The Situation Report

Even for a tax week, this one has managed to excel in getting increasingly sucky.

I won’t go into the income tax woes; everybody’s got those stories, mine are worse than some, better than others. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m a survivalist in movie matters and have been stocking up on movies for some time, just against a buying moratorium like that which is about to be enforced. I have a fallout shelter full of, not cans of beans, but DVDs.

Typos. Mainly I'm afraid of typos.

Typos. Mainly I’m afraid of typos.

No, other crap’s been going wrong out in the world. The saddest one is the shuttering of FearNet, which was a damned fine resource. I’m especially going to miss the reviews of Scott Weinberg, who is that rare critic that, while I may not have always agreed with him, was always enthusiastic and perceptive in his reviews, and was valuable in pointing the way to movies I might have otherwise passed over. I hope to hell he lands on his feet and gets a post somewhere else, because he deserves it.

Well, there’s not much I can do about that, except to send good thoughts his way and the way of many of my friends who have found themselves unemployed this year; I did that a few years ago and I don’t have to tell you how much it megasucked. Finding a new job when you’re over 50 is a thorny proposition, at best. I think my worst day there was being informed that I was not worthy of working at Walmart, for God’s sake.

flu15Making matters worse is the fact that my wife came down with the current flu two weeks ago, and it is one of those that just sets up shop in your lungs and hangs on, so constant coughing in the night is a given. Neither of us has gotten much sleep, and I’m exhausted enough that the damn bug has slipped through all the vitamins and supplements and set up shop in my mucus membranes, and when you work three part-time jobs, you literally do not have time to be sick.

This Friday is Good Friday. I expect to be unconscious for most, if not all, of it.

But enough bitching. Here’s some good news:

I am now a three-time Telly Award winner under my nom de guerre, Randall Williams. Honestly, I got really cynical choosing this last entry, and went for the cute animals. It worked:

But this is the one that cemented that, my story on a specific breed rescue organization:

But the one that started it all, the one I fought to have entered that first year? Zombies. Though a few cute dogs were included:

One of the better non-work things that I do, that I do not plug near enough, is the Daily Grindhouse Podcast, which I started doing again this year along with DG regulars Joe Cosby and Jon Abrams. Do you want to know more?

39919Episode #16 – Street Wars – Jamaa Fanaka’s last movie is a typically intriguing mix of solid exploitation tropes and painfully earnest social issues – earnest enough to keep you guessing. I think we were all surprised at how easily this came together for a first episode.

Episode # 17 Vigilante Force The under-appreciated George Armitage fights the American Revolution in vigilante terms in an odd thriller starring Jan-Michael Vincent and Kris Kristofferson. Mayhem ensues.

Episode #18 – Ghosthouse – It was Joe’s turn to pick a movie, and I believe my response to this was “Umberto Lenzi? You bastard.” A surprisingly restrained – until the very end – haunted house story that we fell on like hungry zombies. This was the first movie we universally trashed, and it felt good.

Episode #19 – Thriller: They Call Her One-EyeThis one was my choice, I admit. I had been meaning to see this since Synapse put out their limited edition of the uncut director’s version with the original sub-title, A Cruel Picture. Our first divisive picture – I recommended it (with caveats), Joe didn’t like it and Jon outright hated it. A really good episode, though, as we kick around why our opinions differ so much.

raw-force-1982Episode #20 – Raw Force – Edward R. Murphy only directed two movies, and trust me, this is the one you want to see, as it is insane from the first frame. This thing is like an exploitation smoothie with everything thrown into the blender, and then garnished with incompetence and cheap visual effects. Cannibals, boobies, bad kung fu, boobies, Cameron Mitchell, boobies, black magic, and finally, some boobies. And Fake Hitler backed up by The Village People. Code Red is supposedly working on a remastered version, and screw the IRS, I’m spending money on that. Needless to say, we have a ton of fun discussing it.

Episode #21 – Ganja and Hess – Hands down, our best episode so far. Mike White from The Projection Booth (pound for pound the best movie podcast out there) drops by to class up the joint as we mull over Bill Gunn’s moody, ethereal vampire movie.

Episode #22 – The Devil’s Express This is how I repaid Joe and Jon for Raw ForceThe Devil’s Express is another of those movies that seemingly has everything – monsters, murders, gang wars, good old bad old New York, Warhawk Tanzania, bad kung fu, Brother Theodore… we had a fun time picking this apart, but don’t be fooled. we loved this movie.

Episode #23 – The Twilight People –  This was Jon’s choice, because it was a Pam Grier movie he hadn’t seen. I could have warned him that this is not truly a Pam Grier movie, but… our Guest is Dr, Gangrene, who loves the movie, which is good, because someone has to. I like Eddie Romero movies… except for this one.

Well, this has taken me a thousand words and two hours closer to that lovely, lovely Friday and my bed. (Homer Simpson drooling sound) Beeeeeeeddddddddddddd….




Movie Ketchup

It seems to be a corollary of my life that every time I manage to get a long weekend, the week after is going to start at an accelerated rate and just continue to speed up from there.  How I managed to get last week’s entry on the Good Friday Crapfest is beyond me, but it got done.  In this welter of work, the Stanley Kubrick Project may have gone by the wayside, but I did manage to watch five movies, none of which I wrote about here.

I’ll try to not be too wordy.

First off was The Stabilizer, a 1986 Indonesian action flick that pairs boundless enthusiasm with limited skill. New Zealand English teacher-turned-action-star Peter O’Brian, plays Peter Goldson, The Stabilizer. On loan from the FBI, Goldson is that special breed of person who will stabilize the balance between good and evil. He does this by punching and shooting bad guys and driving various vehicles through walls. He’s there to get Greg Rainmaker, international scum, who raped and killed Goldson’s girlfriend by stomping on her with his oversized golf shoes.

If there is one thing The Stabilizer is, it’s action packed, and some of that action is pretty okay.  Slow spots are minimized, and you know you’re never more than a few minutes away from another sloppy fight or heavy machinery crashing through a wall. This is accompanied by near-constant unintentional laughs, making this the perfect Crapfest movie. Unfortunately, they won’t let me show it, no matter how many times I point to the box that says, “The Drunken Master’s Grand Theft Auto!” I’m sure Lloyd Kaufmann took the day off after writing that blurb, it’s so perfect.

Yes, Troma distributed the disc here in America, and a gesund on them for doing it. That’s the main reason I’m not allowed to show it, though. There’s an odd, unofficial No Troma rule, apparently, which extends even to stuff they didn’t make, so I might as well not even bring up movies like Sugar Cookies or even a movie Rick has been agitating for, Mad Dog Morgan.  Ah well:

This was watched for a Daily Grindhouse podcast, still being edited as I write this. My major contribution was confusing Judd Omen with Jon Cypher, as I mentioned his character at the end of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, in the prison bus, shouting, “Great movie Pee-Wee! Action-packed!

Which is really all I can say about The Stabilizer.

Late one night I watched American Grindhouse on Netflix Instant. It purports to be a history of the American Exploitation Movie, narrated by Robert Forster. It starts out very strongly, with clips from silent movies that I had no idea had survived, moving through the talkies up until the last decade (it’s a 2010 movie). Sadly it starts getting sketchy in the 70s, as subgenres start proliferating, and a lot seems glossed over. But it’s never boring, and a good primer for the uninitiated; those of us swimming through this stuff all our lives aren’t going to find much new.

Fittingly, the trailer will suck you right in:

Watching Spartacus had left me wanting more Hollywood epics, if only for comparison’s sake, so it was lucky for me that Daily Grindhouse asked me to review one of the new Twilight Time Blu-Rays, Demetrius and the Gladiators. But that meant I needed to watch The Robe first, as one is the sequel to the other.

For all you heathen dogs: The Robe is the tale of the Roman who won Christ’s clothes in a gambling match held at the foot of the cross. That guy is Marcellus Gallio, a debauched Tribune, played by Richard Burton. Travelling with him in his political exile in Jerusalem is his slave, Demetrius, played by Victor Mature. Demetrius becomes a devout Christian and runs off with The Robe while Marcellus is consumed by guilt over what he’s done. The Roman eventually tracks down the wily Greek, only to find himself converted to Christianity, and eventually martyred for his belief by Caligula, Emperor of Overactors, though that means it’s kind of a crock that there is no Saint Marcellus.

The Robe doesn’t feature a whole lot of budget-gobbling crowd scenes, so a lot of the time it feels like the expanded frame of this new-fangled CinemaScope is going unused, though there are great, painterly moments – the scenes on Golgotha, for instance. There are a couple of action scenes, quoted in that trailer, but they are far outnumbered in screen time by proselytizing. There is definitely more reverence on display than rambunctiousness.

Richard Burton’s taciturn portrayal of Marcellus doesn’t truly sell the character’s conversion (frankly, the script doesn’t do him any favors in this regard), and he’s rather overshadowed by Victor Mature. Michael Rennie is marvelous as Peter, and Jay Robinson’s time as Caligula is thankfully short. Jean Simmons is Jean Simmons. In all, I guess it was a pretty good Easter movie.

And then the Extremely Busy Week started. I survived it somehow. In celebration of that fact, I treated myself to lunch at the Star Cinema Grill and The Cabin in The Woods. I had the theater to myself.

I am going to scrupulously avoid saying anything about this movie except that I loved it. You know how tween girls were about Titanic? That’s me with The Cabin The Woods.

I now see that Lionsgate has scrupulously disabled embedding on all of the YouTube trailers for Cabin. Thanks a lot, guys, I’m not really sure what that accomplishes.

It’s amazing how little that trailer gives away. The Cabin in The Woods has the best blend of horror and comedy that I have seen in ages – since, ironically enough, Evil Dead II – and every serious horror fan who hasn’t seen it already, should see it now.

Yes, I’m aware that there are also people who say it’s stupid and it’s over-hyped and they want that hour and a half of their lives back. These people are big dummy stupidpants.

So then I got to watch Demetrius & the Gladiators, which I found to be one of the few sequels that was better than its predecessor. Better compositions, better balance between sermonizing and sword-slinging, it’s like a mirror image of The Robe. Demetrius’ fall from faith is a lot better handled than Marcellus’ conversion, and you’ve got actors like Ernest Borgnine and William Marshall shoring things up. Susan Hayward deserved a better script, and… oh boy, Jay Robinson gets more screentime.

While I was writing this, I see the review went live, allowing me to see every single mistake I made. Oh, well. Such is life on the Internets.

To top all this off, I finished my story for this week early, and now I’m wrapping this up. So I think it’s time to finally treat myself to The Raid: Redemption. Hi-keeba!