Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

Movie Reviews 434 – Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)

May 15, 2020

To say that there is some violence in Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky is like saying Jackie Chan knows a bit about martial arts, an understatement if there ever was one. Based on a Japanese manga and two subsequent animes. I’ve had this DVD for sitting on my shelves for years, but I was always under the impression that this was a ‘straight up’ martial arts film. An error on my part perpetuated by the fact that it had no discernible actor credits, and for that reason it regrettably languished in my pile until this week. The fact that this was something out of the ordinary escaped me as I frankly never noticed the somewhat obscure details on the cover hinting of weirdness, but to be fair the artwork on my DVD (not the poster shown here) looks more like a traditional combat film.

Once the movie begins however, all notions of ‘regular’ fly out the window. Set in the ‘future’ year of 2001 where penal institutions are corporately run (ironically semi-prescient I realize), Ricky (Siu-Wong Fan) is just arriving at a prison to the usual taunts and mistreatment by his new captors. But rather than taking it in stride he immediately lets it be known that he will not be messed with, whether it be at the hands of the corrupt guards or any of the jailbird gangs.

With the warden currently away on vacation the prison is under the command of gluttonous “Cyclops Dan” (Mei Sheng Fan) who has one removable bad eye (containing breath mints) and a double clawed prosthetic hand. From his food filled office with a sizeable collection of pornography videocassettes he directs the three prisoner cell block gang leaders, and more importantly, the illicit drugs they produce within the penitentiary walls.

Through a series of heartwarming flashbacks we learn how Ricky ended up in prison and how those events loosely tie into the gang members he ends up brawling in there. But as bad as it is at first, it is nothing compared to the battle that ensues once the warden himself returns to the prison and learns of this new superhuman prisoner who has destroyed his sideline narcotic operation.

As corny as the action sequences are, Siu-Wong Fan’s physique is impressive. While he is no Bruce Lee by any stretch, he does have the washboard abs and notable upper bulk to carry the part. But the comparisons end there as the fights are poorly staged, relying solely on the outrageousness and the resulting spurting fountains of blood for entertainment value.

It’s non-stop nails to the (obviously rubber) faces, fists through abdomens, exploding heads, popping eyes (I lost count), zapping electrical charges, dismembered limbs, and flying slabs of styrofoam concrete. You get the picture. There is a fleeting semblance of a plot and a hockey backstory explaining Ricky’s superhuman strength, but this is mostly one battle or torture scene to the next. Basically Ricky and the righteous inmates who cheer for him against the warden, Cyclops Dan and the three gang leaders, each of which has a notable combat specialty and who look like discotheque escapees. As an added bonus, all the dubbed dialogue is delivered in 70’s jive talk. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not, but it makes the film just that much more outrageous.

In a nutshell, Riki-Oh is an onslaught of over-the-top fight sequences featuring some of the most blatantly cheesy special effects and doused in gallons of corn syrup blood that will have you grinning more than cringing.

I was hoping that my Media Asia Group DVD would have some extra features with more information on the film itself but it only contained some trailers. The good news was that those trailers for the films (Heroes Shed No Tears, Last Hurrah for Chivalry, Duel to the Death, and Magnificent Butcher in case you were interested) were awesome, each more mind blowing than the last.

 

Movie Reviews 432 – Evil bong (2006)

May 1, 2020

I’m a huge fan of B-movie producer, director and writer Charles Band and the many films he created with his mini-empire of companies, the most notable being Full Moon Features.  For those who aren’t familiar with his low budget movies – over 300 films and still going strong – he has a tendency to revisit titles that gain traction, creating such series’ as Subspecies, Trancers, Demonic Toys, and my favorite by far, the many Puppet Master films (the first six films in the series I reviewed here and here).

Now with Evil Bong I had no idea what I was in for other than what the title offered and as it was in one of those multiple film horror boxes (8 films on two disks, half being Band films) I did not even have a decent cover photo to rely on. But the title pretty much says it and as the title credits rolled to the tune of a Rasta-like score, the cast of unknowns ended with none other than the godfather of ganja himself, Tommy Chong so I knew I was in for a good, if not high, time.

A pointdexterish dweeb answering an ad to share an apartment ends up living with three airheads: a surfer dude, a jock, and disinherited wealthy washout. When one of the doobie boys comes across an ad in High Times magazine for a vintage, reputedly haunted bong he responds to the ad while dismissing the seller’s unusual warning. When said bong arrives it is an intricately decorative piece with a nondescript inlaid female face, but the boys are more interested in lighting her up than heeding any caution.

The surfer dude is the first to succumb to the bong’s trance, fiendishly smoking the skunk until his essence is spirited away to some mystical dimension strip joint! But the gals there give him more than a show and he soon succumbs to them, his body dying in real life back in the pad. As the other boys try to hide the body, they too soon fall prey to the bong’s life sucking aura, as the bong begins developing facial features and world domination ambitions. Their only hope lies with a stoner former owner of the bong (Chong) to destroy it.

While not as imbued with a more intricate plot as is found in most earlier Band productions, it nevertheless does contain some of his staples, notably some animatronic puppetry and buxom babes. As one can imagine there are plenty of corny dopey scenes (aside from the actual dope) including a variety of ‘killer’ bikini tops in the dreamlike strip joint that are used as the coup-de-grace killing of the victims.

While the film is funny at times I will be honest and say that given the subject matter, which I felt would provide plenty of fodder for laughs, I felt it wasn’t as imaginative as I had hoped. Chong is well Chong, but minor roles by talents Bill Mosely and Phil Fondacaro are wasted here.

I was in a good enough mood to watch the entire end credits which surprisingly contained a trailer for the sequel Evil Bong 2: King Bong which honestly looked more interesting. And like so many other Band films, Evil Bong has developed into an entire series, eight to be exact (at least so far) if you count the Gingerbread Man Vs. Evil Bong crossover. Enough to satiate any craving and give you the munchies.

Movie Reviews 427 – Our Man in Havana (1959)

March 6, 2020

If you ask almost anyone today to name a film with Alec Guinness the answer will almost surely be Star Wars, which is a shame as it was a far cry from his best performances. Sir Alec Guinness’ career was well established long before he portrayed Obi Wan Kenobi in the 1977 blockbuster, the role that much to his chagrin, came to define him for future generations. Already having earned a Best Actor Oscar for The Bridge on the River Kwai, the multi-faceted actor also had some serious comedic chops in films like The Man in the White Suit and my favorite, Our Man in Havana.

Good hearted vacuum salesman Jim Wormold (Guinness) finds himself stuck in pre-revolution Cuba, eeking out a living and trying to keep ahead of expenses that his daughter Milly (Jo Morrow) keeps ringing up. Seeing as Milly has just acquired a fondness for horses, Jim is more than intrigued when a mysterious bowler wearing fellow brit enters his shop and suggests they meet later and for a chance to earn some dough. The bowler man is agent 59200 working for Her Majesty and he recruits Jim (now agent 59200-5) to be ‘their man in Havana’. Confused as to what his duties are really supposed to be the one thing that is clear to Jim is that he is encouraged to recruit others to work for him, preferably people well placed to report anything of significance. At the encouragement of his friend Dr. Hasselbacher (Burl Ives) begins falsifying reports and cashing in on pseudo-recruits, real people yet none knowing they are supposedly working as spies.

With horse maintenance, training and country club fees swelling Jim decides that he can really soak his new bosses by reporting that a new nuclear complex is being built on a remote part of the island. To make his case convincing Jim invents a plane pilot who supposedly discovered the compound and for good measure even draws up a bunch of fake blueprints inspired by characteristics of some of the vacuums in his shop.

But his fabrications turn out to be more successful than intended. When word gets around of this covert facility to the upper echelons – even so far as the Prime Minister’s office – headquarters decides that more resources and seasoned personnel need to be sent to aide Jim in Cuba immediately. Now not only must Jim keep his new secretary (Maureen O’Hara) and a photographer fooled, he must contend with an inquisitive Cuban captain (Ernie Kovacs) doting his daughter.

Based on a Graham Green novel, this is a fantastic black comedy highlighting the absurdities of the entire espionage establishment and its self propelling machinations. Loosely based on actual false reporting events by some operatives, the film is all the more ironic in that Castro’s post revolution regime allowed the film to be shot in Havana believing that the plot elements mocked the fallen Batista military dictatorship.

If you’re going to have a Guinness and it’s not the stout beer variety… get an Alec.You can’t go wrong.

January Movie Marathon – 2020 Edition

January 24, 2020

Time for my annual 31 Movies in 31 Days challenge that I’m glad to report was successful with one caveat. In past years these were January challenges where the movies had to be watched during the month alone. Suspecting that I would be a bit busier this year I cheated a bit by shifting the challenge to begin Christmas day,and gave myself 31 days from that point, so ending January 24th (today!), which also made more sense given that those interim days between Christmas and New Years are really prime relaxing viewing days. My suspicions were correct and even with the shift I just made my quota!

Unlike previous years where my movie viewing was across the gamut of genres and eras, my son and I decided to binge rewatch all the Harry Potter movies so the scale is slightly tipped in favour of those eight movies. But I think the others films preent are a nice variety regarding content and quality. In the order in which I watched them, here are my short reviews.

#1 – Dead Snow (2009) My second viewing of this Norwegian Nazi Zombie film was not as memorable as the first time I watched it at the Fantasia film fest years ago. A bunch of young adults shack up in a remote cabin for a few days of skiing the slopes when (surprise!) World War II era SS troops led by recalcitrant commandant disturb their snow bound vacation. Some fairly funny bits and I did love the Nazis popping out of the snow like Whack-a-Moles at and arcade.

#2 – The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)  As are all the Roger Corman Poe adaptations, this one is a very loose interpretation of the source material. But with Vincent Price and Barbara Steele headlining you really can’t go wrong. And damned if there really isn’t a pit and a giant human slicing pendulum in it and other interesting devices in a torture chamber.

#3 – Christmas with the Kranks (2004) Well I had to watch at least one Holiday film for this list, didn’t I? Sadly, there are a lot better than this one. Even Jamie Lee Curtis as the wife of a couple who decided to forego Christmas for a cruise couldn’t really raise my interest above “Meh.” Should have gone with other Christman movie standards like Die Hard, Gremlins, (Yes, those last two are Christmas movies!), A Christmas Story or It’s a Wonderful Life. I guess you could say this one left me Kranky.

#4 – Mommie Dearest (1981) The legacy of silver screen diva Joan Crawford is not so much her films as the events described in the tell-all book “Mommie Dearest” (adapted here) by her daughter after her death in which she revealed that her troubled childhood included beatings with coat hangers. It made headlines at the time and I can’t get it out of my mind that arch enemy Bette Davis must have loved every minute of it. Faye Dunaway nails it as Joan. (Disclaimer: No Nails were used in the beating of the children.)

#5 – Ransom (1996) Mel Gibson turns the cards on Gary Sinise, his son’s kidnapper by putting a ransom on his head rather than paying one, much to the surprise of his own wife (Rene Russo). A decent thriller although Mel is over the top at times as is the entire premise. Much better Gibson/Russo chemistry in Lethal Weapon 3 and Gibson is crazier in that one as well.

#6 – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) It’s been a long time since I watched the Harry Potter series. The first movie about the boy wizard, introduces us to Hogwarts, Dumbledore, Hagrid, Snape, McGonagall, those other meddling kids (Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley), a few muggles and not to forget: Quidditch!

#7 – The Night Strangler (1973) This was the second Kolchak TV movie before the The Night Stalker TV series. (I already watched The Night Strangler  pilot movie which started it all a month earlier). l Always wanted to watch the proto-X Files series and I’m finally getting around now 47 years later.  This one has Kolchak (Darrin McGavin) being aided by an exotic dancer (Jo Ann Pflug) solve the mystery of a recurring murderer popping up every few decades since the civil war.

#8 – Harry Potter and the Secret Chamber (2002) Harry, with the help of Ron, Hermione, Dobby the elf, Moaning Myrtle (not a porn star as you would be led to believe), and a book previously owned by Voldemont himself rescue Ron’s sister from the titular chamber. And of course more Quidditch!

#9 – Halloween (2019) I was very excited to hear that there would be another Halloween reboot after the dismal last entry in Rob Zombie’s reboot. The fact that Jamie Lee Curtis was returning in her original role sealed the deal. Now I have to admit that this was not as good as I had hoped and the slow, predictable start nearly had me give up on it entirely but stick with it to the end, bear some of the sillier aspects, and it does carve out a place for itself in the Halloween pantheon. At least it’s a lot better than some of the others.

#10 – The Rock (1996) When a bunch of uber-patriot elite Marines feel slighted by their country they take over Alcatraz and threaten to launch missiles they’ve set up on the isle of the former prison. Without any accurate blueprints and layout of the compound they ask a current convict Sean Connery who is also being screwed over to help.The plot is as convincing as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but it’s Bad-Ass Connery so who cares?

#11 – Godzilla VS. Hedorah (1971) Read review here.

#12 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) Someone is out to kill Harry, Ron’s rat escapes, and there’s a werewolf. If nothing else, this was an excuse to get Gary Oldman into the storyline. And there’s a game of Quidditch against a team with the unlikely name of Hufflepuff.

#13 – The Thirteenth Floor (1999) Twists and turns galore as character’s jack-into a 1930’s virtual world with mols, cops, murder and mystery. Sure the effects are dated (even for that time) but this is all about plot and plotting and the truth is a doozy!

#14 – Red Eye (2005) Nearly the entire film takes place within the confines of an airplane as a hotel manager is coerced by a terrorist (Cillian Murphy) to make particular arrangements for a special guest.

#15 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) Not just any Quidditch but nothing less than the World Cup of Quidditch. And then a Tri-Wizard tournament! Sounds like a lot of fun except for that Voldemort dude killing folks.

#16 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) Harry Potter gets expelled from Hogwarts! Actually one of the better films in the series but (egads!) no Quidditch! Includes one of the most wasted character names in cinematic history: Nymphadora Tonks. Nuff said.

#17 – The Purge (2013) The Purge series of films set in a not too distant future America in which once a year, for 24 hours, people can kill one another to ‘purge’ pent up frustration (the thinking being that it’s somehow better in the long term). This first movie has an upper scale family being safely locked in their home until one of the kids decides to ‘save’ a stranger being hunted. But the stranger ends up being the least of their problems.

#18 – Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009) The ‘blood’ in the title must be indicative of the many fluids in the plot including love potions, poison, liquid luck, and mead. My least favorite of the series and more a setup for the ending in the next installment.

#19 – Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970) Read review here.

#20 – First Strike (1996) Jackie Chan dishes out his usual “Chan-anigans” as a Hong Kong cop helping the CIA nab an arms dealer in Australia and meeting up with some Russians. I think they were going for International appeal.

#21 – The House that Dripped Blood (1971) Read review here

#22 – Dead Reckoning (1947) Humphrey Bogart has to track down his best friend and fellow former paratrooper after he ditches at a train stop just before the to are set to receive prestigious war medals in Washington. Following a byzantine set of clues (including a false name to begin with) he finds that his buddy was an accused murder on the run. But why did he suddenly go back to the scene of the crime and them seem to disappear altogether. Bogey has to rely on his buddy’s former gal (Lizbeth Scott) but can he even trust her? (prosecution witness?)

#23 – Duck Soup (1933) You can never go wrong with The Marx Brothers’ vaudevillian humour. Between Groucho’s fire-a-minute witty one liners, Harpo’s voiceless antics, and Chico’s accented haggling and scheming, who needs a plot? But if things like that are important to you, Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) is sworn in as the new leader of Freedonia to remedy their cash shortage, while his brothers are bumbling infiltrators sent in from a rival country hoping to start a war. I won’t mention Zeppo.

#24 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010) Harry and his friends ‘jump the shark’ with this entry in the series. What began as a fun, interesting saga with great characters has transgressed into a dark, repetitive here as they set up the finale in Part 2. And not even one damn Quidditch game (although a Snitch figures prominently in the plot).

#25 – Romeo Is Bleeding (1993) A greedy cop (Gary Oldman) earns a little extra side income by tipping off the mob on informant hideout information but things start to go wrong when they take out an informant about to spill their secrets but also take a few cops with them in their assault. Not only can he not back out of their little deal, but he is now being forced to take out one of those informants on his own. But Mona (Lena Olin) is no mere informant, but a mob hitwoman who took out the previous informant and a roomful of cops. Intense, action packed, saucy and sentimental.

#26 – Forbidden Planet (1956) Read review next week here!

#27 – The Money Pit (1986) Mid-eighties rom-com where a young couple (Shelley Long and Tom Hanks) are suddenly in need of a place to stay and chance upon a mansion that needs a little work but is surprisingly within their limited means. But as all “too good to be true” parables their fortunate find ends up putting a strain on their relationship as their dream house begins to crumble before their very eyes. Corny but fun.

#28 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) I must admit that my disappointment with part one of this finale was fully redeemed with this satisfying ending. All the questions, some looming since the very beginning, are answered here although not always to fan’s hopes. Which is as is should be. My one complaint was that a lot of scenes seemed to be pilfered directly from other blockbusters including Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. How many times must we see hordes of evil creatures descending on an isolated hamlet backstopping the forces of good? How many times must we see the two most powerful characters, good vs evil, deploy mystical weapons against each other, streaming in mid air (conveniently in different colors), to determine which is stronger?

#29 – Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935) One of nearly fifty movies featuring the illustrious pulp-era Chinese sleuth (the first few being silent era films and many of the others now lost). Hard to believe that it’s been nearly 40 years since the last, loosely based on a real life Hawaiian detective of Chinese descent. Scored ten DVDs last week so I’ll be enjoying a few more. This one even has Stepin Fetchit who only adds to negative stereotypes depicted in these films. (The DVDs even include a warning lest some be offended.)

#30 – Watching the Detectives (2007) Not the Elvis Costello song but a film about a versed film buff (Cillian Murphy) who owns and runs a low key video rental store whose life gets turned around when he meets quirky Violet (Lucy Liu) who lives her life on the edge, moment by moment while playing sophisticated, agonizing pranks on him. Some pacing irritants but the characters make up for it. I must confess that I just loved all the movie references bantered between all the video store employees although the message of the film is to abandon viewing and start to live instead. Disingenuous as had I done that I wouldn’t have watched this film.

#31 – Fury (1936) This was Fritz Lang’s first American film after escaping an increasingly Nazi led Germany. Spencer Tracy is a hardworking, honest man saving every penny so that he can get married to the love of his life. But life throws him a curveball just as he has finally saved up enough and is on his way to meet his fiance when he is thrown in jail suspected of being a member of a group of kidnappers that have taken a child. As word of the capture spreads across the grapevine, the overzealous townsfolk have made up their mind and storm the jailhouse which is soon engulfed in flames. Miraculously managing to escape the inferno, the innocent man, now out for blood himself, decides to lay low as a number of the lynch mob are put on trial for his murder having established that they had the wrong man. Great suspense and pathos.

Movie Reviews 421 – Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970)

January 10, 2020

During the midst of the Italian Spaghetti Western craze other countries started to get in on the action, so to speak. Two Mules for Sister Sarah is a Mexican production that has the odd pairing of Clint Eastwood, the predominant Goombah oater at the time, with the whimsical Shirley MacLaine best known for her comedic talents.

What brought back memories of this movie was watching Tarantino’s Django Unchained and hearing the distinct whistling of Ennio Morricone’s great “The Braying Mule” theme song from this movie (you can hear a mule bray if you listen carefully) as well as “Sister Sara’s Theme” later in the film. But the relationship to Django Unchained is actually something of a triangle as there are distinct plot elements here that were lifted right from the original Django. For starters, this movie begins with our protagonist Hogan (Eastwood) meandering in the mountains when he suddenly comes across a damsel in distress, Sara (MacLaine) about to be raped by a group of armed thugs. With precision gunslinging Hogan picks of the ravagers like a 5-7-10 bowling split and ends up being accompanied by the woman, shocked to find out that she is a nun, the rest of the film. This is not only the exact same beginning as Django but the revelation of Sara’s true identity – which I’m not going to mention here as it would spoil the movie – is also nearly identical.

Hogan is on a mission to aide Mexican revolutionaries take out a French garrison in the city of Chihuahua with a promise to get half of the gold being held there should they succeed. As it turns out, Sara has intimate knowledge of the layout and defence of that garrison. A fortuitous meeting for a pair made in heaven – well at least the nun.

While evading the French cavalry who have a particular sore to settle with Sara, the duo avoid rattlesnakes and dynamite the odd trestle bridge making their way to the city. Dealing with her constant prayers, huge silver cross that Sara brandishes to ward off evil and her feisty temperament that is conveniently flexible to catholic doctrines whenever necessary, Hogan must fight off the urge to get his hands on his lovely companion who is much more than she claims to be. The two trade barbs as Brother and Sister children, polar opposites pitting his carefree, vagabond lifestyle against her feigned abstinence and purity.

The revelation isn’t much of a surprise but both the comedy and action are more than enough to sustain this odd western. The climactic battle pulls no punches and even has a bit of gore that would make Sam Peckinpah proud. Entertaining, but make no mistake that this is not anywhere near Eastwood as his Man with No Name spaghetti best.

Call this one a spaghettini western with a bit of salsa.

Movie Reviews 416 – My Name is Nobody (1973)

December 6, 2019

There are almost as many western films that ruminate on the final days of legendary crack shot gunmen as there are ones that have then merely going on killing sprees whether they be samaritan bounty hunters or charcoal wearing villains. My Name is Nobody is the former with Henry Fonda as the aged shooter who just wants to sail off into the sunset – literally in this case.

The plots of these movies basically have wannabe replacements hoping to earn their reputation by besting the veteran in a shootout. But Jack Beauregard (Fonda) has a slightly different problem. Sure he has more than a few eager guns hoping to take him on, but one particular fellow who doesn’t have a name (Terence Hill) isn’t inclined to have a shootout at all. Although he is clearly as good as, even better than Jack, he just turns up at every corner pestering Jack with a steady stream of advice and guidance, whether wanted or not.

As Jack makes his way towards New Orleans (and eventual passage to Europe) his voyage includes making a pit stop in search of his brother The Nevada Kid (an acknowledged scoundrel and outlaw) and shutting down the owner of a dry goldmine (Jean Martin) who is using stolen gold as a replacement for extract. The mine owner doesn’t take to kindly with Jack’s interference and assembles a small army of marauders to hunt him down. All this leads to a finale in which Jack is stranded next to train tracks in the middle of nowhere as the cavalcade of fifty armed horse riders descend on him.

The symbolism of the cherubic Nobody representing Jack’s guardian angel is as plain as the outline of wings projected by the saddle that he carries on his back throughout the film. Able to recite the day and foes of every gun battle Jack ever fought, his guidance proves to be divinely appropriate despite Jack’s reluctance to heed it at times.

If you haven’t picked it up yet there are plenty of homage references to Sam Peckinpaw and The Wild Bunch including that final battle.And just like it’s inspiration, there are plenty of battles and the blood that goes with it. But this is no mere oater bloodfest.

Il mio nome è Nessuno (original Italian title) was directed by Tonino Valerii (with a helping hand from Sergio Leone) and departs from the usual gritty Spaghetti Western in many other ways aside from the heavenly inferences. While maestro Ennio Morricone provided the score his theme is decidedly bubbly to go along with the story, even going so far as playfully adapting Wagner’s Ride Of The Valkyries. The script straddles the line of comedy and drama and is more like a collection of stringed skill shooting skits than a linear narrative. The comedy does go over the top at times with sped up sequences resembling Keystone Kops or even Stooge-like.

If you want your westerns to be pure spit and dust this is probably not what you’re looking for. To be sure, there is plenty of that but be prepared for a light hearted approach and little fantasy thrown in as well.

Movie Reviews 409 – Memories of Murder (2003)

October 4, 2019

Between the years 1986 and 1991 the South Korean city of Hwaseong experienced that country’s first serial killer. The series of 10 rapes and murders galvanized and terrorized the citizens. Memories of Murder is a dramatization of the investigation as told from the point of view of the two prime detectives who worked on the case.

Detective Park (Song Kang-ho) is the first one the scene when a body is found wedged under ditch crossing in a field. A bumbling cop, he is prone to quickly jumping to incorrect conclusions while eager to be in the spotlight as the case advances. The discovery of a second victim brings detective Seo (Kim Sang-kyung) from Seoul to help with the investigation. Methodical and quiet spoken he not only sheds light on new evidence but the fact that there has already been a third victim who hasn’t even been found yet. But the third victim is not the last in what becomes an interminable case.

Park and his willing partner and sidekick Cho resort to coercion and beating confessions, leaving Seo to mock their tactics and disprove their findings, which only ratchets up the tension between the two as the case wears on. While some clues including a rather strange modus operandi becomes evident, even crafty traps fail to capture the assailant. The key lies with a most unusual suspect, a retarded young boy who is being ‘trained’ by Park to provide a believable confession.

While the mystery itself if riveting enough, the complex relationships between the officers and the impact of the stress they are put under is just as much a part of the drama. Seo is the perfectionist unaccustomed to dealing with failure especially on such and important case while Park suffers from anxiety and his own ineffectiveness coupled with his wife’s worries for him. But as time goes on a mutual respect develops but not without lingering effects from the prolonged investigation.

Despite the somber circumstances being portrayed, the film also includes a number of strangely comical scenes when it comes to Park and Jo’s antics such as one in which he discerns that since no evident non-victim hair was found on the bodies the perpetrator must be hairless. While I enjoyed this comedy as I watched the film I had no idea that this was based on true events. It was only while watching the DVD special features did I learn that the serial killings were not only real, but not solved at the time of filming, which makes the comic aspect somewhat morbid. Ironically, as did a bit more digging into the story I learned that the crime was solved only this past year.

Writer-director Bong Joon-ho  would call again on actor Song Kang-ho to star in The Host shortly after this outing with equally entertaining results.

Movie Reviews 406 – Private Parts (1972)

September 14, 2019

If you were looking for a review of the Howard Stern biopic, you’re not going to find that here. The Private Parts we’ll be discussing here are quite different, though equally disturbing. Here, we’ll be indulging in director Paul Bartel’s Private Parts (so to speak). While he will forever be closer associated as the director of low brow classics Eating Raoul and Death Race 2000, Private Parts was Bartel’s first feature and shows some of the blemishes due to inexperience. But the film does entertain if you are looking for the niche it fills. Filmed in and around Manhattan’s seedy 42nd Street at the height of it’s sleez era, this rather tame slasher horror delivers more on eccentricity than any scare or comedy it intended.

Cheryl (Ayn Ruymen), a young runaway living with her best friend Judy in Los Angeles has an argument after being caught peeping on Judy and her boyfriend doing the horizontal. With nowhere else to go she heads to the Big Apple where her aunt Martha (Lucille Benson) owns a dilapidated hotel a stones throw from the dingy Peepshows, Adult magazine shops and other sordid dens of sin. Martha only reluctantly agrees to let Cheryl stay, but makes clear her distaste for any wanton lifestyles.

Cheryl encounters some of the eccentric boarders but takes a particular shine to George (John Ventantonio) a photographer loner, the one person her aunt has warned her to stay away from.

As she settles in to her new digs Cheryl continually hears questions about Alice, a former resident who suddenly disappeared. But it’s her developing womanhood that fills her mind and the enigmatic George becomes a lustfull obsession. Instead of being shocked and outraged when she finds peepholes in her room and shower, she purposely poses for her concealed audience.

An electrified key only discovered when Martha’s pet rat accidentally triggers it opens up a new world to Cheryl, those looking for Alice, and a few other mysterious disappearances. But those are nothing compared to be one big secret shared by Martha and George.

While the performances are nothing to write home about, it’s the sheer weirdness that captivates audiences here. Aunt Martha’s penchant to go to funerals – mostly for people she never knew. George’s inflated sex-doll which he fillls with water and to which he has tacked on a picture of Cheryl’s face which he cuddles to sleep. The old eccentric lady walking the halls and the priest who wears the collar by day but transforms in the sadomasochistic, leather bound homosexual by night.

Produced by Gene Corman, the brother of legendary B-movie producer/director Roger Corman, this film doesn’t get as much exposure as it should. While I can’t say it’s “must see” material no matter which genre peaks your interest, as a historical cult curiosity it is still worth a watch.

 

Movie Reviews 399 – Night of the Creeps (1986)

July 5, 2019

Nostalgic cinematic moments are usually times when one rewatches old favorite films to relive fond memories or at least now fondly remembered regardless of what we felt during that first viewing. As I had never watched Night of the Creeps until this week I had no such expectations and yet this film managed to make me feel right at home and it was like revisiting an old friend.

While this was marketed (more on that later) as a zombie movie long before the zombie mania of recent years, it is only so in the barest sense. What it is is a cross between a cheesy alien invasion and a high school coming of age story tied in by a cryogenically frozen “patient zero” corpsicle.

The invasion (of sorts) begins in 1959 as a rogue alien ejects a cylinder above Earth as he is chased by his equally diminutive pudgy looking alien companions. The forces unleashed by the contents results in the brutal slaying of a young couple whooping it up at a secluded lovers’ lane.

Now, thirty years later, two outcast buddies Chris Romero (Jason Lively) and J.C (Steve Marshall) are frat pledges and their hazing challenge has them breaking into the secure basement lab of the local morgue where they accidentally unfreeze the body of a teen, a victim of that night long ago. But unbeknownst to the boys they have unleashed the slithering worm-like invaders that were dormant in the body. Soon people are behaving oddly and cadavers are piling up everywhere and it is up to the boys and former cop Ray Cameron (Tom Atkins), who happened to be on duty that night thirty years ago, to save humanity all while Chris tries to charm the lovely Cynthia Cronenberg (Jill Whitlow) a girl he deems out of his league into going to the prom with him.

This film oozes more than the wriggling crawlers which can be seen coming out of heads and orifices. The characters are solidly built up from Atkins’ trench coat and his signature ‘49 Merc to daring to impart J.C. with a physical affliction that has him walking on forearm crutches. In case you haven’t noticed yet (shame on you!) all the character names (Romero! Cameron! Cronenberg!) are homages to great cult directors and if you’re vigilant you’ll pick on other references to films like Jaws, Dead Alive and Plan 9 from Outer Space to name just a few. But more importantly as silly as some of the plot gets there are a number of genuine poignant moments that elevates this film above the din of other films in this category.

IF you can lay your hands on the director’s cut DVD I highly recommend checking out the extra features from which contains interesting recollections and reunions from the stars and writer-director Fred Dekker as well as commentary from one of the producers. The one common thread through all these interviews is how the studio bungled the marketing which resulted in the release being a flop. More unfortunate is how that sting ended up being particularly damaging to Dekker’s career which explains his lack of directorial efforts in the years that followed. A crime if there ever was one if you ask me.

Movie Reviews 382 – Super (2010)

March 2, 2019

The year 2010 was the year Mark Millar’s graphic novel Kick-Ass was adapted to the big screen to much acclaim, a story featuring a vigilante superhero roaming the streets with a teen female sidekick. It was indeed a ‘kick-ass’ film that I’ve enjoyed watching several times. But that same year Super, a lower budget film directed by James Gunn which also featured a middle aged costumed vigilante who adopts a young girl as a sidekick was released with much less fanfare.

I’m always game for these type of movies and have had Super sitting on my shelves for some time now but did not really pay attention to what was on the cover other than noting the prominent red costumed figure. Had I noticed the cast I would have watched it a lot sooner, seeing that Rainn Wilson (of The Office fame) plays the part of the vigilante Crimson Bolt and Ellen Page is cast as his sidekick Boltie.

Frank Darbo (Wilson) is down in the dumps because his alcoholic wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) whom he long ago sobered up has left him for Jacques (Kevin Bacon) a small time neighborhood kingpin – and fried egg aficionado – who now has her hopped on booze and drugs and working in a strip club. He gets inspired to become a vigilante after seeing an episode of a christian TV show featuring The Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion) and experiencing his own cathartic delusional meeting with God. Before you know it he has stitched up a threadbare costume and begun roaming the streets at night armed with nothing more than a monkey wrench eagerly seeking out criminals, mostly without luck.

But his draped deeds – like bludgeoning a movie patron who dares to cut in line – start making the news and the headlines are especially noted by Libby (Page) the clerk who runs his local comic shop (LCS to us geeks). After taking a bullet from Jacques and his boys (including Michael Rooker) Frank is forced to seek refuge and reveal his true identity to Libby who is not only thrilled to learn the truth but she soon carves out her own suit and basically forces Frank to bring her along once he has recovered.

Deep down, Frank’s ultimate goal is to rescue his ex, but he not only has to put up with Boltie’s hormonal horniness which is only eclipsed by her thirst for violence, but also a cop hot on his trail (William Katt who not coincidentally played the starring role of short lived The Greatest American Hero TV series).

Using a non-linear storytelling style and some comic page inspired formatting with the occasional word or thought balloon, this moral introspection comedy tries to fit a lot into one film. You have the abundant religious undertones, the debate over vigilantism, the multi-facet relationships and all that is packaged by over-the-top quirky characters. Some of it works and some of it is a bit of a stretch but as a comedy it does deliver a lot of fun when in that mode. These are not the best performances from what I consider an all-star cast but if you just want a little fun it should fit the bill.

Super is not super by any stretch. On the Kick-Ass scale I’d call it more like a little bitch slap.