Trailer: Monsters: Dark Continent


Monsters was this little, low-budget monster film from 2010 by filmmaker Gareth Edwards that got all the film community a-buzzing. Edwards’ work on that film landed him the job on 2014’s reboot of the Godzilla film franchise.

After Monsters was such a success there were plans to make a sequel of it, but Edwards being so busy doing Godzilla, he was unable to get back in the director’s chair and instead it went to Tom Green (not the comedian). We get a sequel that’s less about a romance in the midst of a creeping alien invasion, but one that looks to expand the world building Edwards created for the first film and make it global.

Monsters: Dark Continent is set in the Middle East where the alien infection has spread to and where a U.S. military mission goes in to stem the tide. Making things a tad difficult in a mission already tough to begin with is the rise of a new insurgency in the region.

I liked the first film, but I thought the low-budget really hampered how the monsters were portrayed. Edwards had to tease very brief glimpses of them until the end where he finally gives the audience the big reveal. This style was one of the reasons why I just liked the new Godzilla instead of loving it.

It looks like this sequel forgoes the teases and goes full out reveal of all the alien monsters. I am more than just slightly interested in checking this film out now.

Monsters: Dark Continent is set for a September 26, 2014 release date.

Back to School #33: Savage Streets (dir by Danny Steinmann)

Savage Streets

“Too bad you’re not double-jointed…because then you’d be able to bend over and kiss your ass goodbye!” — Brenda (Linda Blair) in Savage Streets (1984)

The year is 1984 and the streets are…savage!  As in Savage Streets, a low-budget exploitation film that combines high school melodrama with vigilante justice.

Savage Streets tells the story of big-haired Brenda (played by Linda Blair of Exorcist fame), a tough high school senior who attends one of the most graffiti-covered schools in America.  Seriously, I’ve seen a lot of bad high schools in a lot of not-so-good movies since I started this Back To School series but it’s hard to think of any of them that look quite as bad as the high school in Savage Streets.  The halls are dirty.  A fight breaks out every few seconds.  Students sit in class and light up cigarettes.  Can anyone be surprised that Principal Underwood (John Vernon) spends all of his time wandering the hallways and growling out lines like, “Go fuck an iceberg!”  When he and Brenda have a confrontation in his office, Principal Underwood smirks and says, “You’re a tough little bitch, aren’t you?”

What’s truly sad is that, as bad as Underwood is, he’s still nicer than just about every other man in the movie.

Brenda has a lot to deal with.  For one thing, it appears that she’s only enrolled in three classes.  The first class is a gym class where apparently, the teacher has just written down “Aerobics” on every page of her lesson plan.  While Brenda and her friends work out, local dumb jock Wes (Brian Mann) shows up to stare at her.  When Wes’s girlfriend, Cindy (Rebecca Perle), confronts Brenda in the changing room after class, Brenda replies, “I wouldn’t fuck him if he had the last dick on Earth.”  Cindy responds by going, “AAAAAAAAAAGHHHHH!” and then attacking her.  Brenda’s other class appears to be a science class of some sort.  It turns out that Cindy’s in that class, too.  So, once again, it’s time for another fight…

If you’re getting the feeling that everybody at this school has nothing better to do than fight — well, you’re right.

Brenda has other problems as well.  Brenda’s younger sister (future horror mainstay Linnea Quigley, giving the closest thing to a truly good performance to be found in this particular film) is a deaf mute and Brenda’s best friend is pregnant and getting married.  When a really pathetic gang of losers known as the Scars assault her sister and kill her best friend, Brenda responds by dressing up in black leather, grabbing a crossbow, and giving the Scars some real scars to worry about…

Savage Streets is one of those films about people with ugly thoughts doing ugly things in largely ugly settings.  In many ways, it’s a surprisingly mean-spirited film and not one that I would suggest for anyone who is easily offended.  (Following his work here, director Danny Stienmann was hired to direct Friday the 13th — A New Beginning, which is perhaps the most unapologetically exploitative of all the Friday the 13th films.)  And yet, at the same time, I appreciated the fact that Savage Streets not only featured a woman kicking ass but also doing it without the help of a man.  Even better, not only does Brenda not need a man to help her but she doesn’t want one either.  Brenda is unique for being totally independent and, whatever else one might say about this frequently messy and amateurish movie, it celebrates that independence.

So, does that make Savage Streets into a secretly subversive feminist film?


But it still makes Savage Streets better than your average vigilante-with-a-crossbow film.


Back to School #32: Losin’ It (dir by Curtis Hanson)


Originally, my 32nd entry in my Back To School series was going to be Made In Britain, a film about a 16 year-old Neo-Nazi played by Tim Roth.  And, while I still suggest that you track down and watch Made In Britain (mostly for Roth’s amazing performance in the lead), I have to admit that, as I rewatched it, I found myself really struggling to find a way to fit it into the Back to School theme.  Made in Britain is a good film about a juvenile delinquent but it just didn’t seem like it was right for this series.  Maybe I’ll revisit it when I do my long-threatened series of “Europe Is As Messed Up As America” series of film reviews.

Instead, I decided to close out the 1983 portion of this series by taking a look at Losin’ It.  Along with Risky Business and All The Right Moves, Losin’ It is one of the three films released in 1983 that starred Tom Cruise as a high school senior who is obsessed with losing his virginity.  Much as in Risky Business, Cruise’s initial plan is to hire a prostitute.  And much like in All The Right Moves …. well, actually Losin’ It doesn’t have much in common with All The Right Moves beyond the presence of Cruise.  For that matter, it doesn’t really have much in common with Risky Business either.  Whereas All The Right Moves was a coming-of-age drama and Risky Business was a satire on capitalism, Losin’ It is pretty much a straight comedy.

And an amazingly generic one at that!

Set in 1965 and featuring a soundtrack that appears to exist solely to remind you that the film is set in 1965, Losin’ It tells the story of four teenage boys who go down to Tijuana, hoping to get laid.  There’s Woody (Tom Cruise), who is the nice guy who smiles all the time.  There’s Spider (played by future director John Stockwell), who we’re told doesn’t have to pay for it but wants to go down to Tijuana so he can see a “donkey show.”  (If you don’t know what a donkey show is, I’m sure it can be looked up on Wikipedia.)  And then there’s Dave (Jackie Earle Haley), who is short, loud-mouthed, and idolizes Frank Sinatra to the extent that he even wears a Sinatra-style fedora.  Tagging along is Dave’s younger brother Wendell (John P. Navin, Jr.), who is too young to get into any Mexican brothels but is hoping to buy some fireworks that he can then sell at school.

Anyway, they may think that they’re just going to Mexico but it soon turns out that they’re on a collision course with wackiness!  Dave and Wendell end up being held hostage in an auto junkyard.  Spider gets in a fight with a bunch of Marines and ends up in a Mexican jail.  And Woody — well, listen, we all know that there’s no way fresh-faced, All-American Tom Cruise is going to lose his virginity in a dirty old brothel!  Instead, he ends up pursuing a tentative romance with Kathy (Shelley Long), a newlywed who has come down to Tijuana to get a quickie divorce.

(Do they still give out quickie divorces in Tijuana or is that just something that happens in the movies?  I’m just asking for future reference…)

Anyway, of the Tom Cruise Must Get Laid Trilogy, Losin’ It is easily the most generic and forgettable but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a terrible movie.  Curtis Hanson keeps the action moving at a steady pace (and, if that sounds like faint praise, just try sitting through a film with an unsteady pace) and the cast is likable.  Tom Cruise is the one who gets all of the attention on the back of the DVD and he’s likable enough but really, if I had been alive and a film critic in 1983, I probably would have picked the handsome and charismatic John Stockwell as the one most likely to become a star.

Instead, 31 years later, Tom Cruise is the star (albeit a fading one) and John Stockwell is the one directing movies about life on the beach.

It’s a strange world.

Jackie Earle Haley, John Stockwell, and Tom Cruise

Jackie Earle Haley, John Stockwell, and Tom Cruise