July 22, 2008
3 Bad Girls, 1 Desert, 1 Supercharged Thunderbird, 1,473 Exotic Weapons, 1 Ruthless Crimelord, $206 Million in Stolen Goods, A Cop Who May Not be a Cop, Hundreds More Cops who are Cops (Maybe...), 317 Mercenaries, A Pair of Mentally Challeneged Contract killers, 1 Device that could snuff out life on Earth, Impromptu Wet T-Shirt Spectaculars, Existential Stirng Theory, Serveral pairs of "Pouty Puss" Underwear, Girl on Girl...On Girl...Fighting, Nasty Nuns, Circus Freaks, A sword wielding psychopath, Elvis Impersonators, 1 Creepy Pre-Schooler, Hot Women in bars, Hotter women behing bars, 4 psychotropic drug trips, a cavalcade of Horny strippers, Ferrari vs. Porsche vs. Yugo, Deadly sex torys, Feral Feminists in G-Strings, Savage Bikini Waxing, One badass hearse, The Department of Homeland Security, Vegas Porn Stars, A spirited round of Honduran snuff sex, international intrique, death and dismemborment, Celebrity cameos, one pissed off midget, The Greatest chick fight in cinema history, Genorous amounts of Mouth-Watering Female Flesh, More cleveage than you shake a stick at and Kidney-rattling Erotic Displays of Carnal prowess heretofor Unimagined...
Greatest Trailer ever
Oh hell yeah!
April 19, 2008
Japan has a small but strong Catholic population, mostly centered around the city of Nagasaki. As a seaport, missionaries first arrived in Japan there and many stayed to do their evangelical work with great success. Also, as a seaport with strategic military value, Nagasaki was selected as a target for an atomic bomb in World War II. The bomb devastated one of the few areas of Japan with real ties to the western world.
Nunsploitation movies sometimes aspired to more than casual nudity and sex while bashing the Catholic Church. The best of the group tell interesting stories that are set in a religious context. Tragic lives, murders most mysterious and the exploration of religious fervor as compared to mental instability make for a movie that's more than sacrilege for sacrilege's sake. The truth can be even more sad and terrible than lurid fiction.
In 1963, Jeanine Deckers recorded an album in which one song, Dominique rose to number one on the US charts. She was better known as The Singing Nun, and was played by Debbie Reynolds in a movie of the same name. I still remember how the movie ended, with a long elevated pull-away shot of her riding away in a jeep, to live happily ever after. One assumed.
Reality was much less kind. Jeanine Decker left the order a few years after recording her first album. Despite donating almost all of the profits from her music to the Dominicans, the Belgian government decided that she owed back taxes. Unable to overcome the resultant financial difficulties, she committed suicide with her long-time lesbian partner and they were buried together.
Like I said, I have managed to collect a few exceptionally powerful examples of nunsploitation films. I'll review them in the coming months, and hopefully I can convince you that the genre is more than just "Nuns Gone Wild".
April 17, 2008
The humans aren't pushovers and use most everything at hand as weapons. The aliens are all too... human, I guess, especially when they do something clumsy or stupid. It's an even match.
If you can deal with the gruesome amounts of blood, then I heartily recommend this one. It's going on my "to buy" list.
April 10, 2008
Hatchet - This movie bills itself as "Old School American Horror". More correctly, this is a flick that presents nothing new or original. I'm not saying that it's a bad movie, because it's well made, well acted, and there's plenty of blood, gore and gruesomely realistic special effects. If you're a fan of slashers, you'll certainly enjoy this one. You'll also be happy to hear that they've left it wide open to make Victor Crowley the next Michael Myers (Halloween), Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th) and Freddie Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street).
Spiral - This is a nifty little thriller. Here, Joel Moore plays Mason, a young man and aspiring artist who can barely function in society. He manages, thanks to near-OCD routine and frequent help from his only friend, who also happens to be his boss. He meets a girl and she begins to draw him out of his shell until it becomes clear that his personal quirks run far deeper and darker than anyone suspected. Chock full o' suspense and dread, this is well worth a rental.
April 07, 2008
Cruze: Professor, what do you make of all this? There's nothing but women!
Professor: Perhaps this is a civilization that exists without sex.
Turner: You call that civilization?
Professor: Frankly, no.
April 06, 2008
March 15, 2008
March 08, 2008
Lust for a Vampire
ThereÂ’s something about a Hammer film. Something beyond the gratuitous nudity and the bright crimson blood and the lush symphonic musical score. They have a distinctive look and understated yet luscious style which contrasts nicely with the characters, which tend to be just the slightest bit over the top. Lust for a Vampire is a sequel to The Vampire Lovers, which was loosely based on the 1872 story Â“CarmillaÂ” by Sheridan Le Fanu. The title was obviously picked to titillate and obscures the fact that amongst the blood and fangs is a story about the power of love. It takes place in a generic European region where the villagers speak English, dress in a vaguely Bavarian manner and often mention Vienna as the closest prominent city.
Every forty years, the vampire inhabitants of KarsteinÂ’s Castle reincarnate and feast their way through the local villager population. The year is 1830, which means that itÂ’s about that time again. We meet Richard Lestrange, who has just arrived to the area. He happens to be one of the premier supernatural authors of his day, and heÂ’s there to be inspired and to write about local legends. He doesnÂ’t actually believe any of the superstitious nonsense that the townspeople are warning him about, and he barely tries to hide his amusement at their assertions. Not that they care what he thinks. TheyÂ’ve warned him, and how he takes the warning is up to him.
Lestrange is of the privileged class. HeÂ’s also a horndog on perpetual prowl and there isnÂ’t a woman safe when heÂ’s around. Lucky for him thereÂ’s a womanÂ’s finishing school right nearby, brimming with lovely, impressionable young students. He quickly uses his name and reputation to gain access to the school, and with a cheeky bit of subterfuge manages to become the new English Literature professor.
Up in the castle, a ritual is underway. The boss evil dude Â– who looks like Dante from Clerks, in about another ten years Â– pours a chalice of virginÂ’s blood over a desiccated skeleton in a coffin. He intones a chant and beseeches Lucifer to Â“Turn now this fresh, warm blood into a body of thine making, this innocent spirit into evil.Â”
WouldnÂ’t it figure? Pure evil comes to life as a blond woman.
Girls, both villager and from the school, begin disappearing. Lestrange believes that the vampire stories may be true (heÂ’s seen first-hand evidence), but oddly enough he doesnÂ’t actually do much of anything about it. HeÂ’s reluctant to voice his suspicions, and his first instinct when the subject arises is to scoff. HeÂ’s an educated man, and doesnÂ’t want to seem to be too like the local yokels.
The film has several intertwined storylines and it isnÂ’t until about halfway through that you finally learn how all of the mysterious characters fit in. ThatÂ’s not to say that all the subplots make sense or are all that tightly woven together. There are several places in the movie where a logical or potential horrific progression is bypassed in favor of a romantic interlude or extra gratuitous boobage. Although I hate to complain about young, beautiful, busty naked ladies, sometimes the brief cut to schoolgirls kissing each other just doesnÂ’t make up for derailing the main story. This film could have been made without a single bare breast and I believe it might have improved things.
The vampires are mostly traditional, in that they are repelled by the cross and must be staked through the heart. They also have the ability to mesmerize a person with their eyes, which was always my favorite vampire power. On the other hand, daylight doesnÂ’t affect them. What keeps this group from becoming overly powerful is the fact that they donÂ’t add a bunch of newbie vampires to their group. As far as theyÂ’re concerned, there are two groups: existing vampires and food.
The vast majority of the movie takes place at the finishing school. The castle figures heavily at the beginning and then is almost entirely forgotten until the end, when weÂ’re treated to a good olÂ’ torch bearing mob, led by a Cardinal in red robes.
The real standout actor of the cast is Ralph Bates, who plays an obsessive teacher at the school. His character is eccentric and memorable, and he does a fine job of playing the quirky role without falling into the trap of being weird just for the sake of weirdness. Bates was being groomed to replace Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in Hammer movie roles, but he came along during HammerÂ’s steep decline and never achieved the greatness that his predecessors did, although the potential is definitely there.
Like many Hammer movies, Lust for a Vampire is a beautiful movie. The countryside is stunning and the sets are atmospheric. Not really minimalist, instead the various sets contain enough to effectively place the scene. Whereas a bedroom might be fully furnished right down to the pictures on the walls, the tavern is suggested by a few tables and a bar that seems to float into the scene out of nowhere. In both cases, it is sufficient.
The widescreen print itself is clear and bright, which is nice, but what kills this movie is the amateurish editing. During one sequence, we are treated to a sudden close-up of fake-looking bloodshot eyes that are supposed to be the head vampire. WhatÂ’s jarring is that the eyes rather obviously donÂ’t belong to him! ItÂ’s these kinds of shots that are seemingly edited in at random, for whatever reason, and it just breaks the flow of the story. During one romantic scene, a sickening-sweet love ballad blossoms on the soundtrack. Where did that come from? ItÂ’s glaringly out of place and does nothing but detract from the movie as a whole.
Something that amused me: the menu screen shows a Christian Cross to indicate the various choices, and when you select something the cross inverts. Nice touch, and it ties in with a minor point in the story.
As for extras on the disk, thereÂ’s a theatrical trailer and several radio spots (with a nude montage of the beautiful Yutte Stensgaard in the background). Also included is a poster and stills gallery, which includes some haunting artwork. The publicity stills tended to play up the sexual aspects and lesbianism in the story. Brief bios of director Sangster, actor Ralph Bates (who was, incidentally, also Louis PasteurÂ’s grandson), and Yutte Stendsgaard, whoÂ’s career lasted only nine films in less than five years. Finally, thereÂ’s a commentary track with director Sangster, actress Suzanna Leigh and a Hammer Films historian. It was ok; not the best, not the worst IÂ’ve heard.
Lust for a Vampire is the middle piece of HammerÂ’s Â“CarmillaÂ” trilogy (The Vampire Lovers and Evil Twins round out the set), and according to many itÂ’s the weakest of the three. ItÂ’s not as bad as its reputation suggests. ItÂ’s not as good as it could have been.
March 03, 2008
Thanks to Random Nuclear Strikes for the pointer.
February 25, 2008
Many documentaries are biased, and that's ok as long as you recognize it and take it into consideration as you watch. Also, many "documentaries" these days are factually challenged. Michael Moore's work comes to mind. The man knows how to make a compelling feature, it's just that his personal agenda gets in the way so much that he has serious problems telling the whole truth. He picks and chooses facts to present things in a way that supports his viewpoint. A lot of people do that, but he is an extreme practitioner, although not the only prominent one. Al Gore, nuff said.
Indoctrinate U is biased as well, to the "conservative" side. It's a look at American college campuses and how liberal politics and groupthink are enforced by academia and students seeking to suppress opinions that don't match their own. And the great success they've had doing so.
Like any documentary that begins with a specific point of view, most of the footage that ends up in the final product is going to be supportive of that perspective. There were some silly moments shown where the director/interviewer and camera crew wandered several campuses, talking to faculty and staff while looking for the "Men's Study Center". These campuses each had a "Women's Study Center" and the law requires equal treatment.
There were also quite a few scenes where the staffs and faculty would stonewall or tell obvious lies to try to get them to leave. Quite often, the police would be called to escort the camera crew off campus.
But it was also clear from the number of on camera interviews (from both sides of the argument) that those colleges were the exception rather than the rule. I didn't keep count, but I'd guess that probably twenty universities were represented by the various professors in the interviews.
Topics covered affirmative action, speech codes, ROTC and military recruiting on campus, feminism, LBGT issues, diversity and more.
Like I said, I recognize the bias here, but still, I'd heard of most of the events specifically mentioned in the film. I've heard of the "affirmative action bake sales", where minorities are charged lower prices for cupcakes than whites as an illustration of the problems with racial preferences. I knew of the students threatened with expulsion because they violated someone's "right to not be offended" simply by hanging up a flier advertising an event featuring a conservative black speaker. There was so much more.
The point of this all was that college campuses, in general, no longer tolerate diversity of thought. You must think a certain way and believe certain things (or at least keep quiet if you don't). Going against the groupthink doesn't mean you disagree, it means that there is something wrong with you. Grades can suffer, harrassment and even threats may occur, often while the university looks the other way.
I have some personal experience with this, in that I've got two daughters who have directly dealt with this in college classes. I believe that it's real, but I'm biased, and I recognize that too.
Bottom line: Recommended for everyone. If you agree, it'll affirm your beliefs. If you don't, well, it's a good thing to hear someone with an opposing viewpoint once in a while.
*** The Indoctrinate U website offers you the chance to download a couple of different versions of the film. I chose the DVD version, which I would then burn to my own DVD. That was the plan anyway. (There's also a mp4 version for those who prefer it.)
A couple of tries later, I did a little research and found DownThemAll, a download manager plugin for Firefox. It's free and worked like a champ. When the download was interupted or hung up, I simply clicked the pause button for about a minute and then clicked resume, and the download would continue on its merry way. The download file is a little over 4GB, so do yourself a favor and get a download manager first thing.
Once you've got the file downloaded to your hard drive, you can burn the DVD. I used the package that came with my PC, called Nero. Once again, worked like a champ.
Through it all, I exchanged several emails with the support folks at the Indoctrinate U website, and they were quick to respond and genuinely helpful.
Good job guys!
February 15, 2008
Sachiko is a promiscuous tutor (or maybe she's a hooker... unclear), who stumbles into the middle of a deal involving North Korean secret agents. She gets shot in the middle of the forehead, but instead of killing her it makes her hyper-intelligent, among other things. She winds up with the cloned finger of George Bush, which the Koreans want so they can use the fingerprint to launch nuclear weapons. Sometimes she can tell the future if she sticks the President's finger into the hole in her forehead. Oh, and she is still very, very promiscuous.
Recommended? Hell if I know. I'm still trying to decide if *I* liked it.
February 10, 2008
Me: Kurt Russell's greatest role was Snake Pliskin.
Liz: What? No way!
Me: Name one better.
Me: And you even knew who Snake Pliskin was.
Liz: What about...
Me: Don't even try Captain Ron.
I named six or seven off the top of my head, including Stuntman Mike, but none compared to Snake Pliskin.
February 07, 2008
Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Wordless. All music, dance and movement to tell the story, from the prologue to the final tragic ending. Abso-freakin'-lootly amazing. If you live in the DC metro area, do yourself a favor and check these people out. I think Mookie and I already have a date for May to see Carmen.
Synetic Theater. Romeo and Juliet. Highly recommended.
Me. Two vans full of young college girls.
You. Envious because I don't even have to make this kind of stuff up.
February 06, 2008
Right At Your Door is the story of a couple in Los Angeles and their experiences after terrorists set off a string of "dirty" bombs downtown. He's inside their home, sealed in according to government instructions. She's outside, contaminated.
Frightening, agonizing, frustrating, infuriating, terrifying and thought provoking; it's all of these things, delivered via a size-12 kick right to your gut.
If you have Netflix, bump it to the top of your queue. If you rent, look for it at Blockbuster or your local shop.
February 02, 2008
You'd think that as the number got larger, it would get easier, but it doesn't. A lot of films that obviously aren't in your personal top 10 make it into your top 50, and it's a whole lot harder to narrow down that list. My first crack at my favorite top 50 had 90 movies on it, and there's no doubt that I've forgotten some.
Below are my "50 Favorite Movies".
Army of Darkness
Big Trouble in Little China
Black Pit of Doctor M
Brotherhood of the Wolf
Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death
Escape from New York
Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Monty Python's Life of Brian
My Favorite Year
Night of the Living Dead
Saving Private Ryan
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Shaun of the Dead
ST: The Wrath of Khan
The Blues Brothers
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Glenn Miller Story
The Mummy (1932)
The Mummy (1999)
The Shawshank Redemption
Throne of Blood
It would have been nice if I could have put in things like "John Wayne's cavalry movies" or "Cary Grant movies" or "Directed by Alfred Hitchcock". I've reviewed many of these here on Rocket Jones and some over at Wildside Cinema.
Agree? Disagree? Leave comments. I'm stuck in bed sick this weekend. Amuse me or I'll start whining.
January 30, 2008
January 28, 2008
These guys are starting to release old made-for-TV thrillers and horror flicks. This is the Rocket Jones review of the second one, in my own informal style (the first, Crawlspace, can be found here). As an added bonus, Wildside Cinema has asked me to post reviews there as well (in their own format). So the astute businessmen at Wild Eye are getting a two-fer, which should be a lesson to all, Rocket Jones is an efficient use of your resources and you should all send me free screeners to review. End disclosure and shameless self-promotion.
When you or I hear someone ask, "who's yer daddy?", we chuckle (or pant, depending on the situation I suppose). Yet when Diane hears it, the correct answer is "SATAN", although she doesn't know it yet.
The Devil's Daughter (1973), tells the story of a young woman who has one helluva pedigree. Rosemary's Baby introduced us to the idea of the Dark Lord's child being born, and this movie (airing a few years later, and three years before The Omen), runs with the concept.
After Diane was born, her mother had misgivings about the agreement, so she found a loophole that kept the coven out of their lives for 21 years. Mom also found religion. This makes me wonder if the Devil is such a lousy lover that he drives women into the arms of Jesus.
So after mom dies, Diane returns home for the funeral and meets Lilith, an old family friend (translation: member of the coven). Lilith is played by Shelley Winters, who is one of Hollywood's most underappreciated actresses. Before you know it, Diane has moved into a spare room in Lilith's huge home, and is being introduced to more of her mom's circle of friends (translation: rest of the coven). More and more, Lilith tries to take control of Diane's life while Diane pushes back, trying to maintain her independence.
Besides the aforementioned Shelley Winters, Jonathan Frid (Dark Shadows) gives a fine performance and Abe Vigoda (Barney Miller) also makes an appearance. The acting from everyone is excellent, especially the sisters next door, who manage to be kooky eccentric and blood-chillingly creepy all at the same time.
Once again, this is a made-for-tv movie, so don't expect lots of action. Smart dialog rules here, and it works well to move the story along. Instead of scares, you get tension and edgy suspense. I honestly didn't see the twist ending coming.
The beginning of the movie shows a fair amount of damage from the original source. It clears up soon enough and the rest of the film looks good.
This movie was a lot of fun. I'm a sucker for most anything Shelley Winters appears in and you'll enjoy spotting many familiar faces in the cast.
After watching Crawlspace (which I liked) and now The Devil's Daughter (which I liked more), I think Wild Eye Releasing is off to a great start. I'm looking forward to seeing more of their stuff in the future.
January 21, 2008
Storyline: A Great Lord decides to divide his kingdom into three, one for each son, with the oldest becoming the new Great Lord. When his youngest objects and calls his father naive, he is banished. Soon enough, intrigue and politics between the two older sons strip the old man of his standing and begin tearing the kingdom apart.
Like I said, dark and beautiful. There is no happy ending, and there are many disturbing scenes. The battles are frequent and huge, involving armies and castles. Even so, the very human story is never overwhelmed by the scope of the action. The entire film is heavily influenced by Noh theater, most noticable by the old man himself, who's face gradually changes from one mask-like visage to another during the course of the story.
The cinematography is gorgeous, as is the area of Japan that it was filmed in. It's not a quickie at 2 hours and 40 minutes, and there's not many chances to fast forward through the filler. All subtitles.
Like I said over at the Wildside Cinema forums, I think I'm Japanese'd out for a while. This one was wonderful but draining.
January 17, 2008
Wildside Cinema has branched out from pure horror and exploitation movies, so drop by and check it out. The forums are fun too.
January 16, 2008
Next up was Throne of Blood, an amazing retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth set in fuedal Japan. This one is now on my "to buy" list.
Right now, I have Ran, another Japanese retelling of Shakespeare. This time, it's King Lear.
If you cannot deal with subtitles, then you're missing out on some amazing movies. I've probably said that before.
Or maybe I'll just forego the heavy stuff and just enjoy some mindless breastacular hixploitation fun. I've got a double feature to watch: The Pigkeeper's Daughter and Sassy Sue.
I'm sure that when the time comes, I'll do the right thing.
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