indeed, the character is brutalized, the actress gives it her all (think Ned Beatty in "Deliverance") and the camera spares us nothing.
Now, onto the "good part", Katie's revenge.
It's kind of a let down, to tell the truth. Not that the scenes aren't expertly filmed, acted and written. But in spite of the gruesome ferocity of the revenge killings, none of the have quite the squeal factor of the bathtub scene from the original (which really should have been the FINAL revenge in the original, instead of the second). And the character's vengeance themes are perhaps too literal to be even the least bit clever (for instance, after bad guy #3 tells Katie early on, "we all have our vices", he wakes up with his scrotum in a vice. Not funny, guys...not the least bit subtle.)
On the other hand, the underground passage Katie makes on her initial journey to freedom takes on almost mythical qualities. And she sometimes looks like a demon-ness from Hell itself as she does various horrible things to her tormentors.
I don't think there was ever any question that the cinematography on this film was going to be impressive. But the writing just misses the mark.
The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)
FIne actors and decent effects in search of a coherent script
I don't want to bag on any of the actors here, because the acting wasn't the problem. And the film looked good.
But the script proper...yeesh. I'll put it this way: I can buy into the premise that an overload of the world's most powerful particle accelerator would rip open a hole in reality and cause all kinds of uncanny things to happen. But if you're going to have uncanny things happen (space station appears in an alternate reality, space ship actively tries to kill its crew) you need to write a better script than this. Having a "rip in reality" gives the story an excuse to have "uncanny events", but it does not excuse lazy writing that never answers the questions it asks There's no consistent internal logic to the uncanny events, or at least none that satisfies. (I.e., if the station wants the crew dead, why does it pick them off one at a time when it could easily kill them all at once? Because we are doing the "haunted house" trope, that's why.)
Also, the whole subplot with the earthbound husband feels tacked on, and doesn't do a thing to advance the understanding of what is going on with the monsters currently rampaging on Earth. I understand they are trying to pump up the human interest factor, and the actor assigned to the role gives it his all, but this segment also doesn't answer any of the questions it raises.
I should also point out that if you are pretending to have a "hard science" gloss over a haunted house format, you need to be more careful with the hard science details : for instance, artificial gravity doesn't work in a rotating space ship they way it is portrayed here (the crew ought to be standing on the "walls" of these rooms).
In short, an unpolished screenplay sinks an interesting premise and leaves us going "what the hell was going on there?"
Gets an additional star because the opening montage of the crew failing again and again over the course of months with their experiment is actually successful and well done.
Ercole l'invincibile (1964)
The very definition of "Going Through The Motions"
First of all, am I the only one who thought that the grey chin spinach they pasted on Vadis' face made him look way too much like Abraham Lincoln? I found it extremely distracting. Vadis is a handsome guy, with a nicely sculpted physique, although he does seem preoccupied and glum in most of his scenes.( Or maybe that's the beard.) But the beard absolutely pulls the focus from where it should be - his eyes and cheekbones - and makes his mouth and jaw fade away. Bad costuming choice.
Second, the plot is your standard drunkard's walk/generic peplum , where things happen just because the writers didn't really know what to do next, because it had all been done to death. The dialog follows suit, although how much is this is the fault of the dubbing is hard to say.
The stunts and fight scenes are staged fairly well, and are the real reason to watch the film.(Assuming you want to watch it at all) The acting is...serviceable. No one stinks on ice or anything, or looks as if they are reading from a teleprompter or cue cards. And the blocking and stage business works as well as you might expect.
I assume the actor playing the comic relief has built a career doing this kind of thing. He's not funny at all (at least not that way he's dubbed), but he's mildly likable at least. There's no way a movie like this could go without comic relief, so they might as well use this guy. Doesn't mean I have to like it, or him.
In short, this is another Hercules (or Argoles) movie. If that's how you want to fill your leisure viewing, well, here ya go. For what it's worth, it's not the worst one in the genre (that would be "The Loves Of Hercules" with a wildly miscast Mickey Hargetay), but not even as good as "Hercules vs the Moon Men.".
Colossally miscalculated waste of air and space
This film has one thing going for it: the lead actress is really cute and entirely adorable. She can't act for beans (she can barely get her lines out), but she looks good on camera. No, she doesn't wear a whole lot of clothes for most of the movie, but she brings a certain dewy-eyed fawn appeal to her scenes. Think live action version of a Japanese Anime about superhero school girls like Sailor Moon - sexy-but-innocent- and you'll have the idea.
As for the rest of it: Total crap. Most egregious is the "rollergator" himself, who ranks as a special effects somewhere below the hand-puppets in "Hobgoblins" (where stagehands held the puppets against the actors at some points) and the forced-perspective rubber dinosaurs in "Future War". He doesn't even have real "arms" - just molded pictures of arms on his torso. And the actor dubbing his voice really ought to be beaten with wet noodle until he understands the difference between "spunky/street wise" and "New Zoo Review".
And it's not enough to have him be a talking alligator/dinosaur - they had to make him a RAPPING one. This would have been OK if the rapping was decent, but "Rollergator"s rap forced cutesie-poo lyrics and delivery wouldn't cut it on Sesame Street, The Electric Company, or Schoolhouse Rock.
Joe Estevez is in this. I usually like Joe as an actor, but this morass brings out his worst,well,everything.
I could only watch "Rollergator" in short bursts because my eyes and ears kept bleeding. I finished it, looking really hard for something else beside the blond lead to like, but it was like panning for gold nuggets in a dung heap.
Avoid at all costs.
Los autómatas de la muerte (1962)
Doesn't even come close to living up to its title (spoilers included)
All right, I realize this is some kind of spin-off to a Mexican wrestler movie, so you can't ask for too much. And a lot of the problems with the movie are created by an English dub that is so sloppy and negligent as to defy belief, (I know...I can imagine the production crew thinking, "What the hell, it's only a Mexican Wrestler movie, who cares if the dubbing's any good?")
In its favor: the hero, "Neutron", is fairly well built and is reasonably adept at leaping around and doing fight choreography while keeping his gut sucked in. There are a fair number of fights, a fair amount of camera movement, and a potentially exciting plot idea about a returning supervillian blowing up the city with a "neutronbomb" and using evil "death robots" to fetch his supplies from various warehouses and murder random people and drain their blood to keep three brains alive. And there's a scene where a "death robot" pulls its own head off to avoid giving away the location of its lair.
And it is kind of sweet when the supervillian and his dwarf assistant hold hands as they walk from location to location inside his lair.
Against? A terrible dub where the dubbers appear to be reading their lines off cue cards for the first time while recording. "Death robots" that appear to actually be mummies of sorts, reminiscent of the Aztec mummy from the infamous "Robot vs the Aztec Mummy anti-classic from the same period. An absolute lack of apparent superpowers displayed by Neutron, except for the introductory scene where he jumps into the air and disappears (flight? teleportation? invisibility?) but that ability is never shown again. A lot of wasted time watching the movie's romantic interest warble Mexican love songs (and at one point, for no reason that I can see, a Marimba band doing the same thing). A stunningly unconvincing "love quadrangle" and a desultory running subplot about discovering Neutron's "secret identity" (even though it is established early on that Neutron's effectiveness depends on his having a secret identity.) A HUGE amount of screen time wasted watching people walk up and down various staircases.
And finally, plot holes you could drive a bus through, including the fact that the pit full of "death robots" disappears from the pit near the end of the film and it is never established where they went or what happened to them.
Still, the movie is harmless enough. But I'd rather watch "El Santo Versus the Vampire Women" again.
Ender's Game (2013)
Beautiful and well acted, but oddly unengaging
I'll start out by admitting that I started Card's novel, but gave up after the first 100 pages or so because I just couldn't get into it. Nothing against OSC - I thought his novelization of "The Abyss" was wonderful - but the ideas and dialog left me cold.
Having admitted that, I will also admit to finding my reaction to this movie adaptation puzzling - based on the visuals and Asa Butterfield's amazing acting job as Ender Wiggins, I should have loved it. But my enthusiasm for "Ender's Game" was not unbounded, and I blame that on the same problems with the plot that I found in the novel, and on the fact that it was obvious that the film makers could only fit in a "sketch" of the full story into the movie.
For instance, I was never convinced that a pastime that was essentially "Zero Gee Laser Tag" would have all that much to do with massive star fleet battles. Yes, it was fun to watch, and yes, I could see Ender's tactics in the game foreshadowing his tactics in the final invasion - but it seemed like a contrivance. (Ender's interaction with the tablet game as a precursor to the true intent of the Formics was far more convincing). And the whole "newbie enters the Military academy" trope has been done to death already.
And also, the plot twist about the final training exercise - while it did shake things up, it was essentially "a dirty bit o' cheating" in my opinion, and left me completely unsatisfied. Just as Petra's role in the big battle was completely contrived - it was obvious that a voice command and an automated aiming system could have done her role far better. (Nothing against the actress, who was quite likable and sympathetic).
Probably the movie should have been expanded to two parts to let the plot development "breathe" and expand, but given what it cost to make and the flops of many of its expensive, high-tech contemporaries, I am sure the studio didn't dare. So it is what it is, and my reaction is what it is.
Worth watching if you really liked the visuals in bombs like "Valerian", "Jupiter Rising", or "John Carter" enough to overlook the writing problems. Harmless enough even if you didn't.
Overcharged, overstuffed, and over the top...but severely underdeveloped
I actually wanted to give this movie a 7.5, and not an 8, but the IMDb system doesn't let you do that, so I rounded up, because for all its many problems, this movie won me over.
You'll notice that the other reviewers complained about the lack of coherence in the story line. I get that, and I agree with them. This is, in some ways, an awful movie. But it's awful in interesting ways...it's the movie that the first "Underworld" COULD have been.
The deal-breaker for most people is going to be that you are dropped into the middle of a situation with very little backstory or exposition or character set up, and you never really get anything more than the barest sketches of anything resembling that as the movie progresses. And characters the movie has been following die abruptly and the movie then switches to OTHER characters who pull out new abilities and fighting moves and backstories from nowhere, with very little justification or setup. So the end result is like watching a series of "Metal Hurlant" episodes, or (as one earlier reviewer cleverly noticed) extended versions of the old animated "Aeon Flux" cartoons.
You never know quite what's going on, or why people are doing what they do, and the fact that one actress plays several different roles (with the barest throwaway description of "synthetic combat robots" or some such silliness) only adds to the confusion.
However, if you can put up with that, you can groove on some wildly inventive character designs, costumes, makeup, and fight scenes. And for all the lack of actual character development in the screenplay, the actors pump huge amounts of energy into filling out their cardboard roles. "Falcinelli", who seems to be sort of the "hero" in this, is especially good. All you ever learn about him is that he's a low level street wizard who mostly uses a Tarot deck to work his magic and is something of a scoundrel who enjoys cigars...but man, he is fun to watch in action.
So: should you watch this? I can't tell what kind of mood you will be in when you start watching, so I can't tell whether it will pull you in or annoy the hell out of you. But you might like it.
Samurai Cop (1991)
It's as if a 10th grader wrote an action movie script...but with one treat.
What struck me about "Samurai Cop" was not the lead actor's hilarious lack of a performance (he makes me miss the quiet dignity of Miles O'keefe in "Ator The Fighting Eagle"), or the porn queen level moves being presented by all the female actors, or the cheesy synth and drums score, or the "Lethal Weapon"-wanna-be fight choreography (stiff, disjointed, and unconvincing), or the half-shouted dialog that sounded as though it had been dubbed by a "Speak And Spell"..
It was how well Robert Z'Dar came off in this role compared to his parts in bilge like "Future War" and "Soul Taker".
No, I'm not kidding. I have stated elsewhere that I hate Z'Dar as an actor because he uses his acromegaly as a special effect to get cast in bit parts in terrible Sci-Fi movies. (Nothing against him personally, of course. So I guess I actually hate his casting directors.) But here...someone had the bright idea of putting a beard on him and doing something different with his make-up, and as a result, his face no longer hijacks every scene he is in. He almost looks...normal...well, like a big, muscular, physically impressive guy with a strong jaw (of course). And somehow his performance is the best I've ever seen from him. (He's completely miscast as a Japanese "hit man", of course, but that's just this movie for you.)
As for the rest of it...Pure craptastic direct-to-video aping of the action classics, with 10% of their budget and 5% of their talent. Worth seeing just to be amazed at how bad everything is. Except for Z'Dar, who also sucks, but in a way that lets you see how he could possibly deliver a good performance at some point in his life.
I sort of wish I could "unwatch" this movie
"DarkWeb" is the sort of pointless,convoluted, nihilistic mess that makes you wonder if maybe the invention of film as a story telling medium was a bad idea.
OK, it's not that bad. But it misses that mark by not very much.
My reaction to this film is the same as Roger Ebert's when he had to review movies like "Chaos" before he passed away from this mortal coil: Why was this film made? What was the point of rubbing our noses in all this grim heartlessness and sadism? Were the film makers trying remind us that there are human monsters out there? We KNEW that.
Add some pretty amateurish acting and dubbing here and there; massive overuse of a few digital CGI techniques that are apparently supposed to remind us that, hey, all the participants are on camera, and we are the voyeurs; individual character actions and decisions that make no sense in context; and a gratuitously mean stinger ending that both robs audience of any sense of release AND goes on two minutes too long...and you've got a turd of a screenplay that you don't need to see.
Oh, yeah, Danny Glover is in this. But he's a talking head appearing on a TV screen. And even as a talking head, he's not very good (I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, as I doubt any actor could have done well under the circumstances.) And Oliver Gruner is also in this; he's OK, given that 90% of his role is glowering and looking grim and swearing revenge.(Again, I think he did what he could with his part and the role).
I gave this three stars in spite of my reaction to it, because: the movie begins with a burst of energy as a para-military convoy rolls across deserted countryside accompanied by urgent orchestra music on the soundtrack; because I like Oliver Gruner and wish he could have been given more to do; because the young blonde woman who is the object of the hunt is quite statuesque and striking and the camera loves her; and because I think the film makers made the film they wanted to make, and even if I hate it, I recognize that a lot of work went into it.
But don't waste your time with this one unless it's late at night and you're fairly drunk and in a really weird, hate-the-world mood.
Dracula: Reborn (2012)
Adaptation set in modern US has its points, but can't compare to Hammer or Universal
If I were to take one thing away from "Dracula Reborn", it would be that "Nobody Walks In L.A."
Seriously - 30% - 40% of the movie appears to be about the characters driving around, parking, and getting in and out of cars. (Oh, and signing papers). Take away those scenes, and the movie would be about 50 minutes long. While that definitely sets a feel for the environment and modern living, it also drags a lot of the action to a crawl, and gives an airless, disconnected feel to the proceedings.
The other big problem: the urban sprawl that is the setting for the movie appeared to have about a dozen people in it altogether (including 3 gang-bangers with the worst case of verbal diarrhea in the history of cinema). I think this is meant to throw the dynamics of the struggle between Harker and the vampire for the soul of his wife into sharp relief (and to make the most of a small budget). But it also (again) drains the movie of a lot of the energy and vitality that a good Hammer or Universal movie could generate.
Pluses: The makeup effects when the vampire (who is never actually called "Dracula", BTW) exerts his hypnotic stare are pretty good, if overused. The actor playing Harker is decent, even if he can't quite carry the movie by himself. As he plays the character, Harker is quite attractive and likable, but not impressive. The music is definitely subordinate to the events on screen, but it's well done and helps set a mood. The screenplay's conception of the character of Renfield is pretty fresh. And there is one serious jolt in the middle of the movie involving a motor vehicle homicide that genuinely startled and upset me. (I don't count the nasty twist ending, which I saw coming a mile away,because that's what 2nd rate horror films do these days).
But overall, the movie has no real life or energy. Although there is obvious professionalism and effort going into what you see on screen,it's like looking at one of those cardboard props you see in furniture stores that simulate an actual computer or television - the shape is there, but no guts.
All visuals and 2nd hand gestures, but not bad if you want a retread.
Just to clear an obvious misunderstanding: The movie is not about "zombies", it's about what could be thought of as "Revenants" or "Wraiths". OK? Fine, let's proceed.
I think I rated "Gallowwalkers" somewhat higher than most of the commentators here, because it caught me in the right mood. I was home sick with a cold, and needed something pretty and striking to look at to pass the time.
The sets, the costumes, the makeup, the photography, the music...all extremely well done and evocative. And the actors do their damndest with their thankless, cardboard parts.(Casting was excellent, too - everyone here is photogenic and charismatic as can be).
So what's wrong with "Gallowwalkers"? Oh, well...it's pretty, but essentially empty. Key scenes make no sense, characters pop up out of nowhere (like "Skullbucket") are immediately disposed of again. And it drags just a little too much, here and there. I am sure the filmmakers were so in love with the visuals and the snappy, epigrammatic dialog that they didn't see the problem with all those lingering shots of bodies and sand and gore and figures on horses posed on top of dunes.
It's all too much of a muchness. And in spite of the fact that it's an interesting germ of a story idea, the setting and the situation (sort of supernatural Spaghetti Western) still feels derivative and done to death. (See what I did there?)
So: great movie to give 2/3rd of your attention to, or just something cool to look at when that's all you need. Or if you're willing to watch anything that reminds you of Sergio Leone.
Gli amori di Ercole (1960)
Great slabs of cheese (with a side order of cheese)
Hercules style movies are normally, by convention, pretty silly and lightweight, but this one is juvenile and stupid and cheesy in a way that takes the genre to new depths.
Ever since I saw "Bloody Pit Of Horror", I've had a soft spot for Hargitay, but he and Mansfield (and, let's be fair,everyone else) are pretty bad here. Not horrible, mind you - the casting leans toward attractive and interesting looking people, and everyone in the cast acts at about the same level - but pretty bad.
In Hargitay's case, especially, the vocals (dubbing?) just sucks. It's as if they used Tommy Wiseau (the epically awful actor from "The Room") to utter his lines, and Tommy had a bad migraine that week and couldn't be bothered to pay attention to what he was saying. Combine that with Hargitay's perpetually dopey, yearning expression and you have a screen portrayal that's at the opposite end of the scale from the gravitas and dignity you'd get from someone like Steve Reeves or Reg Park.
And Hargitay's blocking and fight choreography are off. For a strong man and body builder, Hargitay seems stiff, awkward and unconvincing. I know he can do better than this because he moved like a different person entirely in "Bloody Pit". The fight with the Hydra in the middle of the film is an especially egregious example of this - I've seen fights staged better at my local community theater productions.
Mansfield - well, I 've read that she was actually an intelligent and multifaceted person, but you'd never guess that from her role here. She stands around and pulls various tragic faces and, well, juts a lot.
Adding insult to injury is a screenplay that calls for the murder of Hercule's innocent wife in the first 5 minutes of the film, and then has the character (and the movie) forget all about her immediately afterwards. Seriously, she's never mentioned again. And there's a "plot" against Hercules that can only succeed if all the characters display less mental acuity than the girls in a junior high locker room. Which they do.
Oh, and there's a "trial" against the Queen that proves her innocence when Hercules throws 4 axes at her...and succeeds in MISSing her on purpose instead of hitting her. (You'd think that missing a woman who occupies less than 30% of a target area would be ridiculously easy for a demi-god and professional warrior, but here the movie acts as if it's a heroic miracle).
Hmmm, and the central plot point of the movie - where the queen of the Amazons decides to seduce our hero - just marks time for 20 minutes until Herc's shield bearer finds him and then he basically walks away without doing anything heroic whatsoever. (The queen gets killed by a tree. Really).
Boy.Take my advice and watch the Reeves or Parks or even Gordon Scott Hercules movies again, instead.
Jaw-droppingly Inane Italian Star Wars knock-off/rip off
"Starcrash" has Christopher Plummer in it for about 15 minutes of screen time, so I simply can't give it 1 star. He has a 2 minute wrap-up speech at the end where he tries valiantly to summon enough dignity and conviction to redeem the 80+ minutes of nonsense that preceded it But that feat is beyond even his abilities.
Let me put it this way: I saw this movie once, 20 years ago. And as we watched the opening episode 4 of the relaunched MST3K show, and announced that the movie would be "Starcrash", I instinctively reacted with a level of dismay that amazed (and amused) my wife. And I've seen "Manos", "Red Zone Cuba", "Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies ?!!", and "Monster A- Go- Go" without raising an eyebrow.
"Starcrash" appears to have been written and produced by precocious 12 year olds who really liked "Star Wars", but didn't understand a thing about writing screenplays. Or narrative logic. Or cause-and- effect. Or how human beings talk.
Worst example of this is the character of "Aktor" (who I think is Marjoe Gortner); about halfway through the movie, the character starts pulling out various Force powers and light sabers and precognition abilities every few minutes with absolutely no setup or justification, as if he were an Italian "Ultraman". And then he dies from a cut to the arm for no good reason (he won't let his teammates treat him because it was "fore- destined").
Carol Monroe, who is front and center for 90% of the movie...well she looks smashing in her thigh high boots and dominatrix bikini, but has all the emotional range of a sack of cement. Some of this may be the dubbing, because she sounds utterly American here, but I've read that she's actually British. So maybe not all her fault...but this is strictly a one-note performance.
The sets and costumes and props and spaceships are a random hodgepodge of goofy colors and textures, and outer space appears to be lit by Christmas tree lights.
In short, this makes Roger Corman's output look good. It's easily one of the stupidest movies I've ever seen, and I've seen dozens.
Half a star added because it's obviously not meant to be taken seriously.
Cry Wilderness (1987)
You'll "Cry", all right!
Like most of the posters who commented on "Cry Wilderness", my first exposure to it was via the recent MST3K version. Now, I'm not one to condemn a movie out of hand just because a bunch of professional film "riffers" made fun of it. I often think that MST3K and Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic, etc., just take the stance that a movie sucks and then backfill their jokes and satire to convince their audience via an overwhelming volume of attack and vitriol.
But "Cry Wilderness", well, it's not very good.
It's not Ed Wood level bad, or Jerry Warren bad. What money there was in the budget shows up on screen with decent lighting, acceptable use of stock footage, nice nature photography, and photogenic actors who could at least pass muster in community theater productions.
But hoooo boy, the plot and the dialog are all over the place, and nothing in the script seems to follow from anything else. After 10 minutes of watching inane characters bouncing off each other like cats in a laundry sack, I was ready to pack it it and go watch something else (hopefully something better).
I stuck it out...but my patience was not rewarded.
You can skip this one, even in the MST3K rendition because even their riffing can't save it.
Iron Fist (2017)
Not perfect, nor a perfect translation of the comics, but enjoyable and worth your time
The biggest problem with Iron Fist is the slow start and the uninteresting "bad guys" from the early episodes.
But I can see why they wanted to try to tell the story this way - in the original comic, Rand starts out as a driven kung-fu vengeance machine and battles his way past traps and barriers and mercenaries in a way more than a little reminiscent of "Game of Death", which makes for a great comic book (especially when Gil Kane draws it); But far too derivative and done-to-death for a live-action series/movie. So instead the creators work the "fish out of water" angle (also done to death) and make the protagonist more troubled, ambivalent, and reveal his heightened abilities more subtly over the course of the first few episodes.
Does it work? Well, mostly.
The big problem is that Rand's enemies, the Meachums, aren't especially interesting in and of themselves, at least for the first few episodes (things get weird later on). The character of Ward, in particular, is both clichéd and unlikeable, without one single trait to draw the viewer in. (I don't consider this the fault of the actor who plays him, BTW - he does his best with a thankless part.)
But I gave it some time and whistled to myself through the duller parts, and eventually the series won me over.
A lot of comments have been leveled against the acting here. I personally think the acting is fine - it's just different in mood and tone from a series like "Daredevil". Give it a chance and watch with an open mind and you'll gradually come to appreciate it.
I stuck with "Iron Fist" because I enjoyed the various incarnations of the character and his back story, and I'm not sorry I did. If you are coming in cold as a viewer, this may not be the series for you.
Black Scorpion (1995)
Lame and inane, but relatively harmless and fun
This movie was mentioned in one of my favorite guides to fringe media, "DVD Delirium", and while the review made it sound pretty lightweight and cheesy (while still being better than its sequel and the spin- off TV series), I have a weakness for cheesy and inane superheroics, and managed to track down a copy on "streamdor.com" one slow night when I was reduced to a Chromebook and a phone mobile "hotspot" for my movie fix.
My first reaction:"Uhhhhh...Okay...? They're really going to try to pass this off as a FEATURE?!"
And it didn't get much better after that. But I sort adjusted my expectations downward (to TV movie of the week level), and found enough entertainment to watch it through to the end,
Joan Severance is a pleasure to look at in both her civilian/cop identity and in her "Black Scorpion" duds, so this has that going for it. No, She's not a very convincing fighter, so the fight scenes are mostly jump cuts and stuntmen falling down when she waves a leg in their direction. But she has a nice, crazy gleam in her eye when the mask is on, and she's able to at least give most of her lines of dialog a decent delivery. Bruce Abbott and Garrett Morris are also in here, trying to maintain their respective dignities in thankless parts, and they don't stink or anything, either.
The plot...well, the plot and dialog appear to have been cobbled together by 10th graders who think they are funny. Roger Corman was involved in this at some executive level, which explains a lot...Corman projects almost always have a germ of something interesting or intriguing, something that keeps you watching even when the screenplay leaves plot holes big enough to drive the Scorpionmobile through and the jokes fall flat. (At least there ARE jokes). And such is the case here. I wanted to see how things came out, and so I stuck around until the end.
And in the end, I think, that's all the creators wanted.
"DVD Delirum" mentioned some sequels, but apparently at some point Severance was replaced by another hapless model/actress who didn't have her mojo, so I don't know if I'll bother to watch any more in the series.
But this? This was...Okay.
The Full Treatment (1960)
There's a lot to like about this movie, but I didn't really enjoy it.
I think I would have enjoyed this story better if I'd read the novel it is based on ("The Full Treatment") or as a radio drama play that trimmed down the extraneous elements and didn't exhaust my patience the way this movie does. The story had promise (in spite of a psychological premise that hasn't aged well since 1960), but in the end the director and the writer couldn't quite make it work.
There is some excellent stuff here and there - I think that the opening shot that pulls back from a car radio playing a happy tune to seamlessly reveal a scene of disaster and carnage is good enough to redeem the problems with the remaining 2 hours of screenplay. But there's an awful lot to get through in the next 2 hours, and a lot of it is a slog.
I've liked Ronald Lewis since I saw his role as the chauffeur in another Hammer production, "Scream of Fear!", and I when I saw that he was going to be prominently featured in this one, I was looking forward to seeing him stretch out. But his character is high-strung and unlikeable (even though it seems that his terrible behavior is caused by what we would now call "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder") and sometimes the director can't get him off the screen fast enough for me. Lewis is out there front and center, chewing the scenery in a thankless role and I can't help but wonder if this picture damaged his career, or at least slowed it down some.
The other problem, of course, is that the whole "repressed memories leading to murder" thing has lost most of its credibility over the decades, sapping some of the drama and energy from the proceedings on screen. As this tale of psychodrama among the jet-set spins out, the thought kept intruding - "This has nothing to say to my life". Oddly, that never comes up in "Scream Of Fear!", possibly because the heroine is a "poor little rich girl" who is wheelchair bound and seemingly fragile.
But the black and white photography is crisp.There are some great visual setups (oddly, the driving scenes are the least convincing scenes in the movie, ironic considering the Lewis' character is a race car driver). Diane Cilantro is adorable and a pleasure to simply behold (although her character is missing from the middle third of the movie).And there is a fascinating contribution from Francois Rosay who is on screen for maybe 5 minutes altogether, but who pulls the final climax together with a wordless performance that is in some ways the strongest in the movie.
So, did I like it? Not nearly as much as the similar "Scream Of Fear!". Did the movie have a lot of things to redeem the problems with the plot and the unlikeable protagonist? You bet.
Lean, mean, stripped down and amped up tale of brutality and morality
Sometimes I like to take a chance with a movie I never heard of when I shop the discounted DVD racks at my local Walmart or Target, especially if the cover reviews are good and the premise sounds interesting. In this case, my gamble on "Redeemer" paid off handsomely with a sort of Chilean Western-cum-old-school-Kung-Fu tale of vengeance and redemption.
Of course, the violence is in the new vein of Krav-Maga with broken rhythms, joint attacks, grappling and gun-play that have come into vogue since "The Raid". It's well staged, high-energy and invigoratingly brutal. And we all know that's what you came here for (don't be ashamed, it's what *I* came for too), so that's good.
But the director and screen-writer managed to work in a stark, elemental feel of Good vs Evil that works splendidly in the stripped down environment of an isolated town jammed up against mountains and sea coast. That allows for some wildly beautiful photography that allows the viewer to catch his breath (I say "his" because I can't imagine a typical female viewer wanting to watch this.) But it also throws the human actions and emotions we see into sharp relief. That's some careful and inspired film design right there.
This is a "B" picture all the way, about as subtle as a shot of "Red- eye" whiskey. But even so, the actors here get the job done, in spite of an indifferent job of dubbing into English (I wish I could have watched this in Spanish with just English subtitles). Marko Zaror may not have a lot of dramatic range, but the movie showcases all his acting strengths and none of his (undoubted) weaknesses, so the end result is both enigmatic and instantly identifiable - he's the Hero on a Quest, and you know what drives him (because the movie shows you in flashback what happened), but at the same time you don't know him at all. Put the character in a tuxedo at a party, the actor might stumble badly - but here, in this, he's perfect.
So, if you are looking for a fresh take on martial arts action, this is worth your time. If you are a fan of this kind of movie, you should seek it out and take the time to watch.
Dracula 3D (2012)
Visually luscious, uneven story and acting; worth seeing as a cheesefest
Warning: the actual plot of the film has very little to do with Bram Stoker, Universal, or Hammer films aside from recycling the character names. That may or may not be a disappointment depending on whether you are tired of the same old tropes or want to see them done one more time with Argento's trademark visual style.
Speaking of which - the photography and scene design roll over your visual inputs like melted butter. Every scene, every shot is just drenched in color and detail. Sometimes I wanted to do a screen capture of a scene and frame it on a wall of my house. So that alone made me feel as if I got my money's worth and spent my time in a worthwhile manner.
On the other hand...well, on the other hand, some of the dialog is risibly bad. And some of the acting (including 70-80% of what Asia Argento does) is clunky and wooden. I'm willing to overlook some of this in a film where the lines are probably dubbed...but there are an awful lot of clunkers here that detract from the film.
Casting: the actor playing Dracula was an interesting choice and had some visual appeal, but seemed too calm and sedate for the part. That might have just been an effect of the way the character was written. Gerard Butler had the same problem in a previous Dracula movie - they just didn't frame the actor in a way that best framed his strengths. This actor doesn't ruin the movie by any means, but he isn't Christopher Lee. You don't spend all the down time between his scenes holding your breath for his next appearance.
As I mentioned, the plot's all over the place and doesn't really have a lot of momentum and sometimes doesn't make a lot of sense. The editor also tends to stick in short scenes and shots here and there that either stop the movie cold or else disrupt the flow. I'm not sure I got to see the best version of the movie, either - for instance, Dracula's spy/henchman Zoltan is made out to be a pretty ruthless bad ass in three different scenes, but Hauer/Van Helsing dispatches him in about 5 seconds. And did I mention that Hauer/Van Helsing only appears after more than 1/2 the film has gone by?
Oh, well. It was worth seeing once in the DVD player on a Tuesday afternoon when I was under the weather and unable to go to work.
The Drop (2014)
This is THE "crime film" to see from 2014
Powerful, understated performances by the three principle actors, and a convincing portrayal of a back street neighborhood that gets by mostly on the underground economy run by the crime bosses.
The closest equivalent I can think of here is 2013's "Killing Them Softly", but Brad Pitt's portrayal of Cogan and the Runyon-esque feel of the plot and dialog make that movie considerably less grim than this gem. But you should see them both and make your own decisions as to which one is better or more effective.
Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini really sell this one. And I don't automatically swoon at the thought of a Dennis Lehane film (his adaptation of his own "Gone Baby Gone" came across like a Lifetime Movie Special in spots) but he's done excellent work here.
Highly recommended if you like this sort of thing.
One More Shot (1984)
Parochial action vehicle with the all the depth of a puddle
I found "One More Shot" on a specialty Roku Channel ("Black World") and gave it a watch one weeknight motivated by a fondness for obscure films and boredom. It wasn't that good, but I've done worse.
The opening credits tell us that this movie is an example of films made for a South African audience in the mid 80s. Apparently this audience was cut off from what I would think of as "mainstream", and a home-grown film industry kept them supplied with light entertainment and novelties, of which this film is a prime example. So "One More Shot" shouldn't really be judged by the same standards of a Hollywood(or even Bollywood) movie from the same era. But I'm going to do that anyway.
In essence, this isn't so much a movie as a sketch of a movie. Here's the plot summary: People (I'm not going to call them "actors") say things, do things, punch each other a lot, and then the good guys win.The end. And I'm making it sound more coherent than it really is.
So what about the actual execution? Well...while some of the individual scenes and setups aren't that bad, the movie appears to have been edited by some someone who needed to turn 30 minutes of plot into an 85 minute movie. So there's a LOT of padding disguised as exotic "travelogue" style footage, a lot of driving, several training montages (did I mention this is sort of a martial arts film? It's sort of a martial arts film) and about a hundred fights.
OK, it's a martial arts film, so never mind the acting (which is uniformly wooden, stiff, and unnatural)...how are the fights? I'll give the movie this: both of the "heroes" are supple and fluid in their moves and techniques. Once in a while there will be a nice leg sweep or lunge punch, etc., done with some panache. But boy, do the bad guys ever fall down unconvincingly. You can actually see the stunt men thinking "Well, this fight scene is over, time to lie down again."
I'm making it sound as if I hated this movie...but I didn't. It was mildly enjoyable, the equivalent of popping a chunk of bubble gum in your mouth and chewing on it. But I seriously think that I may have put more mental effort into writing about this film than the crew put into filming it.
Zong heng tian xia (1993)
Everything you ever loved - and hated - about 90's cheesefests.
What does it mean to say that the acting in "Honor and Glory" is really, really bad? Well, it's bad not in a "Manos: Hands Of Fate" or "Wild,Wild World of Batwoman" way, and not in an "Ed Wood movie" way...but in a "not even as good as one of the better Chuck Norris movies" way.
No one screws up their lines, there is no real incompetence on display in the camera-work or the costuming, and the cast is attractive and photogenic...but the screenplay seems to be written on the level of a Power Rangers movie. And the acting goes there too, which would be OK if they were playing it for laughs...but the movie plays things straight, so the humor is unintentional.
For instance, in the introductory scene that introduces the "reporter" half of the team, a Senator's daughter - SENATORS DAUGHTER, mind you - PULLS A KNIFE on the reporter in the presence of her camera crew, and the reporter kick-boxes her into submission. And then the reporter and her crew waltz off, and NO ONE remarks on it for the rest of the movie - no filed charges with the police, no scandal, nothing.
That's the kind of movie this is. Lacking any real heft or humanity or consequence, it fills 90 plus minutes with kick-boxing and witless dialog and silly plot devices until things wind up. The end.
On the plus side: It's cheerful, things keep moving, and Rothrock has just a little bit of something that translates well to the camera - which is probably why someone thought they could have her carry a movie.They were wrong, but not disastrously so.
It's also a Godfrey Ho/Hall vehicle, but without the part where he shoe horns completely related ninja footage into a 3rd rate action movie and them tries to pretend the ninja stuff relates to the rest of the movie via awkward linking dialog scenes. So that's a relief.
You can give this one a miss, but it won't hurt you to watch it the way some of Ho's stuff hurts you.