Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #30: The Adventures of Hercules (dir by Luigi Cozzi)

(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Tuesday, December 6th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)


On November 10th, I recorded 1985’s The Adventures of Hercules off of the Encore Family channel.

Let’s see if I can explain exactly what this film is about.  Bear with me because this is going to be a strange one.  For that matter, you might also want to bare with me because The Adventures of Hercules is all about displaying the physique of body builder Lou Ferrigno.  Ferrigno plays the legendary Greek demigod Hercules.  Or I should say that he provides Hercules’s body and occasionally a facial expression or two.  Since The Legend of Hercules was an Italian film, the entire cast is obviously and frequently awkwardly dubbed.  That includes Ferrigno.  Though Hercules doesn’t say much, when he does speak, he does so in a voice that really doesn’t go with his body, his personality, or anything that seems to be happening on screen.

Anyway, I guess I should try to explain the plot.  I should mention that The Legend of Hercules is a sequel to another Hercules film.  I haven’t seen the first Hercules film.  Maybe the Legend of Hercules would have made more sense if I had, though I somehow doubt it.

Basically, bad things are happening on Earth.  Why?  Well, it appears that four of the Gods have gotten together and stolen Zeus’s 7 Mighty Thunderbolts.  They’ve hidden the Thunderbolts across the planet, entrusting them with various monsters.  As a result of Zeus no longer having his thunderbolts, the Moon is now on the verge of colliding with Earth and human sacrifices are also being committed to a monster that looks a lot like the ID Monster from Forbidden Planet.  

What does a Mighty Thunderbolt look like?  Here you go.

What does a Mighty Thunderbolt look like? Here you go.

Two sisters, Urania (Milly Carlucci) and Glaucia (Sonia Vivani), appeal to Zeus for help but, of course, Zeus is powerless without his thunderbolts.  However, he can still sends his son Hercules (Lou Ferrigno) to Earth.  Working with the sisters, Hercules goes on a quest for the thunderbolts.  This basically amounts to a series of scenes in which Hercules battles various people in rubber suits.  Whenever Hercules throws a punch, he’s filmed so that appears that he’s punching the camera.  Whenever Hercules’s fist makes contact, there’s a flash of red.  Whenever anyone is knocked off their feet by Hercules, they flip around in slow motion.  This happens every ten minutes or so.

Now, I don’t want to spoil the movie but I simply have to tell you about this.  There is a scene, towards the end of the film, in which Hercules literally grabs hold of the Moon and prevents it from crashing into the Earth.

Anyway, the plot makes no sense and that’s a huge part of this film’s enthusiastic, if frequently inept, charm.  As directed by the famed Italian director, Luigi Cozzi, The Adventures of Hercules has this cobbled together feeling to it that is undeniably likable.  Much as with Cozzi’s best-known film, Starcrash, The Adventures of Hercules is a film that wins you over by pure determination.  Cozzi set out to make a mythological epic and he wasn’t going to let something like a complete lack of budget stop him.

How strange an experience is The Adventures of Hercules?  Check out some of these randomly assembled screen shots:









The other fun thing about The Adventures of Hercules is that, since this was a Luigi Cozzi film, the cast is full of Italian exploitation vets, the majority of whom were best known for appearing in far less family-friendly fare.

Here’s just a few of the performers you’ll find in The Adventures of Hercules:

Sonia Vivani, who plays Glaucia, also played the doomed sculptor in Umberto Lenzi’s infamous Nightmare City.

William Berger, who plays the villainous King Minos, appeared in several classic Spaghetti westerns, including Sabata.  Sadly, his promising career was cut short when he was framed for drug possession and spent several years in an Italian prison.  When he was finally freed, he ended up doing movies like The Adventures of Hercules.

Zeus was played by Claudio Cassinelli, an acclaimed actor who appeared in several giallo films.  He also co-starred in 1978’s infamous Mountain of the Cannibal God.

The evil High Priest was played by Venantino Venantini whose credits include everything from The Agony and the Ecstasy to Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead to Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox.

Aphrodite is played by Margit Newton, who somewhat infamously starred in what is generally considered to be the worst zombie film of all time, Hell of the Living Dead.

Serena Grandi played Euryale (a.k.a. Medusa).  Grandi is probably most remembered for his grotesque death scene in  Antropophagus.  She was also the star of one of my personal guilty pleasures, Lamberto Bava’s Delirium.

And finally, the mad scientist Dedalos was played by Eva Robbins, who achieved immortality by playing the Girl on the Beach in Dario Argento’s Tenebrae.

The Adventures of Hercules might not be “technically” a good film but it’s definitely (and rather compulsively) watchable.

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #29: A Mother’s Escape (dir by Blair Hayes)

(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Tuesday, December 6th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)


A Mother’s Escape aired on Lifetime Movie Network on July 21st, 2016.

Reportedly based on a true story, A Mother’s Escape tells a story that, on its surface, should be familiar to anyone who has ever watched a Lifetime film.  After an argument with her abusive husband, Murel (Tara Buck) grabs her young son, Kipp (Spencer Mabrey), jumps in a car, and takes off in search of a better life.  When we first meet them, they’re driving through Oklahoma.  They stop at the house of Murel’s mother, Tess (Beth Grant).

From the minute that we first see Murel and Kipp, we feel like they know them.  Both Tara Buck and Spencer Mabrey inhabit these roles so completely that it’s easy to forget that we’re watching actors performing from a script.  Refreshingly, the film makes not attempt to idealize Murel.  She’s frequently immature and occasionally self-centered but the ultimately, she’s defined by her love for her son.  When she briefly talks to her husband on the phone, Murel is briefly tempted to return to him.  Like so many victims of abuse, she fears that she might not deserve better.  Fortunately, Tess is there to bluntly tell her that she does deserve better.

And so does Kipp.

Though her husband is not Kipp’s biological father, he did adopt him when he and Murel married.  After Murel leaves, he accuses her of kidnapping her own son.  Now, Murel must keep Kipp safe while also trying to avoid capture.

As I said, this might sound like a typical Lifetime film.  However, it doesn’t feel like a typical Lifetime film.  It moves at its own slow but steady pace, taking the time to allow us to get to know both Murel and Kipp.  As Kipp, Spencer Mabrey is refreshingly non-cutesy while Tara Buck gives an almost heart-breakingly poignant performance as his imperfect but loving mom.  As an added bonus, this film features some hauntingly beautiful shots of the Oklahoma landscape.

Though it may require some patience, A Mother’s Escape is one of the best Lifetime films that I’ve seen in a while.

The Atlanta Film Critics Society Embraces La La Land!


It wasn’t just the Los Angeles Film Critics who announced their picks for the best of 2016 today!  The Atlanta Film Critics Society also had their say.

Who won?

Find out below!













BEST SONG – “Drive It Like You Stole It” from SING STREET




Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #27 and #28: Who Killed JonBenet? (dir by Jason Lapyre) and JonBenet’s Mother: Victim or Killer (dir by Siobhan Walshe)

(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Tuesday, December 6th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)


On November 5th, Lifetime aired a film about the murder of six year-old JonBenet Ramsey, Who Killed JonBenet?  They followed this film with a documentary called JonBenet’s Mother: Victim or Killer?  I did not watch the films when they originally aired, largely because, much like Girl In The Box and Cleveland Abduction, the subject matter sounded way too disturbing to me.  Instead, I just recorded them and, for a few weeks, both programs sat unwatched on my DVR.

Until earlier today, that is!

I watched both of them and then I quickly deleted both of them as well.  And now I’m going to write a few words about them.  In fact, I’m going to try to devote as little time as possible to these films.

Normally, I’m the first one to defend Lifetime and their movies.  If you’re a regular reader of this site, you know how much I love Lifetime movies.  I love them for the exact same reason that most people claim to disdain them.  It’s rare that I ever see a Lifetime film that I can’t enjoy or, at the very least, defend.

But, seriously, Who Killed JonBenet? was such a misfire that I barely know where to begin. In many ways, it’s a typical true crime film.  Suspects are identified.  Detectives find themselves caring about the case … TOO MUCH!  It ends on a note of surface ambiguity that’s deceptive because the film all but comes out and accuses Patsy Ramsey of murdering her daughter.

That thing that sets Who Killed JonBenet? apart is that the film is narrated by JonBenet Ramsey, who is apparently speaking to use beyond the grave.  JonBenet tells us that she’ll always be six.  And she tells us that one of the detectives is a nice lady.  And it’s such an icky technique that it pretty much makes the entire film nearly unwatchable.  Every time that we hear that cloying little voiceover, we’re reminded of two things: 1) this film is based on the real life rape and murder of a six year-old and 2) this movie was made specifically to exploit that event.  In the end, you feel guilty for watching the damn movie in the first place.

Seeing as how Who Killed JonBenet? basically accuses Patsy Ramsey of murder, it’s interesting that it was immediately followed up by JonBenet’s Mother: Victim or Killer?  JonBenet’s Mother explores Patsy’s life and pretty much comes to the conclusion that, while Patsy may have been a bit odd, she did not kill her daughter.  If anything, the documentary shows that Patsy was largely the victim of a vicious media.

Like, to name just one example, Who Killed JonBenet?

Anyway, let us never speak of these two movies again.  When I think of a Lifetime movie, I’d much rather think of Confessions of Go Go Girl.

The Los Angeles Film Critics Honor Isabelle Huppert, Adam Driver, and Moonlight


Oscar season continued today, with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA) naming their picks for the best of 2016!

Best Picture
Runner-up: LA LA LAND

Best Director
Winner: Barry Jenkins, MOONLIGHT
Runner-up: Damien Chazelle, LA LA LAND

Best Actor
Winner: Adam Driver, PATERSON
Runner-up: Casey Affleck, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Best Actress
Winner: Isabelle Huppert, ELLE and THINGS TO COME
Runner-up: Rebecca Hall, CHRISTINE

Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Mahershala Ali, MOONLIGHT
Runner-up: Issey Ogata, SILENCE

Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Lily Gladstone, CERTAIN WOMEN
Runner-up: Michelle Williams, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Best Screenplay
Winner: Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos, THE LOBSTER
Runner-up: Kenneth Lonergan, MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

Best Cinematography
Winner: James Laxton, MOONLIGHT
Runner-up: Linus Sandgren, LA LA LAND

Best Production Design
Winner: Ryu Seong-hee, THE HANDMAIDEN
Runner-up: David Wasco, LA LA LAND

Best Editing
Winner: Bret Granato, Maya Mumma, Ben Sozanski, OJ: MADE IN AMERICA
Runner-up: Tom Cross, LA LA LAND

Best Music/Score
Winner: Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, LA LA LAND
Runner-up: Mica Levi, JACKIE

Best Foreign-Language Film

Best Documentary/Non-Fiction Film

Best Animation
Winner: YOUR NAME.

New Generation Award

Douglas Edwards Independent/Experimental Film/Video Award
THE ILLINOIS PARABLES from writer-director Deborah Stratman

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #26: The Muthers (dir by Cirio H. Santiago)

(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Tuesday, December 6th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)


On November 13th, TCM Underground aired the 1976 Filipino women-in-prison film, The Muthers!  And I recorded it!

Before I say anything about the film itself, I want to acknowledge how much I love the poster above.  I mean, that poster promises a film full of actions, thrills, and a healthy dose of girl power.  You look at that poster and you think to yourself, “The Muthers must be one the greatest drive-in films ever made!”

You might also think that from reading about the film’s plot.  The Muthers opens with Kelly (Jeannie Bell) and Anggie (Rosanne Keaton) sailing the high seas. It turns out that they’re pirates!  They forcibly board yachts and rob decadent rich people.  They’re good at their job and they have fun, too!  Even better, they’re constantly fighting a rival pirate, a blowhard chauvinist named Turko (John Montomgery)!  Turko only has one eye, that’s how much of a pirate he is!

If the film had just been Kelly and Anggie fighting Turko, The Muthers probably would be a classic.  However, since this is a Filipino women-in-prison film, Kelly soon discovers that her sister has been imprisoned on Get Out If You Can Island.  (Seriously, that’s what they call the island.)  The island is run by the evil Montiero (played by Tony Carreon, a perennial villain in Filipino cinema) and, if they don’t rescue her, Montiero will sell her into prostitution.

Naturally, Kelly and Anggie go undercover and infiltrate the island.  Sadly, the film gets kind of boring after Kelly and Anggie reach the prison.  One reason why Filipino exploitation films are so respected and loved by aficionados of grindhouse cinema is because they frequently went totally and completely over the top.  There was a shamelessness to the best of the Filipino grindhouse films and it makes them fascinating to watch.  The Muthers starts out like a classic, with the pirates and Turko and all that, but once Kelly and Anggie reach the island, the film becomes oddly restrained.  There’s little violence, little sex, only one notable use of slow motion, and the film even lacks the radical political subtext that runs through many women-in-prison films.  One can’t help but wonder what the late Jess Franco would have done with the same material.

So, sadly, The Muthers failed to live up to the promise of that poster.

It happens.


Mama Said I’m “No Angel”

Trash Film Guru


There’s something kind of fun about going into a new comic with no preconceived notions about it because you don’t know the first thing about any of the creators involved.

Okay, fair enough, I know that one of the writers of the new Black Mask Studios series No Angel, Adrianne Palicki, is a star on the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, but I don’t know the first thing about her writing ability, nor that of her brother and co-author/co-creator (and, perhaps curiously, sole copyright holder) Eric. Artist Ari Syahrazad is a name I’m completely unfamiliar with, as is colorist Jean-Paul Csuka. So, yeah, as far as “unknown quantities” go, this book features nothing but. And that’s kinda exciting.


As is the premise here : a PTSD-afflicted Iraq vet named Hannah returns to her hometown after the murder of her father and brother and immediately smells a rat as far…

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Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #25: Marie Antoinette (dir by Sofia Coppola)

(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Tuesday, December 6th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)


On November 12th, I recorded 2016’s Marie Antoinette off of Starz.

Before I review Marie Antoinette, I think it’s important that you know that I am an unapologetic Sofia Coppola fan.  I love every film that she’s made and I look forward to her upcoming remake of The Beguiled.  At the same time, I can also understand why some people feel differently.  Sofia Coppola’s films are not for everyone.  For one thing, almost all of her films deal with rich people.  The existential angst of the wealthy and/or famous is not a topic that’s going to fascinate everyone.  When you watch a Sofia Coppola film, you never forget that you’re watching a film that’s been directed by someone who largely grew up in the spotlight and who knows what it’s like to have money.  An ennui born out of having everything and yet still feeling empty permeates almost every scene that Sofia Coppola has ever directed.  (If you have to ask what ennui is, you’ve never experienced it.)  Many viewers look at Sofia Coppola’s filmography and they ask themselves, “Why should we care about all these materialistic people?”

However, while Sofia Coppola may not know what’s it’s like to be poor (or even middle class for that matter), she does understand what it’s like to feel lonely.  Her filmography could just as easily be called “the cinema of isolation.”  It doesn’t matter how much money you may have or how famous you may or may not be, loneliness is a universal condition.  A typical Sofia Coppola protagonist is someone who has everything and yet still cannot connect with the rest of the world.  More often that not, they turn to excessive consumption in order to fill the void in their life.  To me, the ultimate Sofia Coppola image is not, regardless of how much I may love them, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation.  Instead, it’s Stephen Dorff (playing a far less likable version of Bill Murray’s Translation character) standing alone in the desert at the end of Somewhere.

Marie Antoinette, which was Sofia’s follow-up to Lost in Translation, is technically a historical biopic, though it makes little effort to be historical or accurately biographical.  Kirsten Dunst plays Marie Antoinette, the final queen of France before the French Revolution.  It was Marie Antoinette was accused of dismissing starving French peasants by announcing, “Let them eat cake!”  (For the record, it’s probable that Marie Antoinette never said that.  It’s certainly never heard in Coppola’s film.)

Marie Antoinette opens with the title character arriving in France at the age of 14.  She’s an Austrian princess who has been sent to marry the future king of France, Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman).  From the minute we meet her, Marie Antoinette is portrayed as being a pawn.  Her mother arranges the marriage as a way to seal an alliance with France.  The king of France (played by Rip Torn) expects Marie Antoinette to get produce an heir to the throne as quickly as possible.  Meanwhile, her new husband is an infantile and immature fool who doesn’t even know how to make love.  Marie Antoinette finds herself isolated in a strange country, expected to be all things to all people.

And so, Marie Antoinette does what I always do whenever I’m feeling unsure of myself.  She hangs out with her girlfriends.  She throws expensive parties.  She gambles.  She flirts.  She shops.  She has fun, regardless of whether it’s considered to be proper royal behavior or not.  Occasionally, she is warned that she is losing popularity with the French people but she’s not concerned.  Why should she be?  She doesn’t know anything about the French people.  All she knows about is the life that she was born into.  She didn’t choose to be born in to wealth and power but, since she was, why shouldn’t she have a good time?

The French Revolution doesn’t occur until near the end of Marie Antoinette and when it does happen, it happens quickly.  And yet, the shadow of the revolution hangs over the entire film.  We watch the knowledge that neither Marie Antoinette nor her husband possess: eventually, they are both going to be executed.  And knowing that, it’s hard not to cheer Marie Antionette on.  She may be destined for a tragic end but at least she’s having a little fun before destiny catches up with her.

Kirsten Dunst makes no attempt to come across as being French or Austrian but then again, neither does anyone else in the film.  After all, this is a movie where Rip Torn plays the King of France without once trying to disguise his famous Texas accent.  Coppola isn’t necessarily going for historical accuracy.  Instead, in this film, Marie Antoinette serves as a stand-in for countless modern celebrities.  In the end, Marie Antoinette is portrayed as not being much different from Paris Hilton or Kardashian.  Meanwhile, the people who eventually show up outside the palace, carrying torches and shouting threats, are the same as the viewers who loudly condemn reality television while obsessively watching every episode of it.

Coppola’s stylized direction results in a film that is both thought-provoking and gorgeous to look at and which is also features several deliberate anachronisms.  (In many ways, Marie Antoinette blatantly ridicules the very idea that history can be accurately recreated.)  Perhaps because it was following up the beloved Lost In Translation, Marie Antoinette has never got as much praise as it deserves but I think it’s a film that is totally deserving of a reevaluation.

(Sidenote: Fans of Italian horror should keep an eye out for Asia Argento, who has a small but very important supporting role.)

Stalker From Between The Stalks : “The Girl In The Cornfield”

Trash Film Guru


The siren call of micro-budget horror cinema has been lodging itself deep into my brain with something akin to relentlessness lately, and for those who like their fright flicks done on the cheap, Amazon Prime’s streaming service is definitely the place to be these days. Films that will quite clearly never go any further — and often ones that you’d be amazed even made it this far — are as plentiful as seagulls at a landfill there, and often the garbage metaphor turns out to be a pretty good one. Still, once you’re hooked, you’re hooked, and you eventually find yourself speaking almost an entirely different cinematic language, of sorts : production values are gauged on a scale of relative plausibility in accordance with the budget at hand, you make a lot more allowances for obviously substandard acting, you learn to find needles in haystacks in the form of unexpectedly…

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