A Moment With Priest (Street Soldiers, 1991)


A few nights ago I watched a bad movie called Street Soldiers. We could talk about how it’s similar, very loosely, to West Side Story. The lame training sequences. The fact that the martial arts guy similar to Mr. Miyagi suddenly becomes psychic. Or even the rubber cobra that is clearly squirting a liquid like milk. But no. I want to take a moment to pay tribute to Jeff Rector who plays the villain named Priest. He amazingly overacts. Every facial expression he makes is like a gift from the cinematic gods.

Priest Priest Priest Priest Priest

This shot should be posted by anyone who accomplishes something.

This shot should be posted by anyone who accomplishes something.

This has been a moment with Priest. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

4 Shots From 4 Films: The Iron Rose, Fascination, Night of the Hunted, Lost in New York


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films.  As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

All of the shots in my latest entry in 4 Shots From 4 Films come from movies that were directed by the great (and sadly underappreciated) French director Jean Rollin.  Several of Rollin’s films are available for viewing on Netflix.  Track them down and, when you get the chance, be sure to read my review of Rollin’s Night of The Hunted!

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Iron Rose (1973, dir by Jean Rollin)

The Iron Rose (1973, dir by Jean Rollin)

Fascination

Fascination (1979, dir by Jean Rollin)

Night of the Hunted (1980, dir by Jean Rollin)

Night of the Hunted (1980, dir by Jean Rollin)

Lost in New York (1989, dir by Jean Rollin)

Lost in New York (1989, dir by Jean Rollin)

Giant Lizards and Fur Bikinis: ONE MILLION YEARS BC (1966)


raquelJURRASIC WORLD and its CGI dinosaurs have stomped their way to box office domination this year, raking in over five hundred million dollars (and counting). The youth market just eats up those computer generated special effects. But for my money, you just can’t beat the prehistoric hijinks of Hammer Films’ 1966 ONE MILLION YEARS BC. Two reasons: Ray Harryhausen and Raquel Welch.

Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013) learned the art of stop motion animation from the master, KING KONG’s own Willis O’Brien. After assisting O’Brien on 1949’s MIGHTY JOE YOUNG, he struck out on his own, using his Dynamation process on such sci-fi/fantasy flicks as BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, and 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. Later films included VALLEY OF GWANGI, GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD, and his last, 1981’s CLASH OF THE TITANS.

The second reason is Raquel. Full disclosure: I had a huge crush on Raquel Welch during my adolescence. I had the iconic poster of her in her fur bikini from this movie on my bedroom wall through most of the Seventies. I also had pictures of her from TV GUIDE taped in my locker at school, which got me in hot water with my 6th grade teacher. What a prude! Oh well, it may have been my first time in trouble at school, but it certainly wasn’t the last.

But I digress. Let’s take a trip back to the dawn of time in ONE MILION YEARS BC. There’s a prehistoric tribesman named Tumak (John Richardson) who’s ousted from his people due to a sibling rivalry with brother Sakana. He wanders aimlessly into an unknown world, encountering giant lizards and spiders along the way. Tumak reaches the seashore, where he meets up with a tribe of blonde beauties led by Raquel and her fur bikini. A giant turtle attacks the girls on the beach and Raquel blows her seashell, summoning the blonde males of the tribe. They, along with Tumak, chase the turtle away with their rocks and sticks. The tribe decides to accept Tumak as one of their own.

Which is good for Raquel, because the fur-bikini clad damsel has developed a thing for Tumak. This, however, makes her blonde boyfriend Ahos very jealous. After saving a little girl from a hungry Allosaurus, , Tumak and Ahos duke it out over possession of the victory spear. Tumak gets banished yet again, but this time he’s accompanied by Raquel and her fur bikini.

Across the wasteland we go again, as the couple run into a band of unevolved ape-men, and a battle between a Triceratops and a T-Rex. Tumak and Raquel (and the bikini) are ambushed by Tumak’s old tribe, and Tumak vanquishes Sakana. But a Pterodactyl attacks and carries Raquel off, fur bikini and all! The lovers are separated as the flying terror tries to feed poor Raquel to it’s babies. Eventually, they’re reunited, just in time for a fight between the rival tribes. The battle’s just getting underway when a volcano erupts, spitting lava and causing massive earthquakes.  The villages now all destroyed, the two tribes band together and march toward an uncertain destiny.

ONE MILLION YEARS BC may be pretty goofy, but it does has some bright spots. Harryhausen’s special effects are always a joy to behold, and I’ll still take them over CGI any day of the week. John Richardson makes a sturdy leading man, even with dialogue that mostly consists of grunts and groans. There’s a scene with the lovely Martine Beswick (DR JEKYLL & SISTER HYDE) doing a sort of Jurrasic watsui that’s a highlight. Oh, and did I mention Raquel and her fur bikini…..

Film Review: Battling Amazons (1987) (dir. Steve Antoniou)


Battling Amazons Title Screen

“Where’s Mercury? Mercury, it’s God. Listen, I need you to take a message to Odin and Zeus. And don’t forget Moses. Tell the boys to send their strongest, ablest, most beautiful women to Earth to punch it out. I wanna see some real knockouts. Tell ’em to call it: Battling Amazons. Do it!”

Thus begins one of dumbest and greatest things ever made. You might be asking yourself: Why Moses? Well, Delilah of course! We all know what she did to Victor Mature’s hair so she clearly can handle herself in the ring. So, the call goes out and numerous women are sent to battle.

Thesbian, The Viking Queen

Thesbian, The Viking Queen

Peelar, The Tiger Woman

Peelar, The Tiger Woman

Athena

Athena

Wanda, The Iron Mistress

Wanda, The Iron Mistress

Sandra, The Prophet

Sandra, The Prophet

Lazar, The Woman Of The Future

Lazar, The Woman Of The Future

Delilah

Delilah

Deidre, The Brazilian Bombshell

Deidre, The Brazilian Bombshell

We are then introduced to Georgia and Peter Willis who are two of the three people who guide us through the fights. I would be shocked if their lines were written in advance because it really sounds like they are improvising. Especially Peter. Sometimes it’s like he can’t think of something to say.

At first glance this looks like something exploitative, but it’s not really. You want that, then the movie called Trashy Ladies Wrestling that they advertise at the end of the copy I watched is for you. This is pure parody. The ladies get out there and lay it on as thick as possible. Even Holly the “round girl” comes out and does her best impersonation of those girls who are only there for eye candy.

But just as professional wrestling doesn’t all take place in the ring, neither does Amazon boxing. As the ladies arrive, Dan Dugen interviews them. They come up to him and act all tough to a remarkably small audience waiting for them. The best part of these interviews is the size of the guy doing them. The only people this guy is bigger than are Peter Dinklage and the lead singer of The Outfield. It really adds to the impression that these ladies are sent by the Gods. They tower over him.

Interview

The other people who are of note are Issie, the manager of Delilah, and Wanda, The Iron Mistress.

Issie

Issie

Wanda is one of the last of the ladies to show up, but they cut several times to show that she is on her way. My favorite is when they show her running across some grass next to a parking lot. There’s a trash can in her way and she just knocks it out of her way while holding some weapon in her hand. Other times she just runs like a mad woman holding something. These parts always had me laughing.

Wanda is on her way!

Wanda is on her way!

In wrestling backstage drama is all part of the experience and that is brought to Amazon boxing as well. During the battle between Thesbian and Delilah, Issie plays a horn. It distracts Thesbian and causes Delilah to win the fight. Then comes the controversy that takes us into a flashback where we see that Delilah told Issie to sneak into Delilah’s training area to find her weakness. After realizing that the brush in her bag will do him no good, he finds the horn.

Finding The Horn

Finding The Horn

As for the fighting itself. It’s pretty ridiculous, but they actually appear to be fighting. It’s not like the kind of thing where you’d expect every move, punch, or grab to be of a sexual nature. It’s just weak sauce moves. Still, it’s fun to watch.

I just can’t do this thing justice with words or a few screenshots. It must be seen. It’s only an hour long and it’s on YouTube at the time of writing this. Otherwise, it’s available through Amazon on VHS. Check it out!

Film Review: All The Wilderness (dir by Michael Johnson)


All the Wilderness

I recently watched an excellent little film called All The Wilderness.

James Charm (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a shy and withdrawn teenager who is still struggling to deal with the recent death of his father.  He spends his time wandering around the forest surrounding the house where he lives with his mother (Virginia Madsen).  Occasionally, he makes his way into the nearby city and aimlessly wanders through the desolate streets.  In his spare time, he sketches pictures of dead animals and tells people that he can predict when they are going to die.  When he informs the local bully that he’s going to die in just a few more days, the bully responds by punching James in the face.

Sometimes, James visits a therapist (Danny DeVito) who seems to alternate between concern and indifference.  One day, while sitting in the waiting room, James meets Val (Isabelle Fuhrman), who is dealing with her parents’ divorce and spends her time making and selling eccentric doughnuts.  James likes Val but he’s too scared to open up to her.  Some of that may have to do with the mysterious, hooded figures who occasionally materialize out of thin air and pursue him through the streets.

After sneaking out of one unproductive therapy session, James discovers a mysterious man named Harmon (Evan Ross) playing a piano in a courtyard.  Later, after his hamster mysteriously dies, a distraught James sneaks out of his house, makes his way down to the city, and gets on a bus.  Sitting across from him is none other than Harmon.

Harmon invites James to follow him on a trip into the hidden corners of the city.  Soon, James is discovering that the wilderness is not only limited to the countryside surrounding his mother’s house.  There’s also an urban wilderness and, with Harmon as his guide, James starts to discover it.  And yet, even as James starts to find happiness, those hooded figures continue to follow him…

All The Wilderness reminded me a lot of last year’s underappreciated California Scheminganother atmospheric look at alienation that was full of existential dread.  All The Wilderness is probably not a film for everyone.  Not only is it extremely stylized but it’s also a bit too short.  All The Wilderness is one of the few films that could actually benefit from an additional 30 minutes added to its running time.

And yet, flaws and all, All The Wilderness is a great film and one that everyone should take the time to see.  It is perched so precariously between being insightful and being pretentious that it becomes oddly compelling to watch the film’s valiantly struggle to maintain its balance.  Visually, this is an incredible film just to look at, with the constantly moving camera capturing images of ominous yet undeniably beautiful urban decay.  In small roles, both Danny DeVito and Virginia Madsen are well-cast while Evan Ross is appropriately charismatic as Harmon.  Finally, Kodi Smit-McPhee — all grown up from his heartbreaking performances in The Road and Let Me In — gives a wonderful and versatile performance in the lead role.

All The Wilderness is a film that deserves to be seen.

Artist Profile: James Avati (1912 — 2005)


Painter James Avati has been called both the “Father of the Paperback Book Covers” and the “Rembrandt of Paperback Book Covers.”  Born in New Jersey, Avati studied architecture at Princeton University and, after serving in World War II, became a prolific commercial illustrator and cover artist.  At first he used professional models but the majority of his paintings used friends, family, and people he spotted on the streets of Red Bank, New Jersey.  Ten years before his death at the age 92, Avati was inducted into the Society of Illustrators’ Hall Of Fame.

bantam_far_cry signet_if_he_hollers_let_him_go signet_nightmare_alley tragic ground z1 z2 z3 z4 z5 z6 z7 z8 z9 z10

 

A Superfast Review of Superfast!


A typical scene from Superfast!

A typical scene from Superfast!

Superfast! tells the story of an incredibly stupid undercover cop named Lucas White (Alex Ashbaugh).  Despite the fact that he’s so white that he regularly freezes mayonnaise so that he can then lick it like a popsicle (or so he tells us), White is assigned to infiltrate a group of multi-ethnic Los Angeles street racers.  Led by the bald and imposing Vin Serento (Dale Pavinski), these street racers spend their time doing vaguely defined illegal stuff.  Lucas soon wins Vin’s trust and finds himself torn between his job and his new friends.

When it looks like Vin and his crew are going to have to flee the country, they plot to rip-off crime lord Juan Carlos de la Sol (Omar Chaparro).  In order to do this, Vin recruits a crew that includes characters with names like Rapper Cameo, Cool Asian Guy, and Model Turned Actress.  Pursuing Vin and his crew is the ultra intense Detective Rock Johnson (Dio Johnson).

If all this sounds familiar, that’s because Superfast! is a spoof of the Fast and the Furious franchise.  As far as spoof movies go, Superfast! is not bad.  The actors do a good job of imitating the hypermasculine style of the Fast and Furious franchise and I actually found myself laughing at a few of the jokes.  Considering that this film was directed by the infamous duo of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, a few laughs were still more laughs than I was expecting.  Superfast! deserves some credit for being consistently amusing, even if the overall film was pretty uneven.

Of course, the main problem with Superfast! is that the Fast and the Furious films already do a pretty good job of spoofing themselves.  One of the main reasons why that franchise has not only survived but prospered is because the films themselves are full of a winking self-awareness.  The franchise itself has consistently, and with good humor, acknowledged just how over-the-top things can get.  (Indeed, the franchise is populated by actors — like Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel — who have made a career out of poking gentle fun at their images.)  There’s really not a single joke to be found in Superfast! that hasn’t already been made in a previous Fast and the Furious film.

But, with all that in mind, Superfast! is an amusing enough way to waste 90 minutes.  Dale Pavisnki especially deserves some credit for the commitment that he brings to the role of Vin Diesel Serento.

Superfast! was released on the same day as Furious Seven.  Needless to say, Furious Seven did just a little bit better with audiences and critics.  Superfast! can currently be viewed on Netflix.