Saturday, April 4, 2020

Absolon (2003)

Well isn't this timely? I mean, I watched this a few months ago and am just now getting around to writing up the post - to be honest, I had no idea how relevant this film would be. But here we are. Remind me again why people are all hyped up on watching Contagion when they could just be watching this cinematic gem?

You want an all-star cast? You got it. Christopher Lambert, Lou Diamond Phillips, Kelly Brook, Ron Perlman. That's what I am talking about.

You want hot outfits and sets in a post-apocalyptic world? This is the future aesthetic I am all about - one that was clearly modeled after a 2002 nightclub. Cops wearing belly shirts with colorful hair extensions, cops wearing sweatshirts with the iron-on word POLICE across the front...And that's just the beginning.

The scene is a post-pandemic world where everyone has to take a drug to stay alive, a drug (of course) owned and doled out by a massive corporation. Gotta love capitalism. Except, instead of money, time is now the ultimate currency. As in time off your life. Run out of time and you're dead. 22 minutes for a loaf of bread. This is Capitalism 2.0 my friends.

Some of the scientists are out there trying to help while the corporation tries to shut them down. They are operating out of my favorite kinds of science labs - the ones completely overrun by plants. Ahh the dream. Don't worry, even in this virus controlled corporate dream, there are still tacos and science grants. So what are we all so worried about?

I am not the only one thinking this film is ringing pretty close to home. IMDB user melobruce was ahead of the game in 2005, writing this prescient review:

melobruce29 October 2005
so why did i give this rather poorly constructed film a 10?? because the subject matter is true, and is happening to us now, today, and while i am writing this review. fear-mongering, creating habituation, misleading the public, lying to the public, killing the public, controlling the public, is all true. i'm used to being ridiculed for my views on this but i go on record as saying that Steven Seagall, Fernando Meirelles, Steve Mqueen, Michael Moore, and Tom Cruise are all right and telling the truth. i am only hoping that these truths will become common knowledge during my lifetime. i admit that some directors and some screen plays have done this better. but that doesn't mean that the subject here is a fantasy. and good for Christopher Lambert. i've always been a fan of his and loved him in Highlander. he was enjoyable enough to watch in this modest, low-budget film. and Kelly Brook looks good to me. big fan of Lou and Ron's too.
Final Judgement: "There's no one I'd rather have saving the world than Christopher Lambert / Almost too real right now / Leave Contagion on your netflix box and watch Absolon instead / The future is now."

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Horrorvision (2001)

It's honestly shocking that it's taken me this long to stumble into the world of Full Moon Features. As far as I can tell, Full Moon is like the Z-list of the Z-list cult-classic horror film world, where people who want to see Evil Bong and Gingerdead Man also want to see Evil Bong 666 and Gingerdead Man 3 (how many of these movies did they even make?!). If that sounds appealing to you, don't hesitate - they are all streaming right now on Full Moon's specialty streaming really does seem like everyone has one of those these days...

The film in question, Horrorvision, is just one of the thousands of "no budget films" that Full Moon Feature has made as part of what they call 'guerrilla filmmaking,' meaning, they didn't have permits for filming - they just had to hop out of the car in LA and get the scene done before someone called the cops. And based on all the pleather people are wearing in this movie, people are calling the cops pretty damn fast.

Even of all the Full Moon Features, fans seem to agree that Horrorvision falls out at the bottom of the pile. Whether it's the fact that literally 1/4 of the 82 minute film is just a filter-heavy music video scene of the protagonist driving aimlessly through LA, or the hodge-podge of Matrix, Star Wars, and Johnny Mnemonic references that somehow all find themselves in a goth gore porn techno horror-thriller, people are not very pleased.  
I, on the other hand, actually found quite a few redeeming aspects of this VHS that has been idling on my shelf for too long. It must be something about the 'apocalyptic hatred of the internet incel-powered artificial intelligence converting everyone into mass murderers' / 'classic stack of hacker TVs except with some ghoulish jason type virtual gatekeeper monster named Wetwire' / 'he had a nightmare where his dick turned into a bunch of computer cables - we've all been there I guess...' / 'his stock report watch brought forth some sort of Mad Max robot desert monster machine,' vibes. They stick with you, you know?

Or maybe it's the exquisitely written script, with characters named names like Dez and Dazzy saying things like, "You can suck the snotty end of my fuck stick", or, "the only plastic we have here goes on your dick," or perhaps, "As my granny used to say, 'Wish in one hand, shit in the other and see which one fills up first'...Of course, the best interaction has to be between Dez and this Blade-character who shows up mid-film:

"Society functioned before the advent of technology, deal with it."
-"What are you, some kind of anarchist?"
"If you want live in virtual sterility you're to have to rid yourself of technology, rebuild yourself, become organic"

I mean, isn't this a conversation we've all had at some point? Even if it is only with our stoned-AF brother down at the beach?

I, for one, relish a film where every scene is completely unexpected, even if it's only because it was made in 12 days on a $1,000 budget (a little trivia: this was actually the first version of feardotcom). At least they were trying! That's more than you can say for most of the multi-million dollar trash they play in theaters these days. This, my friends, is a movie that you want to turn to your friends and talk about, even if it is only to say, "what the fuck did we just watch?" Also the soundtrack is truly excellent (see below). Another bonus - the special features at the end of the VHS are actually just as long as the movie itself. I'm not saying, 'stop your life and see this film,' but are you really paying more money to see another superhero film in theaters? Really?
Final Judgement: "No one said it's perfect, but I have no regrets" / "Go big or go home" / "Make me feel again" / "Just some kid fondling some transistors in a haze" / "Time to get jacked into your own soul"

Babydoll Johnson
The Divine


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Code Hunter / Storm Watch (2002)

Another straight to VHS beauty. Have you noticed how the DVD / online platform previews for B-list movies always make them look terrible and not at all as awesome as they would have been when they caught your eye browsing the shelves of Rasputin? A million copies of Jerry McGuire and then *BAM*, the face of this clear winner.

And that list of names. Oh the names. We have a real battle of the B-listers here. Adrian Paul, Bai Ling, Tone Loc, Coolio, and of course I can't forget the lovely Vanessa Marcil. I say of course because I was quite impressed, although in hindsight not at all surprised, by the number of reviewers who wrote that they procured this movie just for her. She is in The Rock after all. The director has a much less impressive list of credentials, heavily marred by a blatant Indiana Jones ripoff - that's more obvious even then stupid Avatar stealing the Pocahontas story and leaving out all the killer music!

But seriously, when you put the Highlander, the Vampire Princess, and two rap artists into a movie, I want to see it. I'm going to see it. And see it I did.

This is a movie where a boy can live out his Eurotrash spy dreams in virtual reality VR missions while the vampirically unchanging Bai Ling chases him down in vinyl miniclothes and a blue wig. Seriously, how have I never written about Bai Ling before? She does - not - change (see below) = amazing!

This is a movie where, in battle, everyone randomly types as fast as they can, and the code flashes back and forth in some non-sensical non-language. This is a movie where Coolio is a gunslingin cowboy shooting cops, where everyone wears colored sunglasses indoors, where satellites shoot lightning, and where hurricanes meet artificial intelligence. This is a movie you want to see. At least once. If you're into that sort of thing I mean. I most certainly am.

 Sophisticated IMDB user and Gibson fan ETCmodel02 is as well, writing, ""See, the cyberpunk genre can be fun without being tripe." And here I thought that was just stomach lining! Look, I'm learning things!

I also learned that people were a bit miffed by the opening line of the plot synopsis, "The hottest sex, the coolest technology, the most extreme adventure you've ever experienced." I guess when there's absolutely no sex in a movie, that line can be a bit hard to pull off. Oh well, good thing I never made it that far - as soon as I saw the cover, it went straight into my VCR!

Bai Ling in Code Hunter (2002)
Bai Ling in 2015
Final Judgement: Bai Ling is a genetically modified alien princess/The Highlander meets Lawnmower Man meets Hackers meets Virtuosity/Makes me want to watch Precious Find again/As classic as it gets/"'What the hell do we have to do to get some goddamn answers around here?"' - 'Play video games'"

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Creature (1985)

From the intensely piercing synth music that frenetically starts the producer credits, to the dramatic intro about feuding firms in space, you know this movie is, for lack of a better word, sickkkkk. That's right, I said it - I loved Creature.

But real talk: I know that we just rewatched the Alien movies (I-IV, VII), but it just me or are there a lot of parallels? Archaeological team disappears after finding a hibernating alien egg...The infection spreads...And there's that whole cultivating an alien race side plot.

"Only some of these butterflies are not so friendly."

Klaus Kinski is so perfect for this role. He shines as a huge creep. Very believable.

But maybe I'm not so crazy after all. I mean, the special effects crew that worked here was the same in "Aliens", released just a year later. And with quite a few review titles like, "You don't have to be original to amuse," and "An "Alien" rip-off-so what???," I'm guessing other people picked up on it too. But they're what??? This movie rocks!

And there are some pretty crucial differences between this movie and Alien. Like the nudity, for one. Example A) the reanimated (and naked) lady covered in blood. At least he can die and orgasm at the same time - isn't that every man's dream of how to go? If you haven't seen it, you're definitely gonna watch it now, am I right?

In general, there are a lot of hot chicks in this movie. Hot chick scientists, hot chick security - the definition of silent but deadly. This was also clearly made at the height of 80's hair fashion. Which is to say, I love it.

I'm not alone in that either. Because with an estimated budget of $750k, this puppy pulled in $4+ million in the US alone. Please and thank you.

Mind control, collective intelligence, the undead, Klaus Kinski, and full frontal nudity = sign me up please. And don't forget the CREATURE. Complete with quintessential 'creaturevision'.  What's not to love??

Final judgment: Classic creature feature+add Kinski+a lot of faces fall off in this movie!/"I think they are some sort of biological control device"=gimme gimme.

Thanks to Kindertrauma for the images.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Brainscan (1994)

Amongst the appropriate and expected (albethem slightly benign and commonplace) user review titles, such as "Fun and underrated horror flick", or "Badly executed attempt at a video game horror movie...", and "Nightmare on Elm Street meets Terminator via The Lost Boys", I read what spoke to me like a clear message of hope: "Unique Period Film". 10 out of 10 from this Brainscan viewer and Bergman lover. Unique period film. I thought about it a bit, and I realized that the reviewer has nailed it right on the head - seen through to the depths of the soul of this film, and called it into the light. Brainscan (1994): Unique period film.

He's right, the characters can only exist in this place and time. And the nineties are perhaps far enough in our past now to evoke feelings of a distant era. An era when CD-rom computer games are the most important thing in a young man's life, and the most dangerous thing someone could get involved with. An era when teenagers being implicated in a dark murderous scandal was still shocking and unthinkable. And an era when effects were still "practical" as my friend Skip calls them. No computer graphics here. Unless you are talking about the insane hell-hole portal that transports young John Conner (oh wait...that's a different movie) to and from his interactive hologram murder video game, narrated and controlled by some Beetlejuice meets Troll, meets Freddy Krueger, meets drop dead Fred. Then....Drop Dead Freddy, that's it. Alias: The Trickster, who can videodrome in and out of the TV at will to intimidate and enlighten young Michael (played by Eddy Furlong). Frank Langella rounds out the team as a corrupt cop and poorman's Sean Connery.

There is a truly philosophical bent to this fine horror film and masterpiece of its genre, perhaps best epitomized by this classiest of quotes,

Dr. Fromberg: Don't you see? Senseless violence is not entertainment.
Michael: What is it then?
Dr. Fromberg: Why? why do you watch these things?...
Michael: I guess it's kind of an escape.
Dr. Fromberg: Like, uh... lighting up a marijuana cigarette and escaping the real world, hmm? Like watching a pornographic sex film, getting an erection and raping someone? Is that what you mean?
Michael: You know, I don't think erections rape people. People rape people.

True wisdom there Michael. People rape people. I didn't expect to start on such a mind-altering and soul-searching journey when I pulled this skepticism-inducing VHS cover out of the stack. But here we are. We can't claim any control in this thing we call life.

Final Judgment: A true 90's classic/Horror meets virtual reality meets gaming culture/Horror kids rule the world/Senseless violence entertainment escape with a Nietschesque bent/The reason I buy VHS.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Explorers (1985)

I have a long and very uncomplicated history with this movie, mostly in that I saw the VHS cover, and I wanted it. Yes, I know, in this day and age, you can find almost anything on the internet. But, seeing as how I have a ~900 tape VHS collection, it should not come as a surprise that I frequently favor doing things the old fashioned way. And so it was with The Explorers. I spotted it a decade ago but only had a for-sale copy cross my path a few years ago. And then it sat on my shelf.

There's something about a movie with four kids on the front that can sometimes be difficult to feature for date night, or even a Friday night party. And so it awaited its day. That day has finally come. Like the long journey of my attainment of the tape, so is this film well outside of what we have consensually agreed to call the bounds of time and space. Seriously, what age group is this film made for? On one hand, we have said children, played by none other than Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix, among others. I had no idea how famous River Phoenix was before I watched this movie (my bad, I know).

Of course I recognize him as Young Indy, perhaps his most iconic part, if judged only by how many times I've seen it (it's my blog, I can judge however I want). I was surprised, to say the least, to hear that his death was ranked #16 on most shocking entertainment events (2003), after which REM and Red Hot Chili Peppers dedicated albums to him. Milton Nascimiento even wrote a song about him before he died. A few years after this movie came out, Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar for his work in Running on Empty. In contrast, the other kid didn't go anywhere. No, not Ethan Hawke: the other one. He's a home developer in Texas now. Nickname: Tiger. (wow, it seems like he's actually deleted the IMDB evidence of his prestigious run as Steve Jackson in this film = regrets?).
One the other hand, there's the plot. That and the *gasp* $25 million dollar budget. Don't worry; I never give too much plot away. What I do give away, much like an overly generous neighbor on Halloween, will likely make you both giddy and slightly nauseous. And so...plot points of interest:

1) This kid is having dreams about flying and controller boards, so he gets together with his friends to build a ship that can sit inside the power field they created

2) There's a giant robot spider that searches them

3) Everyone's mind is blown

4) Is this kid really flirting with this alien?

5) Aliens act out commercials in front of a crazy demented TV screen, using TV voices. This part may have been last sanity straw for me.

6) Space pirates, scourge of the universe. Related = Ice Pirates and Space Truckers, both exceptional pieces of cinematic legacy.

Final Judgement: I am too stoned for this. Or I am not stoned enough; I can't tell which/Stop motion, robots, kids in space = this movie has it all/"If this is all a dream, then what happens when we wake up?" -"I don't know, but I can't wait to find out"/ "And we didn't even get to tell you the secrets of the universe"
Trivia, direct from IMDB:
"The actual computer that was used to make the screen display for Wolfgang's computer was not an Apple IIc, it was an SGI Iris 1400 Workstation that cost $35,000. It contained a 73 megabyte hard drive, 1.5 megabytes of memory, weighed 130 lbs and required a custom portable wooden crate to house it on set. The movie needed a program written in C language that could redraw a 3D wire-frame scene in real-time, a feat not possible before SGI produced this specialized hardware. The movement of the energy sphere on screen was controlled by a mouse and happened in real-time for each scene and take, in response to the director's instructions. The workstation was modified to synchronize with the motion picture camera (to eliminate flicker) by tapping into one of the circuit boards. The workstation had no windows operating system: all programs were controlled with Unix commands." 

Monday, December 19, 2016

River's Edge (1986)

Hailed as a disturbing exercise in teenage apathy, River's Edge was both controversial and original when it came out in 1986. With an absolutely all-star cast of Dennis Hopper, Keanu Reeves, and Crispin Glover, this film is one of those that seems unimportant when you first watch it, and then continues to dig its way into your skull like a little worm easing its way into the center of an apple. And now it sticks to my soul. The entire film focuses on deep indifference, long before eyes were glued to screens and college kids could walk their way across campus to their next class without ever looking up from snapchat. In 99 minutes of increasing uneasiness, there are literally dozens of noteworthy quotes. But if I could sum up the movie in a single line, it would definitely be the beauty delivered during that unforgettable classroom scene:

"Wasting pigs is radical man!"

It probably doesn't help my conscience that this movie is based on a real-life murder in Milpitas, California, and partially inspired by youth in Sacramento. Too close to home. Too many gutter punks. I will say, the combination of Keanu and Crispin all punked out, and Dennis Hopper playing drugged out saxophone while wooing a blow-up doll, was a somewhat enlightening experience. I will now proceed to list a series of the best quotes, with a separate section just for ones about getting stoned.

"Maybe I am a killer. Why should you care? You just stay around here to fuck my mother and eat her food....Mother fucker food eater."

"Go get your nunchucks and your dad's car. I know where we can get a gun."

"I ate so much pussy those days, my beard looked like a glazed donut. 
- Is that when you lost your leg?"

"You didn't have to call me a stupid bitch."

"I'm nobody's were all mistakes anyway. I'm going to leave you all like your father."
--Stoner Section
"Sometimes I think it'd be a lot easier being dead. 
- Ah that's bullshit. you couldn't get stoned anymore."

"So now we get married right? 
- No, let's get stoned instead."

"You respect an adult? I really do need to get stoned."

"Someone could murder you you know. Or the Russians could send over a whole batch of nuclear bombs. 
-We should just get the Russians stoned."

Final judgement: This is a parent's worst fucking nightmare/"I feel like someone dipped me in used cooking oil."

Monday, September 12, 2016

Trancers (1984)

Let's set the scene - in a place where political correctness has yet to be born, and hobo baseball is a hilarious joke set starkly against a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a time where a New Age soundtrack and glowing lights mean everything is okay, and punk Jingle Bells makes everyone feel better, in a place of moshing and hideous hair cuts, where you actually light your cigarette before you go inside...this is 1984. This is Trancers. Cue Jack Deth, Angel City PD. He's just time traveled back from 2247 to catch a villain that uses his psychic brain energy to convert the weak-minded into zombies that do his bidding. He's lighting matches with his teeth, blowing up corpses and fending off crazy old ladies that turn into zombies and attack him with a cleaver. As dr_foreman says, this is truly "the eternal struggle between detectives and zombies."
This movie is filled with so many one-liners, you'll feel like you've been slapped in the face,

"If I see you in LA again, I don't care if you're a kid, an old lady or a kitty cat, I'm gonna kick your ass."

Not to mention all the other verbal ice cream sundaes:

"Did you mean what you said to me last night?
- Yeah sure. What did I say last night?
You said that making love to me is like the ethereal union of two lost souls."

Mmm, lick it up.

Have I waited this long to mention that Helen Hunt stars in this sci-fi flick? What a travesty. Hey, sweet confederate flag jacket Helen Hunt. It suits you.

The trailer for this film almost says it best:
"Jack Deth is back. And he's never even been here before."

So do yourself a favor, and spend some time with the good kind of Trancers.

Final Judgement: "Dry hair's for squids."/"You're swaying in the strike zone!"/Time travel never seemed so right.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Ticker (2001)

While pawing through mounds of action movies in my living room, this movie was an easy choice for me, mostly because it has so many of my favorite actors all in one movie. The stars, oh the stars. We're talking Dennis Hopper, Steven Seagal, Ice-T (it counts!), Jamie Pressley, Tom Sizemore, Nas, and, can you believe it(?), the bad guy from The Mask! What a crew. Like, how could I not watch this movie? And then I see that it's set in San Francisco, my old hood, and that completely seals the deal. So much glee, so much anticipation. Alas, it became clear to me early on that getting all of those amazing actors all into one movie was the last bit of effort anyone bothered to put into this movie. Don't worry, it's still an epic film (or else I wouldn't review it) - just one with little to no effort put into it.

When I first started watching this millennial classic, I thought to myself, "Wow, they managed to get all known movie cliches in one movie! Impressive!" A little further into the film, I found myself saying, "Dang, not a single line in this movie is original. In fact, I am pretty sure that every single line has been said in between 1 and 100 other action movies." Not much later, I was pretty much convinced that the makers of this movie didn't actually know how to write a script so they just used a computer to randomly sort the occurrences of certain themes and output an algorithm of what should happen in their movie. The result is the most cliche action movie I've ever had the pleasure to witness. But it was a pleasure. Sort of a morbid pleasure, but a pleasure none the less.

And hey! I wasn't that far off! It turns out that this movie looks hastily done because they threw it together in 12 days. 12. Days. In fact, Dennis Hopper was only on set for 1 day, and he didn't even meet any of the other actors. Impressive! Definitely coulda fooled me. I suddenly feel a whole lot better about that horrid Irish accent that he brought to set with him for that one lonely day. Let's just say that the only believable characters in this movie are the members of the blues band at the club.

And perchance did any of movie seem oddly familiar? Don't worry, you're not magical - it's just because a 12-day budget doesn't allow for those old-fashioned hoo-diggy things like cast and crew. Instead, they took the smart way out and "borrowed" footage from 8 other movies to, you know, just, like, fill out this one, make it a normal movie length. Sweet deal. If you're at all tempted, you can see a list of all the movies they used on the imdb trivia site.

But there are a few - nay - several things that make this movie both redeemable and postable, beyond the "lunchbreak cameo by Ice-T" (thank you Kastore). Let me go ahead and list them for you here:
1) Massive explosions with sad Irish music over them, 2) the most sophisticated interrogation techniques I've ever seen, 3) Dennis Hopper saying things like, "That, Pooch, is the very essence of our existence. Synchronicity. Synchronicity," in his Irish accent, and last, but definitely not least, 4) Steven Seagal practicing Zen preacher skills. Yes, he's a Zen bomb-defusing ninja. That alone could save any movie. And so it does. So it does.

Final judgement: I do not regret watching this movie.