Kirby Is Here! : “Our Fighting Forces” #153


Trash Film Guru

When most people think of Jack Kirby, war comics don’t immediately come to mind. Super-heroes, absolutely. Science fiction, no doubt. Westerns, you bet. Kid gangs, heck yes. Romance — heck, he created the romance comics genre. But war mags? Those were the domain of Kurtzman, Glanzman, Kanigher, Kubert —

And yet, no one knew that war really is hell better than The King. He was on the front lines of the European theater in “The Big One.” He helped liberate more than one concentration camp. He’d seen the horrors of both fascism and the bloody struggle against it firsthand. So if the time ever came when he was assigned a war book, there was no doubt he could do the job.

That time came in the waning months of 1974, when both Kirby and DC’s editorial “brain trust” were well aware that he was essentially riding out his contract there…

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Let’s Talk About Toxic Shark (dir by Cole Sharpe)


Oh Hell yeah!

This past week has been Shark Week on SyFy!  On Sunday, SyFy is going to premiere the latest Sharknado movie.  As always, in the days before the latest chapter in the Sharknado saga, SyFy has been showing other shark-related films.  Of course, my friends and I have been watching and live-tweeting all of these films.  What makes the experience especially fun is that, often times, the filmmakers themselves will join in and tweet along with us.  It’s a wonderful reminder that watching an original movie on SyFy should always be a community experience.

Take Toxic Shark for instance…

Toxic Shark premiered on Thursday night and I had a blast watching it.  Need proof?  Check out my tweets.  But what made Toxic Shark especially fun was that I was watching it with my friends, a group of movie lovers who call themselves the Snarkalecs.  We’ve been watching movies on SyFy since …. well, since forever.  I joined them in 2011 but they were watching movies together before I even showed up.  Even better, members of the cast and crew, including producer Neil Elman and editor Don Money, joined in the live tweet.  Toxic Shark is an audience participation film.  This is a movie for people who want to have a good time with their snarkiest and funniest friends.  If you’re not talking back to the screen while watching Toxic Shark, you’re doing it wrong.

Toxic Shark is a film that, in many ways, centers around friendship.  Two groups of friends are looking forward to relaxing at a singles retreat in Puerto Rico.  Unfortunately, things don’t go quite as smoothly as you might hope.  For one thing, it turns out that the retreat is being run by Reese (Eric Etebari, giving a hilarious performance), who is one of those people who you dread meeting at the gym.  Along with that, local fisherman are disappearing.  One of the singles, Ryan (Owen Saxon), worries over whether his shirt is too tight or not tight enough.  (That might not sound like a big deal but he was quite concerned about it.)  Body parts are washing up on the beach.  Eden (Kabby Borders) is shocked to discover that her ex-boyfriend, Sam (Bryce Durfee), just happens to be at the retreat.  Something attacks Gabby (Cirstina Jayo) when she goes out into the ocean.  A yoga class get eaten.  It may not be as bad as Fyre Festival but still…

Oh, wait a minute.  I forgot to mention the biggest problem at the retreat.  There is this giant shark that keeps jumping out the ocean and eating people.  Seriously, that’ll ruin any vacation.  But it’s not just that the shark is really big and fast.  This shark has also become toxic!  It can not only bite you in half but it can spew toxic waste on you as well…

But that’s not all!  The bite of this shark also turns its victims into zombies!  Yes, you read that correctly.  Assuming you don’t accidentally get killed by Reese, there’s always the chance that the shark will eat you.  And, if the shark doesn’t get you, the zombies will…

I mean, seriously, how can you not love that?  Toxic Shark is a blast of pure chaotic fun, featuring beautiful beach scenery, hot people in swimsuits, and a kickass musical score.  Everyone appears to be having a ball, running from sharks and turning into zombies.  Kabby Borders and Bryce Durfee make for a likable couple (even when they’re arguing) and the rest of the cast strikes the perfect balance between horror and comedy.  I especially liked the performance of Owen Saxon as the somewhat dim but well-meaning Ryan.  There was something touching about how concerned he was about whether or not his shirt was too tight.

Toxic Shark was a lot of fun.  If you get a chance, be sure to catch it!

Just don’t let the shark catch you…

Film Review: Close Calls (dir by Richard Stringham)


This week, I was lucky enough to get a chance to see a new independent horror film called Close Calls.

When Close Calls begins, the first image that appears on the screen is of a VHS tape.  Even though it’s just a part of the logo for S & Drive Cinema, that VHS tape is exactly the right image to start this film off with.  Close Calls is a throwback to the horror films of the late 70s and the early 80s.  It’s a film that pays homage to the old slasher and haunted house films that, though they may not have had a huge budget, did have an abundance of atmosphere, shocks, and out-of-control plot twists.   I always love a good homage so, as soon as I saw that VHS tape, I was excited to see what would follow.

Teenager Morgan MacKenzie (Jordan Phipps) has her own very good reasons for being upset with the world in general.  She is still struggling to deal with the death of her mother, something that is not made any easier by the fact that her father, David (Kristof Waltermire), is now dating the bitchy Brynn (Carmen Patterson).  (Morgan describes Brynn as being a “steaming pile of bitch.”)  She lives in a really nice house but, due to her rebellious attitude and her casual drug use, her father has grounded her and refuses to trust her.  (When he hears Morgan swear, he snaps, “If I was to cuss at my dad the way that you do, he would have beat the shit out of me!”  That’s the kind of father that David is.)  Whenever David leaves the house, he takes Morgan’s phone with him.  Morgan is literally a prisoner in the house, with her only company being her rather strange grandmother (Janis Duley).  Grandma spend her time upstairs, occasionally ringing a bell to let Morgan know that she needs something.  

Close Calls takes place over one very eventful night in Morgan’s life.  As soon as her father abandons her so that he can go on a date with Brynn, odd things start to happen.  Grandma starts to act strange and, despite writing a reminder on her inner thigh, Morgan keeps forgetting to take her pills upstairs.  As a storm brews outside, Morgan hears a voice from the past, whispering to her.  Pictures in the house start to change, as once happy photographs are changed into images of grief and pain.  The landline phone rings and, every time that Morgan answers, she hears a voice making threats.  A friend drops by, insisting that Morgan try a new drug.  Even worse, a man named Barry (Greg Fallon) shows up at her front door.  He says that he works for Morgan’s father and he just wants to come in out of the rain.  He seems okay, until he smiles what may be the most evil smile ever.  Morgan may have a shoebox of cocaine hidden in her closet but that’s not going to be as much help as you might think.  It’s going to be a long, dangerous, and twist-filled night.  When I say twist-filled, I’m not being hyperbolic.  In the tradition of a 70s giallo, Close Calls is full of unexpected plot developments.  At first, Morgan may seem paranoid but, as the film progresses, it becomes obvious that she has good reason for that paranoia.

Close Calls definitely had an Italian horror feel to it, which is one of the reasons why I enjoyed it.  When the camera is stalking through the house, I was reminded of two Lamberto Bava films, A Blade In The Dark and Delirium.  (The house’s swimming pool even reminded me of the pool where so much of the action in Delirium took place.)  A few of the more surreal scenes were tinted and lit in a way that reminded me of the scenes of Jessica Harper exploring the dance school in Suspiria.  For that matter, the film’s final scenes reminded me of something from Lucio Fulci’s Beyond trilogy.  Much like those films, Close Call frequently feels as if it’s a filmed nightmare.  The atmosphere is dream-like and frequently surreal.  In the tradition of the best of Italian horror, the story is sometimes less important than the way it’s told.  As well, director Richard Stringham deserves a lot of credit for including a drug trip sequence that actually feels authentic.

(Also of note: Rocky Gray’s score.  It’s a throwback to the wonderfully creepy and ominous horror music of the 70s and 80s.  Goblin would be proud.)

For a film like this to work, you have to a sympathetic lead and Jordan Phipps gives a wonderfully empathetic performance as Morgan, making her a sympathetic character even when she’s snorting cocaine and talking about how much she hates having to take care of her grandmother.  Phipps commits the role, giving an intense and believable performance.  Janis Duley also does well as grandma, constantly making you wonder whether she’s just a senile old lady or if there’s something more sinister about her quirks.  Finally, Greg Fallon is appropriately sinister as Barry, keeping us off-balance as to what his true intentions are.

Close Calls is definitely a film for horror fans to keep an eye out for, especially horror fans who like a film that keeps you guessing.  If you get a chance to see it, take that chance.

Late Night Cable Review: Cinderella’s Hot Night (2017, dir. Dean McKendrick)


Ever wanted to watch Dean McKendrick and some of his usual late night cable actors try to spoof a Hallmark movie? I’m glad I have now.

You could take that title card, put in the title of a Hallmark movie, and not have to change anything else about it.

The movie starts off with narration from Christine Nguyen. She introduces us to the prince of Cratonia named Steven (Kyle Knies). Steven’s father is not happy about his son being a bachelor.

Sarah Hunter is his secretary named Samantha. She shows up to tell the audience that there is going to be some business dealings with an American company, so that he will have an excuse to meet Cinderella.

The movie wastes no time cutting to Cindy (Karlie Montana) who works at Universal Imports. She’s not having the best of days. At least she isn’t getting fired for wearing that top to work.

In fact, her boss Patrick (William F. Bryant) is concerned about her, and invites her into his Godfather office.

Why does he have that?

Also, I guess he didn’t live happily ever after with Kira Noir at the end of The Deadly Pickup (2016).

The Deadly Pickup (2016, dir. Dean McKendrick)

As you can read, she is getting kicked out of her apartment. Her boss does what any good boss would do to make sure an intern doesn’t lose their position by having to get a job. He gives her a spare room at his house.

Patrick could die tomorrow, and no one where he lives would care.

Then we meet his wife, Mona, played by Beverly Lynne.

That’s a face you can trust. She plays the wicked stepmother character.

They have a butler who has a name within the film, but I think his stage name will do just fine.

If I had to sum-up Regis’ character in this film, then it would be like the maî·tre d in Barbara Broadcast (1977). That guy has to be given a blow job by any waitress or costumer who drops dishes, a glass, or a vase–anything breakable. He doesn’t seem to get any pleasure from it. It’s part of the job for him. He really seems to just want to go about his business managing the restaurant.

Barbara Broadcast (1977, dir. Radley Metzger)

That’s Regis. With that in mind, it has been a whole five minutes of runtime.

By the time they shot this film, Lynne was 43 years-old. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to see her get a scene. You don’t usually see that in one of these late night cable movies.

Immediately after they finish, Patrick shows up to tell us that his company will have some dealings with the prince.

What’s missing? We have Cinderella. We have the wicked stepmother. We have the father who sometimes is part of the Cinderella story. It’s the stepsisters we need.

Enter Grace (Blair Williams) and Sylvia (Penny Pax). This isn’t the Emma Marx from the first film. This is Penny Pax circa the sequels to The Submission Of Emma Marx (2013).

They’re exactly what you would expect–ditzy and entitled.

Patrick tells them Cindy is coming, and we move onto the next scene.

And that is all you need to see of the next scene. That is all there is to it. This is the only time they meet until much later. This quick, casual, and super-short scene.

Wait a second, this place was burned to the ground in Paranormal Sexperiments (2016).

Paranormal Sexperiments (2016, dir. Terrance Ryker)

Paranormal Sexperiments (2016, dir. Terrance Ryker)

I don’t like it when different films that use the same sets break continuity.

Patrick brings Cindy home. She gets the reception you would expect from the sisters.

Penny Pax, presumedly because she’s sick of her dress causing her to blend in with the bed…

grabs Regis, and drags him to another room. They must really expect privacy in this house because they never close the door.

It even appears to have confused one of the actors or crew members, because they get caught in this shot.

I was confused too. The movie was expecting me to get into this sex scene with those three pink dogs in the background? I couldn’t stop looking at them throughout this part.

The next morning, they make an immigration joke…

before Patrick tells us he is going to hop a plane to go see Steven on his native movie-set.

To quote Christine Nguyen, Cindy has been left in a “den of vipers.” I think Cindy is wondering about that statue behind her. I certainly was.

They make Cindy fetch a bottle of wine.

After arriving in Cratonia, Patrick and Samantha hit it off well. They have sex…

we see an Instagram photo…

and Patrick dies along with everyone onboard the plane.

Christine Nguyen tells us this via voiceover narration in a very nonchalant and upbeat way.

Oh, well. Goodbye, Patrick. We hardly knew you.

Anyways, Nguyen finally decides to show up as Cindy’s fairy godmother.

Cindy’s main problem is that she is lonely. With a little magic, Cindy’s fairy godmother is naked, and ready to pleasure Cindy.

That’s because even James Franco had his mind blown in Interior. Leather Bar. (2013) about the fact that he could be making a movie with pornographic sequences in it and the Disney film Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) at the same time.

It makes sense that these two would end up together. They already did this in a previous movie.

College Coeds vs. Zombie Housewives (2015, dir. Dean McKendrick)

I have two problems with this scene.

The first is that picture of a pineapple on the wall. The second is the tiara. It’s a little difficult to pay attention when you keep wondering how that is going to stay on.

Mona now visits a cameo appearance by Ryan Driller in order to find out that her husband was in a lot of debt, and she’s stuck with it. This part only exists so they can’t pay Regis to stay around, and can con Cindy into doing their bidding in exchange for continuing to stay with them. That’s how she is going to slip into the standard Cinderella role.

We also find out that Regis comes from Iowa and is probably going end up shoveling pig shit.

“Pig shit” must be the magic phrase though, because Grace decides to have sex with him before he leaves.

Now we can skip over some things because it’s the standard Cinderella stuff. The only thing you need to know is that Steven decides to hold a New Year’s Eve party in America.

Cindy has a shower scene so she can have a couple of flashbacks. One of the two flashbacks is to the only time Steven and her have been in a room together up to this point. It’s as if they felt they needed to remind you that they even know each other.

Moaning about not being able to go to the ball, a visit from The Fairy Godmother, and we are at the party.

I beg to differ. What about that tattoo on her arm?

Inside, you know the deal. Hi there, guy on the right.

She ends up running away from the party and The Fairy Godmother’s magic is faulty as usual. It leaves one of the shoes intact.

Steven wants her tracked down, and he’ll creep out Sarah Hunter if he has to in order to find her.

He arrives at what appears to be the entrance to a different house that was used in Bikini Model Mayhem (2015).

Bikini Model Mayhem (2015, dir. Jon Taylor)

Bikini Model Mayhem (2015, dir. Jon Taylor)

After you get over the red Buddha sitting next to a plant in the shape of hair on a troll doll, he has found her. They consummate the shoe fitting.

They live happily ever after.

Mona and her daughters are turned into “scullery maids.”

And I guess Regis went back to Iowa. He gets no closure in this film.

That was different from the usual. The acting is fine all-around. They really did take a generic Hallmark plot and add sex to it. I didn’t like seeing Penny Pax play this kind of character. However, if you haven’t seen her play Emma Marx, then I can’t see it bothering you. The sex stuff was fine even if they really should have taken some of the humorous things out of the room. I mean I liked them for the purposes of having fun with this movie. But if you are watching it for the sex, then I could see it being distracting, and taking you out of the moment. The plot is Cinderella. You know the story.

This one is about average.

A Movie A Day #208: War Party (1988, directed by Franc Roddam)


On the hundredth year anniversary of a battle between the U.S. Calvary and the Blackfeet Indians, the residents of small Montana town decide to reenact the battle and hopefully bring in some tourist dollars.  The white mayor (Bill McKinny) and the sheriff (Jerry Hardin) both think that it is a great idea.  Even the local Indian leader, Ben Cowkiller (Dennis Banks, in real-life a founder and leader of the American Indian Movement), thinks that it will be a worthwhile for the Indians to participate.  The Calvary’s guns will be full of blanks.  The Indians will play dead.  However, as the result of a bar brawl the previous night, one of the local rednecks, Calvin Morrisey (Kevyn Major Howard), shows up with a gun full of bullets.  After he shoots one of the Indians, Calvin ends up with a tomahawk buried in his head.  Three Indian teenagers, Warren (Tim Sampson), Skitty (Kevin Dillon), and Sonny (Billy Wirth), flee into the wilderness.  Thirsty for revenge, a white posse heads off in pursuit.

War Party is an underrated and surprisingly violent movie.   Franc Roddam brings the same sensitivity to his portrayal of alienated Indians that he brought to portraying alienated Mods in Quadrophenia.  Though, at first, Kevin Dillon seems miscast as an Indian, he, Wirth, and Sampson all give good performances, as does Dennis Banks.  The movie is often stolen by M. Emmett Walsh and Rodney A. Grant, playing renowned trackers who are brought in to help the posse chase down the three youths.  That Grant’s character is a member of the Crow adds a whole extra layer of meaning to his role. Even though the setup often feels contrived and heavy-handed and anyone watching should be able to easily guess how the movie is going to end, War Party still packs a punch.

One Hit Wonders #6: ARE YOU A BOY OR ARE YOU A GIRL? by The Barbarians (Laurie Records 1966)


cracked rear viewer

Garage rock bands sprouted up everywhere during the 60’s. Any teen who could master three chords on guitar or bang on a drum kit wanted to be a rock star, mainly because all the girls were ga-ga for teen idols. Cape Cod, MA was no different, and The Barbarians rose to #55 on the Billboard charts with their long haired anthem, “Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl?”:

The difference between The Barbarians and all those other would-be Beatles was their drummer, Moulty, who had a hook in place of his left hand. Victor “Moulty” Moulton lost his hand in a homemade pipe bomb explosion at age 14, but that didn’t stop him from joining the rock revolution. He had his hook modified to fit a drum stick, then he and the band grew their hair out longer than the popular Beatle-bowl cut. Their unique looks helped land The Barbarians a gig in THE TAMI…

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