Friday, October 30, 2015

Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds - 1989

Big, big fan of Alex Proyas right here.  No, I'm not going to go on about how The Crow is one of the best action films of all times and defined what life was like in the 90's, but that is true.  Rather I really enjoyed Dark City, which for me was a more profound, more intellectual, and more a lot of interesting than it's popular brother-from-another-mother The Matrix.

I dunno what happened to the dude, he's only made a handful of movies, and went way off the track when he directed that I, Robot movie with Will Smith.  Furthermore, he then did Knowing with Nicholas Cage?!  WTF bro?  I was trying to talk about the skill you have, don't sabotage me!  Regardless, I am looking forward to Gods of Egypt, his upcoming film, because I love Egypt and I love some Proyas films.  Whatever.

This movie is extremely minimalist.  It's used with actors that didn't have much other films to their credit (or no other films), it has three actors total in the film, and it was filmed out in the middle of nowhere.  The plot is also minimal, it's basically about a dream of escape from a land of nothingness.  In the first few moments of the film, we see a brother and sister living together in a wasteland of nothingness.  They have obviously been alone a long time, and they're both very odd.  She is kinda crazy and quiet, he is manic and intense.  Out of the the middle of the desert a lone man stumbles towards their house.  He collapses.  When he wakes up, he has been brought into their house, and despite initially just wanting to get on his way, they convince him to stay.

They have this idea, you see.  An idea about flight.  Is flight possible?  They believe it is.  They were going to build a flying machine, so that they could fly to some land far away and live there, with the hope it'll be different.  The film takes us about 45 minutes for that all to happen, a very leisurely pace, and then the rest is the trials of the flight mechanisms, the despair of the people, and the gorgeously shot wasteland where they live.

The film excels and ultimately shows great skill because of, again, the small details.  The soundtrack for one is phenomenal.  Super strange, minimal, but ever present, strong, and just well done.  The cinematography, as I said, is really good as well.  The shots in the movie are well thought out, executed, and play out well.  The pacing is slow, but it is deliberate, contemplative, it reflects the doubt of the film's subjects.  Just as they don't know if their plan will succeed, we don't know either.  Just as they are fearing the worst, as they are experiencing turmoil and angst, so are we.  This film does a good job of leading it's audience.

Additionally, there is the unanswered questions, which I believe are hugely important in films.  We are not supposed to have all the answers, the film is not supposed to point everything out, it's not supposed to leave a finished picture in our heads.  It takes the step of asking us to fill in the blanks with our own take on things.  Why the world is destructed, who this stranger is, why are there Christian signs everywhere, etc....  If you want your audience to be interested in the movie, make the movie interesting!  Don't just assume that since it's a movie, people will want to watch it.

Although everything I've been saying are remarks about the strengths of the film, it does have it's weaknesses.  They are hard to really explain, but I felt like at times it was being weird for the sake of weird, trying too hard to be bizarre and eclectic.  The ending was ultimately kind of a let down, I thought, and the movie could've had more happen in it.  It's not the type of film to see time and time again.  It certainly has replay value, to notice the small details in it more than anything, but I doubt it's one I'd see more than 3 times.  Also, some of the questions that went unanswered....well, they could'a been answered, like the Christian thing.  Why are they Christian extremists, exactly?  Because having crosses everywhere and shit looks cool?  Apparently, that's the only reason.

I liked it a lot though, and I give it 4 stars.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Prisoners of the Lost Universe - 1983

This movie is bad.  Like as in, bad bad.  It's mostly just that it feels so fucking childish.  Who the hell would actually watch this movie, actually put it on, sit down, and watch it?  Someone that's either drunk or a fucking idiot.

I just got back from vacation, 8 days where I drove cross country, saw many states I'd never thought I'd see, and now I'm back.  I watched maybe 2 movies on this trip?  I think?  And finished Prisoners, which I'd started way too long ago to remember thoroughly.  But this is the kind of movie where you could sleep from the 5 minute mark until 5 minutes before the end and barely miss anything.

In a plot much like Outlaw of Gor, some people get transported to a parallel universe where they are tossed into the midst of a conflict going on and mild action ensues.  Why do I even try any more?

This movie fucking sucked.  Nothing happens in it!  It's long, tedious, slow paced, ditsy, childish, yet somehow had real actors in it.  Not that it helped much because they all suck in this, but wtf were these guys doing in this shit show?

Again I find myself wondering who the target audience would be.  It's not fun enough to be for children, it's too stupid to be for older people.  I guess it's for the tween crowd, but why would they see this when in 1983 there were way better movies to see?  I guess in a way it's easy to slam movies like this, because we have so many more options, and we forget that in 1983 there wasn't a ton of options available on VHS, and no DVD, and no way to find a movie online.

So, what do we have....a juvenile in feel, nonsensical romp through dimension.  It features a few wacky characters, fish-looking dude and big strong guy (no, I don't fucking care what their names were).  John Saxon is the evil beard-having tyrant dude who must be stopped.  And of course the dimension hoppers are an annoying naggy teen girl, and some mildly older dude who never does anything important.

If you were to eat an awesome dinner, get your dick sucked, get a mild buzz on, and then watch this movie, it might still ruin your night, and that's saying something.  Fuck this shit, yo.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Project: Kill - 1976

All the right things were in place, I've been here again and will be again.  Directed by one of my new favorites, William Girdler, starring Leslie Nielsen and Gary Lockwood, action drama, mid seventies....how could this go wrong?  I'm not starting some rant about how wrong it went.  I'm just setting the stage here.

Leslie Nielsen is awesome.  I loved the guy.  He's passed away now, and it's really too bad.  The dude was great as a dramatic actor, and of course I loved when later he took comedic roles in films like Airplane and the Naked Gun series.  He was a interesting dude, looked the part, and could've played basically any role.  One problem with this movie, is that when I say basically any role, well, this role wasn't exactly that great for him.  He was 50 years old in this movie, had never been in a lot of action films, and this movie called for him to be in fighting scenes.  WTF?!

Nielsen plays John Trevor, and with the pronunciation problems combined with bad recording equipment and shit quality, it does sound like they say Drebin, which made me smile in memory of the Naked Gun series.  John Trevor is the lead of some special forces that are enhanced by drugs.  He goes to the Philippines where this movie was filmed, and he conflicts with Gary Lockwood while he comes down off his performance enhancing drugs. Meanwhile, evil Filipino crime boss Alok tries to capture Trevor.

The movie turned out to actually be more of a drama.  I was not super happy about the amount of dialogue and drama in it, cause I wanted action and I wanted fun from Nielsen.  But that's not to be had here.  Drama is what you get.  And that's only cause there is no category for films that are dialogue heavy, about relationships, don't really have a lot going on, and are marked only by the interactions between it's characters.  So "drama" could be replaced by "fluff" in reality.

Not to rag on this movie too much, but this is a type of film that they don't make any more for a reason.  It's too slow to be enjoyed by the young-teen demographic, it's too silly and wonky to be enjoyed by the 20+ age range audience...who the hell was the target audience here? Even if it'd had a real action star like Charles Bronson this movie would've been labeled a flop, because most of the time the Trevor character is just walking around, wearing a short sleeve business jacket, being dull.  Big spoiler in next paragraph.

At the end of the movie, the guy we've been following the entire movie, the flawed character we like, and the biggest actor in the movie, confronts the Filipino crime syndicate.  He beats them all up in a pretty awful fight sequence.  He then confronts Gary Lockwood.  Bad choreography ensues, and then...Gary Lockwood fucking kills him?!  The main character dies?!!!!  I realized right then and there why we don't see that happen in more movies.  It makes it feel like, "uh, okay, so why make a movie about this then?!"  It actually made me mad.  Just cause there is zero closure on anything by killing Leslie Nielsen.  He wasn't a bad guy, I thought Gary Lockwood was the bad guy.  I'm not saying good has to win, I'm just saying if the bad guys win, it has to matter.

I'm not even sure what Lockwood winning the fight meant.  Sure, Nielsen as Trevor was suffering from the drug withdrawal (a very minor plot point that didn't get mentioned enough) but he didn't exactly deserve to die.  I don't really know what the idea behind that ending was.

Well, maybe I just wanted Leslie Nielsen to win because he's Leslie Nielsen.  Also, I wasn't exactly paying attention most the time.  This movie was really fucking boring.

Birdman and the Galaxy Trio - 1967-1969

Obviously the Academy Award winning film Birdman from 2014 was capitalizing on Michael Keaton's old role of Batman as a source of inspiration to show him as an old action hero that has past his prime and now is lost in a sea of second rate gigs.  But what the fuck was with the Birdman thing, and the costume also?  Well, I am someone who is familiar enough to have been watching Adult Swim since it's early inception days back in the early 2000's, so I knew of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law.

But Harvey Birdman was also a take on this old 60's cartoon, Birdman.  Which, when it originally aired in 7 or so minute segments, was aired alongside The Galaxy Trio, which is where I'm getting the title of this blog from.  So yes, before you get super confused or anything, I am in fact reviewing a 60's cartoon right here in the blog entry.  But first:

It finally happened.  The month where, despite trying and having a tiny bit of spare time occasionally, I just haven't kept up on the reviews and movie watchings.  What is my excuse this time...  1) Well, the wife has been having irregular hours, which makes her around more.  2) I've been really tired and going to bed earlier.  3) I've been doing more on weeknights, we were busy 4 out of 5 weekday nights last week, and of course busy on the weekend.  4) I started too many movies from different sources, got them confused, and at one point I seriously had 4 movies I was partway through...it made watching them confusing and I had to abandon 2 of them.  You see I prefer DVD.  I love to watch movies on my TV cause I sit at a damn computer all day long and I get tired of watching computer monitors.  But I can't watch DVDs when my wife is asleep cause we live in a studio apartment and the light and sound are too much.  So I watch computer then.  Oh and additionally, I'm going on a 8 day vacation next week, so won't be posting then either.

Explanations over.  Let's get on to Birdman and the Galaxy Trio.  I'll present these as separate, cause they are.  Just cause I have the word "and" does not mean they get one review for both of them.  So, start with Birdman.  I honestly do wonder what the connection between Birdman from 1967 and 2014 is.  Cause there is definitely some sort of connection here...
Okay, so the color scheme changed a bit.  I mean, it's standard update things here, the more "real" look, what a person would actually wear.  The actual resemblance of a bird versus some dude with wings in a yellow costume.  But even the figures themselves, Birdman was a superhero almost 50 years ago, then in the 2000 show Harvey Birdman, he has undergone a career change to become a lawyer.  In 2014 Birdman, Michael Keaton's character was a action movie star 20 something years ago, then underwent a career change to become this forgotten icon.  Then the similar look and the similar powers, this had to be influenced by Birdman from 1967.
By the way what the fuck kind of rap name is Birdman?!  I'm not sorry, Bryan Williams.  You are completely retarded.  I hate googling Birdman and having your stupid shit come up.  Get the fuck off the internet and invent a new name for yourself.

Birdman as the original cartoon is pure fucking repetitious bliss.  This is the shit I put on and watch while I draw, usually.  It's wonderful.  Each episode is almost exactly the same, it's hugely predictable, but so base in it's ideas, so completely low rent and ignore-able and laughable that it's awesome.  Birdman's powers are flight with his wings, and a solar shield and solar blasts that he gets from the sun.  If he's away from the sun for too long, his powers drain themselves and he's pretty useless.  His sidekick Avenger is a super smart, giant bird that understands what Birdman says.  In each episode the following happens:
1) A new threat is detected!  They are either going about some nefarious plan, or they want to confront Birdman and that's their plan.  Falcon 7, Birdman's boss, calls him, and tells him the villain must be stopped.
2)  Birdman flies out with his bird Avenger, and encounters the villain.
3)  The villain somehow blocks the sun, Birdman loses his powers.
4) Avenger comes to the rescue, Birdman regains his powers by flying into the sunlight.
5) Birdman blasts the villain or the villain's lair, weaponry, etc, and wins the day.

The funniest thing about this cartoon, and a lot of the older ones like this, is there's a surprising amount of dialogue, narration by the characters, and explanations in this show.  Birdman is constantly saying what he's doing, under the pretense of, I guess, telling Avenger?  But it's to the point where it's like, he'll say "They're getting away Avenger, we mustn't let them escape!"  Dude, just fucking chase them!  He says this while floating, then he flies away!  You're wasting time telling us what you're doing!  Did they think it would be hard to follow?  In that above picture of Birdman stopping the wall, I bet you he has a dialogue piece there about stopping that wall "before it crushes them".  Yeah!  I know it's going to fucking crush you!  I'm not a goddamn idiot!

Another thing, a lot of the villains escape....  Or a lot of them are left in a situation where it's like, uh, Birdman, go back and finish the job!  Not like, to kill them, just like, they're going to get away!  There's one where the villain is on some island, Birdman blows up all the weapons, then just flies off!  Like, dude, come back and fucking get the villain!  Sometimes he'll also just take off saying the "authorities will take care of you".  Just cause you stopped their big evil plan doesn't mean you don't have to wait there till the cops come man.  A lot of the villains also escape, which makes sense, keep the villains around like in Batman so that Birdman can face them again....that ol' thing.  Except he faces no villain twice.

It's hard to say exactly why I like this.  It's definitely the simplicity of it.  It's so basic.  It's the definition of accessible.  It's quite strange.  And yeah, really damn dumb.  The ideas, the villains, the superhero.  It's got such a low entertainment value, to a point.  Like, who the hell would watch this?  And who the hell was Birdman?  He's separated from us so much.  We know, we knew, so much about Batman, Superman, Spiderman, et all.  This guy seems like he just does his own thing; he's flawless, he's got no motivation, he's infallible, brilliant - we don't relate to him at all.  You can tell for reasons like that alone that this is not based on anything - this is a completely new character that the animators just made up.  The keyword I thought of just now, perfect for Birdman is "generic".  He feels completely mindless, like anyone could'a thought of him if they were forced to come up with a random ass superhero.

I give Birdman 4 stars, as a classic plotless, simple, mindless entertainment source.

The Galaxy Trio, it's just not there.  They have all the bad parts of Birdman, being infallible, no motivation, they're as one dimensional as they come, etc.  But they also have no charm, no interest factor at all actually.  Thoroughly worth a fast forward.


Friday, October 2, 2015

Miami Connection - 1987

"My mother was Korean.  My father was black American.  She gave me this picture when she was real sick.  I was only nine years old," cries Jim in a pivotal scene of Miami Connection.  This film.  This film, wow.  I don't even know where to start with this one.  This is probably the most logical pre-cursor to Birdemic if there was a pre-cursor to that film.  And if you haven't seen Birdemic, see it.  And now imagine, what if the director (who by the way, cannot speak English in a discernible way at all) played a major part in the film.

...Okay wait...don't stop there.  Now throw in some really ridiculous music, some ninjas, awful Tae Kwon Do, scores of bad actors in every minor and major role, hilariously bad shots of everything, ridiculous editing....I'd say this is high on the list of "films made in the most amateur way possible".  This movie breaks about every rule there is to cinema, but is still incredibly enjoyable in every single way.  

Short of having an incomprehensible plot, this movie did everything wrong.  Yes, the plot isn't quite linear, but it's just so simple that it's impossible to get it fucked up.  But everything else, wow.  The producer/star Y.K. Kim can barely speak English, luckily has little lines, but STILL!  The actors in other roles are all bad and besides the black guy, really easy to confuse.  The black guy Jim is a horrible actor, and is asked to do a crying scene where he says that line in the opening paragraph about his black American father.  Uh, guys, it's African American.  The script is obviously horrendous, written by someone who clearly didn't know English that well and probably shouldn't have been writing scripts....

The most ridiculous though, is just the premise!  We open with some scene of ninja's stealing cocaine from some baddies on a drug deal.  They take the cocaine, then we go to a band performing the incredibly stupid song "Friends" where they sing about loyalty and honesty and friendships.   Oh, yes.  Turns out this band is a group of friends that do everything together - they all go school together, live together, they're all orphans, they all practice Tae Kwon Do, they feed each other grapes....it's as bad as you can possibly imagine.  They get tangled up with these ninjas because of another disgruntled band that wanted their performing slot at the venue they were playing at.  The rival band hires the ninja clan to take out the good guy band, which is called Dragon Sound.

So, fights ensue.  Fights, but first there's pointless scenes aplenty!  A beach scene where they harass some girls!  Practicing Tae Kwon Do scene where YK Kim pinches a guy's nose with his toes!  Restaurant scene where they just eat food while the chef awkwardly looks on, a weird smile on his face!  Going to breakfast, a minute at school, and then going to lunch!  This movie is so bad that it actually feels like it's either insulting our intelligence as a film, that or it's making us dumber slowly.  It's just that watching it really makes us feel like WTF is wrong with me, why am I watching this?!

I did see it beamed throughout theaters with Rifftrax commenting on it, but that still counts as seeing the flick.  Like Ghosthouse, this movie is perfect for riffing.  It's great for drinking, but not getting smashed.  Similar for weed.  Tread lightly, still be able to enjoy the flick in other words.
It's fucking sweet, gets 5 stars.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Snowbeast - 1977

Not really feelin it today, right now.  I could just wait and do this review later.  Or I could just write it anyway and say fuck it.  Think I'll do the latter.

Snowbeast is a made for TV movie from 1977 starring Bo Svenson, who's been in all sorts of movies like Walking Tall 2, Inglorious Basterds, etc etc.  He's a real actor, basically.  This was early in his career, and later capitalized on how lucky they got by casting him that they brandished his name in a giant font on the top of the DVD case and artwork.

The worst and weirdest part of this movie is that besides the talent there in the actor, it also had talent in the director and screenwriter.  The director worked on a lot of TV including the original Star Trek TV show, and the screenwriter wrote the screenplay for Psycho and many other movies and TV shows.  So why was this movie so bad?  Well, I knew that I'd end up saying that...but in truth, it's just extremely dated and aged about as worst as it could've. I realized that as I was thinking about this movie today and yesterday.

I was all ready to tear this fuckin movie apart, rave on and on about how they needed to show the Snowbeast more, have more atmosphere.  Et cetera.  But honestly, this was 1977, and even more so this was made for TV.  I mean, I've reviewed made for TV movies before, namely Killdozer, but you can't expect the exception to be the rule.  I wonder what other made for TV movies from the 70's could interest me.

Snowbeast in the title is a yeti, so this is a continuation on the yeti movies I've been watching lately.  Why I decided to watch a bunch of yeti movies is anyone's guess, but it's most likely cause I like to marathon similar themed movies every once in a while.  That or I've finally snapped.  In this movie, Snowbeast is living up near some ski resort killing people, and the resort owners recruit Bo Svenson to help them track it down and kill it.

We never truly see the Snowbeast per say, which is the flaw here.  There's even a shot or two where it's actually made more awkward because of how the editing excludes the beast, and we see a lot of first person shots that are also awkwardly shot.  There are a few shots of the thing's extremities and like 2 shots of the Snowbeast itself, and again this is a movie where the costume was not that bad!  Show the fuckin thing more if the costume is good!  Maybe it broke or they lost part of it, I don't know.

This movie is cheesy, super duper cheap, and offers no real thrills being made for TV.  It doesn't make up for it in weirdness of scope or originality like Killdozer did either.  In fact, if it weren't about a yeti, but instead say a manic killer, it would probably never be seen again by anyone in their right mind.  I saw it for the following reason:  yeti.  I would definitely not have seen it sans yeti.

I'll give it a star for cheesiness.