The List 2018

I decided last year to stop doing the “100 Movies I Will Definitely Watch This Year” thing last year, and that was a good idea, really. My dismay at the Current Administration and their gleeful rush to murder me and mine in any number of ways made adhering to any sort of regimen impossible. I’m amazed my antidepressant dosage wasn’t increased – of course, that’s about to be laughable, because who afford drugs anymore?

Anyway.

I watched probably about the same amount of movies last year, but I watched an awful lot of escapist trash – which is okay, I like escapist trash. Some of that can be due to the resurrection of the Daily Grindhouse Podcast, but not all. So I need something to get me back on the rails, quality-wise. At first I was going to take it easy on myself, and only list 50 – that didn’t happen. There are some kid’s flicks I need to catch up on. There are a couple I’ve only seen piecemeal to this point and I want the full experience.

There is a prettier version of this list on Letterboxd – now let’s see how much fail I can pack into 365 days.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

  • [REC]3: Genesis
  • Alien: Covenant
  • All the President’s Men
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • The Arcane Sorcerer
  • Arrival
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Bad Day at Black Rock
  • The Beast
  • Below
  • Black Panther
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Blood
  • Bright
  • Cabin in the Sky
  • Cinema Paradiso
  • The Color Out of Space
  • The Conformist
  • Contraband
  • The Cranes Are Flying
  • Crimson Peak
  • A Dark Song
  • Deadline U.S.A.
  • Deadpool 2
  • Deathgasm
  • Dersu Uzala
  • The Devil Commands
  • Diva
  • Dunkirk
  • The Evil Within
  • Ex Machina
  • Exists
  • The Fall
  • Found Footage 3D
  • Free Fire
  • From A Whisper to a Scream (The Offspring)
  • Gandahar
  • Gangs of New York
  • De Golem (1936)
  • The Handmaiden
  • Hard to Be a God (1989)
  • Hard to Be a God (2013)
  • Hour of the Wolf
  • The House With Laughing Windows
  • The Incubus
  • Immoral tales
  • Is Paris Burning?
  • Ivan’s Childhood
  • J’accuse
  • Jug Face
  • Kedi
  • Krampus
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Last of the Mohicans
  • Logan
  • The Look of Silence
  • The Love Witch
  • Lucy
  • Lust for a Vampire
  • Mad Max
  • Malefique
  • The Man Who Laughs
  • A Matter of Life and Death
  • Mephisto
  • Micmacs
  • The Mirror
  • Nightwatch
  • Nostalgia
  • Nutcracker: The Untold Story
  • Okja
  • The Phantom of Liberty
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Pieces
  • The Quatermass Coclusion
  • Red Beard
  • The Revenant
  • Roller Blade
  • The Sacrifice
  • Salem’s Lot
  • Salon Kitty
  • The Secret Life of Pets
  • Silence
  • Slither
  • The Snowman
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Spotlight
  • Stardust
  • Stunt Squad
  • Tears of Kali
  • Time Masters
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • The Uncanny
  • Vanishing on 7th Street
  • Victor Frankenstein
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • Willow Creek 
  • Wings
  • Xmoor
  • Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare
  • Zombieland

 

 

 

 

The War on Crapsmas

“Hey, guys! Wanna do a Crapfest?”

At the best of times, getting people together for one of these festivals of fail is an exercise akin to nailing mercury to the wall; during the holidays, it should be something ideally headed up by Ethan Hunt. Well, I must have wanted to do something impossible this month, because I had early warning of a Saturday night off, and everyone actually agreed on the date – it was like a Christmas miracle, but the wrong lesson got learned at the end.

Roll Call of the Wretched: Myself, son Max, Host David, Erik, Rick, Paul, Alan (who brought some fiendish Swedish concoction that, when heated, quadrupled in alcoholic content or something). Way too much sugary crap (provided by myself, the resident diabetic), some amazing white queso infused with pork found by Rick in the wild, and the return of Erik’s incredible burrito bowls, providing actual food that probably wouldn’t kill us.

David started out the horror with the first Spider-Man movie ever made. No, not the 1977 pilot for the TV series. In 1969 Donald F. Glut made this 11 minute short, the last of his amateur films before he went pro. As far as these things go, it’s not bad, especially for 1969, when the height of homemade special effects was scratching the film to produce lightning. Especially sterling work is provided by the Mego Spider-Man action figure. Alright, it’s a doll, but don’t tell it that. The 25 year-old Glut himself plays Spider-Man, in a suit he made himself.

I can’t get over how it looks and feels like an extra on a Something Weird DVD.

Erick kept up the Marvel vibe with Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and you either immediately know what I’m talking about, or you have avoided all comics-related entertainment since the Glut Spider-Man. This is before Nick Fury became Samuel L. Jackson in both the Ultimate comics line and MCU, so he is played by David Hasselhoff.

This failed 1998 TV pilot sidesteps a lot of problems that the comic Nick had in the 80s, mainly his WWII adventures leading the Howling Commandos (you’ll note the MCU walked away from that, whistling tunelessly, as well). This TV Fury quit SHIELD after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and he had put paid to Baron Von Strucker and his Deathshead Virus. In Fury’s absence (digging for gold in the Yukon, or some damned thing that keeps him shirtless), Strucker’s children steal his frozen corpse and use it to reconstruct the Virus. How this is done, and why Strucker was frozen remain mysteries to me.

Oh, hey, an LMD – wonder if that’ll get used at some point.

Some of our pals from the comic are there – Gabe is now the Head Scientist, Val is there to slow the movie down to the proper length with recriminations of their past relationship, and Quartermain to get killed in the first five minutes. I never liked him, anyway. The David Goyer script involves stopping the Struckers from launching a missile full of Deathshead at Manhattan, and it still hurts to see a missile launcher aimed at the World Trade Center.

Hasselhoff’s not bad, but he’s also playing the Silver Age Fury, who got by simply bulling his way through everything because he was NICK FURY, and that behavior gets him poisoned thirty minutes in, giving us TWO countdowns. The TV miniatures of SHIELD craft (and the legendary Helicarrier, very obviously an aircraft carrier model perched on a jet platform) are of at least Charles Band quality. In all, it was the high point of the evening, and we led off with it. Besides frequent cries of “Oooh! You just got Hoffed!” the other continuing motif was swearing Ms. Von Strucker was in Showgirls.

After this, Dave called me into the hallway to confer. The others howled that we were plotting against them. We weren’t, but it was fun to make them think we were. He was merely asking what my choice was, and wanting to play his first. Sure, I said, why not. In the meantime, I played something I had stumbled across on the Internets, perfect, I thought, for our venue, and short enough to allow some bathroom stops and grazing.

I swear to you, I had never before heard of Naked News, but every single participant that night – including my son – had apparently found it the day after the World Wide Web opened for business.

That’s one of the things that happen as you get older, I guess. As far as that goes, I still have no idea how Snapchat works.

Anyway, we proceeded with Dave’s choice. An Andy Sidaris movie. We had been asked about Sidaris before, why we hadn’t shown any of his flicks. (There’s our audience in a nutshell) It wasn’t the Sidaris I expected, either – this one was chosen seemingly on the sheer number of Playmates involved – four. This was… Savage Beach.

There are at least three plotlines running through Savage Beach, and while all those eventually intersect, getting to that intersection is kind of bewildering, especially when one story suddenly goes back to WWII. Two of our Playmates are charged with getting some antiserum to a remote island ahead of a storm, miss their escape window and wind up crashing on a remote island. In a more typical Sidaris movie, this would involve some skinny-dipping, but apparently we got all we were going to get in an early hot tub scene with the other two Playmates. Well, we do get a “We better get out of these wet clothes” included in the trailer below.

This island ties in to our WWII plotline because there’s still a Japanese soldier there, guarding some War Gold. The other two plotlines involve various people also looking for that gold, and one of these groups has Al Leong, so you know they’re the bad guys.

Yep, these are bad guys, all right.

As convoluted and chockablock with plot as this is, it still had to inject some filler to pad out the running time, and it’s not of the hot tub variety, either. More like the “Pre-Flight Checklist: Step 1 of 86” variety. In fact, the stranded Japanese soldier’s explanation of how we all got to this point is told twice – once in Japanese, and once in the translation. Our connoisseurs of sleazery, Paul and Erik, opined it was a lesser Sidaris offering, and as Paul is the one we looked to for what was excised from Dave’s abominably bowdlerized Showgirls, I tend to believe him.

Wait, was that Teri Weigel? <= running joke

Then it was my turn. I had offered it, and Rick enthusiastically bit at the bait, which should have made everyone else wary. 1975’s If You Don’t Stop It… You’ll Go Blind!

Sadly, YouTube is bereft of trailers for this movie, which is unsurprising. It’s a collection of skits dramatizing dirty jokes that were ancient during the reign of Diocletian, and possibly originated with Confucius. There were several of these skit movies during the 70s, making use of the relaxed cinema standards toward nudity. Probably the most famous of the first wave is The Groove Tube, which didn’t rely on joke books purchased in a bus station for its script. I honestly don’t remember that much about Tunnelvision. The best of them is Kentucky Fried Movie. The worst  is Jokes My Folks Never Told Me, which Dave has foisted on us several years ago. I’m not saying If You Don’t Stop It was retaliation for that, but I am saying don’t expect a Scorpio to just forget shit like that. This movie was successful enough to spawn a sequel (but then, so did Savage Beach)… Can I just Do It ‘Till I Need Glasses, and I distinctly remember seeing TV commercials for that one. The 70s, everybody!

If You Don’t Stop It takes more care to shoot its skits than Jokes, but that doesn’t make the jokes any better. They even laid down money for Uschi Digard and Pat McCormick. There are at least two Kissinger jokes and a Watergate reference. I almost expected the same howls of protest that eventually got Ms. Nymphet’s Zap-In tossed off the screen. Frankly, when I previewed it, I almost scratched it off the list, and then this scene happened:

Holy shit, it’s a musical. The Deal was Sealed. It even ends with another song, cementing my damnation with my fellows.

And pissing Dave off. He stormed into the next room, and came back with Teen Witch. There were many howls from the gathering, whining that they were being caught in the crossfire between the two of us. Wasn’t the first time, now, was it?

Yes, that’s Zelda Rubenstein from Poltergeist, whom they apparently thought could give the movie some gravitas, but nooooooo. They do get their money’s worth out of Shelly Berman, who somehow keeps his teaching job after disrobing for his class due to Louise’s voodoo. Additional weirdness is provided from the casting of Near Dark‘s Joshua Miller as the little brother and Dick Sargent as The Dad With A Thousand Weird Sweaters.

I’m not really sure who he was trying to hurt with this; it’s pretty harmless. That trailer lays out the entire movie before you; there, now you don’t have to watch it. I’m pretty sure it was the impromptu musical number in the girl’s locker room, apropos of nothing (“I Like Boys” by Elizabeth and The Weirz) that caused the connection.

The movie really reeks of Cinemax at 9:30 in the morning. And I’m grateful the trailer left in the part where Louise straight up murders a would-be date rapist. Well, probably not murder, but it did help us make it through the rest of the movie thinking she did, and might go all Carrie White on us at any moment.

Who am I kidding, I know who Dave was trying to hurt. It was Rick, because he knew the music would make his skin crawl. Speaking of which, here’s the best part of the movie:

So there I was, trying to figure out what to follow that with. I wasn’t harmed at all by Teen Witch, and thought hm, maybe we should do something halfway entertaining, but no, Dave wanted to see the movie with “The guy with the teeth!” “The what?” “THE GUY WITH THE TEETH! That you just found!” and through the Swedish alcohol fuzz I finally figured out what he meant.

This is going to require some exposition.

Over on the Twitter, I follow @DistortedKiwi, a pal from the old B-Movie Message Board Days. He uses his account to mainly post movie posters, and one day he came up with this one. Look at it. Just look at it.

Good gravy. There is no way the movie it represents is possibly 10% as awesome as that poster. The Empire Strikes Back is not as cool as that poster. If you want a soul-crushing illustration for the concept of certain disappointment, it is that poster.

I had to have it.

I was sincerely worried that we would be lost because we hadn’t seen Zodiac 1, but that wasn’t the reason we were lost.

I posted it on our e-mail chain, and the response was “This movie looks awesome” which is only to be expected, as it does. Then I explained the sad legacy of Tomas Tang and Godfrey Ho and their frankensteined ninja movies and how that heritage of horror is now carried on by Joseph Lai (and Bob Chan, which is the alias Godfrey Ho is going by these days). In short, shoot a little extra footage, insert it into a movie you bought for cheap that is no longer moving units, and TAH DAH! New movie! Make sure that new footage includes anglo actors, so you can sell it overseas! Also, maybe change the series name from “Zodiac Power” to “Zodiac America”. That’ll fool ’em for sure!

So. Here we are.

The older movie here is 1979’s The Young Dragon, which is most notable as the acting debut of James Lew, who would later turn up in… Savage Beach. Synchronicity, bitches! This is all about opium, which the bad guys in the 1988 footage want to export into Hong Kong. The square-headed snarly guy is Father Mitchell, who wanders the land monotoning homilies and destroying evil when the homilies don’t work. To my consternation, he is not named Zodiac America. Nobody in this movie is named Zodiac America, or any variation thereof. There is also no redhead, no green warrior wielding two swords, nor a monkey with a red cape. I am particularly upset by the lack of a monkey in a red cape.

Surely someone is named Zodiac in THIS movie!

There are two hopping vampires (not the crowd depicted in the poster) that the head 1988 bad guy (who apparently bought the hopping vampire franchise from an Asian version of Vic Diaz earlier) uses against Father Squarehead, but ho ho, the cross works just as well as yellow prayer scrolls! (Also, these were the most acrobatic hopping vampires I have seen, but it is far too late to demand any sort of quality or consistency from Evil Destroyer)

The fighting is actually pretty good in both movies, though the 1979 stuff is a bit hamstrung by being cropped for 4:3 video release. I appreciate the fact that they actually tried to cut together a dialogue scene between 1979 Bad Guy and 1988 Bad Guy, even though the two men are not in the same room, decade, or possibly even continent. Doesn’t make me resent the lack of a monkey in a cape any less, though. Even the Clown Ninjas couldn’t do that.

Evil was not the only thing destroyed – the audience was as well. Rick was intensely curious about the R-rated cut of Gums I carry around with me, and and after his constant cries of “You’re only doing this so Freeman can’t show Gums!” he finally got his wish. Speed past five minutes of man-dong aimed at the screen, and Rick was moaning that he had made a terrible mistake. Gums is the porn parody of Jaws, in case you hadn’t polluted your mind with such impure things, about a renegade mermaid sucking the life out of swimming men via the appropriate organ. The sad thing is the snowflakes in attendance demanded the movie get pulled before it truly got weird. Way before Brother Theodore showed up as the Quint character. Wusses.

We must speak again of that movie some day.

That was it, they groaned. No, we do not care about the Rider of the Skulls and his battle against a $1.25 werewolf. We’re leaving now. You fiends.

Ha. See you next year, suckers!

 

December Already

There is an odd perceptual trick that as you get older, time goes by faster. This phenomenon likely has its roots in the crush of past experience pressing up against the present moment, with a constant increase in supposedly adult matters burning away your time. I suppose the current administration was the solution for that, as there were instances when time ground to a maddening crawl, like a perpetual few seconds just before the impact of a car crash. Hurricane Harvey was only three months ago; it feels more like a year.

Life definitely feels like a circus act where you’re pressed up against a board and some idiot with a blindfold keeps throwing knives at you. December’s always hectic, and I doubt it’s going to calm down until the year is nearly over. Maybe not even then.

I think you’re getting at least one more post out of me this year. In the meantime – since I have a few minutes to catch my breath – here’s the few movies I’ve had the chance to watch:

The Limehouse Golem is based on a Peter Ackroyd novel, and delights in moving the timeline back and forth as Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) is a sacrificial detective set up by Scotland Yard to investigate the Limehouse Golem murders, a series of bloody mutilations that predate and outdo Jack the Ripper for sheer ghoulishness. His investigations run counter to the murder trial of music hall star Lizzy Cree (Olivia Cooke), whose poisoned husband seems a very likely suspect for the Golem.

The world of the English music hall wasn’t something I was expecting to be immersed in when I started the movie, and that was a pleasant surprise. Douglas Booth, as music hall superstar Dan Leno, is a continuing thread through the story as it unfolds, enabling the unique story structure. I’ve not read Ackroyd’s novel, but that structure feels uniquely literary, and director Juan Carlos Medina pulls it off well. While I can’t hand it an enthusiastic recommendation, I can still say it’s definitely worth a look. If you’ve not had your fill of Edwardian murder mysteries, you can certainly do far worse.

I finally watched Atomic Blonde, and I’m sort of glad I didn’t get over my animosity toward theaters to see it. It’s a pretty good retro spy movie, taking place just before and during the fall of the Berlin Wall. Charlize Theron is Lorraine Broughton, an asskicking troubleshooter for MI5 tasked with finding a wristwatch containing microfilm with the names and records of every agent on both sides of the Cold War, including a double agent known only as Satchel. She meets up with the local handler, Percival (James McAvoy), who has gone native in a big way. She spends most of the movie getting the crap kicked out of her, but you should see the other guy(s). What’s left of them, anyway.

Let’s be frank, Charlize Theron just plain owns me, and has for years. She is incredible as the agent James Bond would rightly be afraid of – except incredible doesn’t really cover it, she is credible in the role. Great supporting cast, too – John Goodman, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan. Incredible soundtrack. Great editing. Pretty much what you would expect from David Leitch, who was one of the directors of the original John Wick.

My only real complaint is that the movie feels over-extended at nearly two hours, giving me far too much time to figure out the true identity of Satchel. Minor complaint. Some directors would have stretched it out to two and a half hours.

That same day I saw Takashi Miike’s Blade of the Immortal, so I must have been in the mood for a fight. If you dug on the 45 minute long battle scene that ended 13 Assassins, good news! This is basically a movie-length version of that! In the very first segment, Manji (Takiya Kimura) informs a mob of about a hundred lowlife bounty hunters – who just slaughtered a girl for fun – that he is going to kill each and every one of them. And does. As he lays dying from his wounds, he is infected by bloodworms, which will heal any wound, even rejoining severed limbs to his body.

As Blade is based on a long-running manga series, I don’t know if there is ever a good reason given why a mysterious old woman gives Manji this curse/blessing – it still hurts when he gets injured, and the healing is far from instantaneous. He just can’t die from his wounds. He eventually takes up the cause of young Rin (Hana Sugasaki), whose family was killed by a group of rogue martial artists who want to take over the Imperial Guard (a ploy familiar to fans of “rule the world of martial arts” movies). The story gets somewhat involved from there, with plots, counterplots, a bloodworm poison that significantly slows down Manji’s healing, many colorful opponents, and my second two exhausted, bloody combatants still taking each other on fight scene in one day.

Overall, I liked it, but I wanted to love it. Miike’s samurai flicks are really good, though – see it and make your own decisions.

I watched two more movies, but I promised the review for one to Daily Grindhouse, so you’re going to have to be satisfied by closing things out with S&M Hunter.

I’m always downloading movie trailer collections and watching them at my leisure; one group was some movies available from PinkEiga, which specializes in Japanese “Pink” movies – so called because they involve nudity. That’s a subject that has a Wikipedia page all to itself, so I’ll direct you there for the broader picture. Pun definitely not intended, by the way. S&M Hunter caught my eye with its outrageous stylization and definite kinkiness (it’s right there in the title, after all), so I sought it out.

A man comes to “The Pleasure Dungeon” and chooses to whip a submissive dressed (briefly) as a nun until she faints. The Dungeon Master states “You are not a true sadist. I can see it in your eyes.” (Never mind that both men are wearing sunglasses) It turns out that new customer has a massive hate on for women because he’s gay and his lover has been kidnapped by a high school girl gang and is being used as their sex slave. Enter the dungeon’s superhero, S&M Hunter, dressed as a priest with a skull eyepatch, who agrees to rescue the boy. His super power is an amazing – and like all super powers, essentially impossible – mastery of rope tricks and the fact that every woman he is up against gets pleasure from the act of being tied up.

S&M Hunter would be classified in the realm of “Pinkie Violence”, I guess, but the whole setup is so silly and over the top that it comes off as a lighter parody of that genre. S&M Hunter has his own spaghetti western theme song. The Hunter’s archenemy feels it necessary to dress up in a gestapo uniform, complete with Nazi flag. The Dungeon Master has all the good lines. It’s only an hour long.

I was considering this for a Crapfest entry. But. It still remains a sex film, and that’s a level of tawdry I’m not willing to subject the fest to – titillation is fine, but S&M Hunter, while not explicit, still crosses that line. It is a pretty subversive entry in that genre, though, as the only truly loving, normal relationship is the homosexual one. Here, have a censored version of the trailer that sent me on this odd sidetrip:

Things only get busier from here on out. Hope to see you betwixt Christmas and New Years, if some moron doesn’t get us all killed. Happy Holidays, everybody, as possible.