So Chris Hardwick of the Nerdist has mentioned many times how much he loves this faux blaxploitation film. They even dedicated a live podcast at Meltdown comics to Black Dynamite. I figured there was something there worth checking out, and as Black Dynamite is now available streaming on Netflix, I watched it tonight.
The Plot: Black Dynamite is a veteran and former CIA agent who is now a badass. Or perhaps more accurately, he should be described as having no discernable job, and has all the time in the world to do badass shit. In this case, he must avenge the death of his brother, get smack off the streets, solve a mystery, fly to Kung Fu island, and more in an amazing over-the-top plot that is every bit as awesome as it is incomprehensible. Hilarity and a half ensue.
So this movie is one of the best parody/homages I’ve ever seen. The film was shot on 16mm, giving it an authentic, 70’s feel. The acting and action is occasionally purposefully clumsy, which adds to the films charm. (An early scene has a boom mic dip into frame during a speech by Black Dynamite, and eventually his eyes flick up toward it in a masterful acknowledgement of the cheapness of the format.) Pretty much every blaxploitation trope is present, including pimps, hoes, “jive” slang, afros, racism, and kung fu. I feel I need to remain deliberately vague about the movie in order to avoid spoiling some great humor, suffice to say, I highly recommend it.
Oddly enough, it’s not The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. (The original, good one you heathens, not the Jessica Biel remake.) This series certainly owes a debt of gratitude to Tobe Hooper, as they are relying heavily on his groundwork for their plot. (At least in the first movie, which is the one which attempts to keep the tone serious and tries it’s damnedest to inspire dread and suspense.) As I have mentioned on the show, I think you could prolly section off a portion of horror films and label them “Inbred Mutant Killer Horror” as a sub-genre. This is not a particularly prolific sub-genre, but has the notable entries of the aforementioned Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and the Wes Craven helmed The Hills Have Eyes. (It should be noted that the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, in contrast to the TCM remake, is phenomenal and I consider it an improvement on the original.) I’ll run down the three movies I watched in quick succession.
Wrong Turn – The Plot: Through a series of unlikely events a bunch of poorly-equipped, overly-attractive twenty-somethings (Of which Eliza Dushku is the only recognizable name or face.) are stranded in the middle of nowhere and must strike out into the wilderness to try to find help. The couple who remain with the broken down vehicles are the first to go, while the expedition soon stumbles on the cabin of the inbred mutant cannibal freaks, take cover upon their return, and are discovered in their attempt to sneak away. The remainder of the movie features the kids attempting to not get eaten by hillbillies. Hilarity ensues.
Wrong Turn 2: Dead End – The Plot: A small crew is filming a reality show, Apocalypse: Ultimate Survivalist, in a remote backwoods location. On hand are the appropriate number of poorly-equipped, overly-attractive twenty-somethings and Henry Rollins. Rollins plays the on-camera host of the show, as his status as a retired military commander is meant to lend weight to the series. As the kids tramp around the forest, they begin to realize that the reality show is anything but realistic, and they seem to be disappearing. The remainder of the movie features the kids attempting to not get eaten by hillbillies. Hilarity and Henry Rollins kicking ass ensue.
Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead – The Plot: The obligatory poorly-equipped, overly-attractive twenty-somethings are on a rafting trip. All but one of them die. Then, a prison is shown, prepping inmates for transfer from one facility to another. The bus is attacked by a familiar hillbilly-driven truck and runs off the road. Through a series of unlikely events, the surviving guards, inmates, and twenty-something find each other, stumble upon an armored car full of money and proceed to try to not get eaten by hillbillies. Hilarity most definitely does not ensue.
So, to give you the gist of each movie, as they all summarize similarly, the first one is the straight up, survive the horror, slasher movie. It takes itself seriously, and attempts to be genuinely scary. To it’s credit, there are a few taut moments, though the characters never really became likeable enough for me to give a shit about them.
The second movie is for all you Sam Raimi fans out there. It seems to be self aware without being self referential. It was definitely the most fun movie for me to watch. It seemed to take as a given that the movie couldn’t successfully pull off the same basic plot of the first with new victims, and the reality shoe angle, shile hardly novel, was entertaining. There are some fun kills in this one as well. Lastly, as a big Henry Rollins fan, I cheered when he showed up, as I hadn’t known he was in the movie beforehand.
The third movie was obviously an attempt to wring a little more money out of a franchise based on the name alone. The story is convoluted and ridiculous, even for a horror movie. No one can act worth a shit, and the kills are not even interesting. Pass.
All this to say, I’d still recommend the first two as a good time. Though you could just watch the second if you wanna just watch the best one, they don’t require knowledge of the others to watch them.
As a head’s up, allegedly, the guy who did the dreadful third installment has been tapped to do a fourth movie. There is no god.
Amazingly enough this movie was not a porno. Jick (creator of Kingdom of Loathing – see episode 4) has spoken about this show many times over on the KoL podcast, and I’ve been meaning to give it a watch for a couple years now. The other day I saw it on Netflix streaming, and gave it a shot.
The Plot: It’s the final day at Camp Firewood for the summer of 1981. That means this is the last chance for all the counselors and campers to find someone to kiss or hook up with at the big talent show that night. Coop, the nice guy counselor has spent his summer pining for Katie, unfortunately for him, Katie is seeing douchebag/serial cheater Andy. Beth, the camp director, works on hooking up with camp neighbor Henry. This turns out to be a good idea, as Henry is an astrophysicist, and a piece of SkyLab is on a collision course for the camp. Hilarity mostly ensues.
I realize that’s a pretty bare bones plot summary, but this movie has only a couple threads that run throughout, and relies mostly on playing with tropes or individual set pieces. I feel that to make people realize how good this movie can be is most easily done by listing the cast:
David Hyde Pierce
Michael Ian Black
That’s a pretty heavy list. In case you weren’t looking that closely, that is Christopher Meloni aka Detective Stabler from Law & Order SVU, playing Gene, the crazy refrigerator-humping camp cook. Damn I love it when that dude shows up in movies. This isn’t a movie where I laughed my ass off constantly. It depends at least as much on putting weird characters together in a room and seeing what happens as it does on its plot. Fortunately, the weirdos at this camp are pretty engaging. Paul Rudd turns in a wonderful performance as Andy, the douchey boyfriend. (A scene in the cafeteria where his is forced to pick up his lunch from the floor and does so in the manner of a 8 year old is priceless.) Showalter gives us a steady lead, and David Hyde Pierce does a great job with a small, but funny role.
It’s not the funniest movie ever, but I enjoyed myself. You prolly will too.
I fucking love zombie movies. I love zombies in general. In fact, as I have mentioned on the show, my son’s middle name is changing to “Zombie Hunter” when his adoption is final. The zombies – I love them.
All that to say, it’s perhaps even more of a drag for me when a zombie movie is disappointing. Even more so when it’s made by George Romero, a man for whom I have a great deal of respect and a pioneer in the genre.
The Plot– A bunch of college kids are filming a shoddy horror movie in the woods when they hear various news reports alleging that the dead may be coming back to life and killing people. They find some raw footage that a TV news cameraman uploaded to the internet that suggests this is indeed the case. Two students, Ridley and Francine, dip immediately to retreat to Ridley’s parent’s estate. Jason, the director of the film, decides to film continuously in the hopes of producing a documentary about the situation. Jason and crew head back to their school to find the Jason’s girlfriend Debra, and eventually they end up in a Winnebago heading to Debra’s parent’s house. They stop at a hospital and a refuge of black National Guard deserters along the way, with a couple of kills at each stop. Eventually, the group reunites at Ridley’s parent’s mansion. Hilarity does not ensue.
I really don’t have much to say about this movie. There is an unfortunate, though unsurprising, lack of practical special effects. This is obviously a low budget movie, so apparently, it’s now cheaper to do so-so CGI over good practical effects. I love me some practical effects and generally loathe CGI, but that’s the way it is. So now I’m an old man tenaciously gripping my record player in a world of iPods.
As a Romero fan and completionist, I’m still glad I saw this one, but unless you suffer from the same obsession as me, you can feel safe skipping it.
Like most nerds, I am a Bruce Campbell fan. I have watched the shit out of some Evil Dead trilogy. That said, I do find the over the top worship of Bruce Campbell by some fans tiresome. The dude has been in some really fun movies, I think he’s a better actor than he gets credit for, but he’s not some geek messiah. That opinion is what has kept this movie in my Netflix instant queue for a long time. I thought it might be a fun flick, but I didn’t know if I wanted to watch an hour and a half of Bruce Campbell hero worship. Anyway, I finally got to it.
The plot: A couple of douchey teenage punks drive to a graveyard to meet a couple of slutty goth chicks. One douchey punk belittles the other for his love of Bruce Campbell movies along the way. The teens pair off at the graveyard, and eventually unleash a demon. Meanwhile, in Hollywood, Bruce Campbell is filming a crappy movie. He talks to his agent, and complains about his career. His agent, as played by Ted Raimi, assures him he has something special in store for him for his birthday. Through a series of contrived plot devices, the douchey punk fan’s request for help from Bruce is interpreted as a movie offer by the star, and he shows up in town to fight the demon. What the town finds out rather quickly is that Bruce is much more interested in womanizing and drinking than being a hero, much less an actor. Eventually, Bruce figures out that the demon is real, and has to decide if he wants to be the man he is, or the man he pretends to be. Hilarity ensues.
In a nutshell, this one was ok as a movie to watch for free on Netflix. (I know, I know, technically it’s not free I’m paying a monthly fee for it, but I watch enough movies each month that it’s as good as.) The film seems to have tried to make a small budget seem intentional by drawing attention to some of its shortcomings, most notably over the top foley work. Bruce Campbell plays himself as a slightly less likeable Ash, which kinda makes it hard to care about him as our protagonist. There are references aplenty, and some genuinely funny moments, but overall, this seems like a decent attempt at what might have been a good idea. Perhaps another rewrite, one which made Bruce seem as engaging as he has been in the movies that made him famous, would have made this a cult classic.
So now that I have Mark (my new laptop – Lappy Mark II or “Mark for short) I can get back to more regular updates of nonsense. Here’s another movie review:
The wife and I watched Book of Blood tonight from our Netflix DVD queue. I read the short story collection Books of Blood by Clive Barker, upon which the movie is based. I really enjoyed the book and many of the stories have already been adapted into movies, such as Candyman, Lord of Illusions, and The Midnight Meat Train. (Side note – The Midnight Meat Train is fucking brilliant – run, don’t walk to see it.)
The Plot: A rather gnarly looking dude eats breakfast in a diner while being watched by an older guy with a ponytail and bluetooth earpiece. As the rather shaky gnarly dude leaves, Old Boy grabs him and leads him to his car. Gnarly dude then wakes up strapped to a table, where Old Boy informs him he has been hired to find Gnarly, kill him and skin him. Gnarly looks understandably distressed upon hearing this news, and begs for his life. Old Boy tells him that ain’t gonna happen, but he can make his death rather quick if Gnarly will tell him what his deal is and whats up with the scars and cuts that cover his body. Gnarly launches into his tale wherein we are introduced to paranormal author/slightly clairvoyant chickie Mary Florescu, who is teaching a college course of some sort on paranormal issues. Her class is interrupted by the arrival of a new student, Simon McNeal, who has recently transferred to the school. Mary gets a little tingle checking out Simon’s hawtness and heads out after class to a house where a couple of people have allegedly been killed after mixing sex and seances with her paranormal investigator buddy, Reg Fuller. Mary eventually finds out that Simon is also clairvoyant and recruits him to help her and Reg in their investigation. Weird shit happens over the course of a couple nights, and Mary and Reg must determine if shit just got real, or if Simon is a fraud, and how to deal with the repercussions of either case being true.
The plot summary I gave is rather bare bones as I feel this movie would suffer greatly from spoilers. Sorry. I really like this movie, and so did Gretta, which is rare. Some genuinely creepy moments, top-notch practical effects, and a minimum of CGI, which I am generally against. There are a couple instances of wince-inducing obvious CGI, but also many scenes that are clearly done on a computer, yet still look excellent. The acting is all solid, with no obvious half-assed horror movie actors, and some real tension is created. There is a fair amount of gratuitous nudity, which is par for the course for Clive Barker, who has always had elements of sex in his horror. Being a fan of gratuitous nudity, I wholeheartedly endorse this endeavor.
I know it seems like I watch a lot of movies and therefore write a lot of these entries, but I actually watch more, I just don’t have time to blog them all. Yeah, I’m surprised I’m married too.
The plot: The small Missouri town of Blaine is celebrating it’s sesquicentennial. (I just wanna point out that I’m really surprised I spelled sesquicentennial right without spell check. Go me!) In addition to the usual parades and what not the Blaine community theater will be performing a production of Red, White & Blaine, an original musical written by local high school drama teacher Corky St. Claire, (Christopher Guest.) who appears to be flamboyantly gay though he maintains he has a wife. The cast is created through open auditions, which includes travel agents Ron and Sheila Albertson (Fred Willard and Catherine O’Hara, respectively) local dentist Dr. Alan Pearl (Eugene Levy) and Dairy Queen employee Libby Mae Brown. (Parker Posey) A couple of other actors are hand picked from the townspeople by Corky based on his specific artistic visions. After assembling his cast Corky begins rehearsals, and sends out requests to his old theater connections in New York, hoping to get a write up. One of them, Mort Guffman, agrees to view the show, Corky is elated and quickly realizes that his show will need a larger budget than he was originally granted. He petitions the city council for $100,000, which is denied as the whole civic budget is a mere $15,000 for the entire year. Corky quits the show in frustration, and his musical director Lloyd Miller is given directorial duties. The cast rebels and along with the city council members convince Corky to return. On the night of the show, a seat is reserved for Guffman, and Corky is forced to step into one of the roles due to a cast member backing out at the last minute. Hilarity ensues.
Like many people I first saw Christopher Guest in This is Spinal Tap, which was a film in a similar style to Waiting for Guffman. Both movies, along with Guest’s later films Best in Show and A Mighty Wind, feature a strong cast of character actors and improvised dialogue. I love this style of movie, though I will say I enjoyed Spinal Tap, Best in Show and A Mighty Wind more. This is only Guest’s second directorial effort, so this can be forgiven. I don’t want to make it sound like this is a bad movie, it’s not, it’s just less polished than his later works, as you might expect.
I fucking love Eugene Levy and Fred Willard. Therefore, any time either one of them is on screen is pure magic. (Speaking of Fred Willard, you should check out his appearance on The Nerdist podcast here.) Catherine O’Hara comes in as a close second for Teh Awesome, with Parker Posey taking the bronze in this event.
Something I mentioned to Porter (who was watching the movie with me) was that while this movie flirts with putting hapless folks into uncomfortable situations, it never goes into Meet the Parents territory. For me, Meet the Parents is the perfect example of the current school of “comedies” which seem to derive their humor solely from putting people into situations that are so awkward or embarrassing that you are surprised they don’t commit suicide. I HATE movies like that, presumably because I cannot help but feel the discomfort or embarrassment of the character on screen, and no part of that is fun for me. This movie simply puts eccentric characters, who are completely oblivious of their eccentricities, in front of the camera and lets them be themselves. I dig it.
The play, which we watch at the end of the film, is surprisingly competent. I found myself rather impressed. It’s not good by any means, but it wasn’t the trainwreck I thought it would be. Meh, check it out for yourself.
Actually Matt watched Office Space a couple days ago, but he’s been busy. Sorry.
The plot: Frustrated wage ape Peter Gibbons hates his job at cubicle farm Initech. Peter and his buddies Samir and Michael Bolton (no relation) lament their fates while Peter also pines for local waitress Joanna. One Friday after work Peter’s bitchy girlfriend takes him to a hypnotherapist to attempt to bring him to terms with his job. While under hypnosis, and in a state of supreme relaxation, Peter’s hypnotherapist suffers a fatal heart attack. Peter, in a state of complete calm despite the panic of the others in the room, spends the day in bed. This presents a problem for Peter as his boss, Bill Lumbergh had informed Peter that he would be required to work both Saturday and Sunday. Peter’s new relaxed outlook makes neither this, nor his girlfriend dumping him a problem. Peter proceeds to fail upwards at work despite the presence of two efficiency experts named Bob laying off many of his coworkers, including Samir and Michael. Peter convinces his two soon-to-be-jobless friends to program and install a virus in the company financial software that will gradually accrue money in an account for the three of them. It’s like the plot of Superman 3. Also, there’s a weird guy in the office named Milton, and hilarity ensues.
Ok, this is an old one. (To be fair, I shouldn’t feel bad about it I just reviewed Conan.) Most of you have prolly seen this one. If not, run, don’t walk, and see it. That prolly gives you an idea of how much I enjoy this movie. A relative box office failure, this movie caught on as a rental and VHS/DVD purchase. This is Mike Judge’s first live action feature, which was prolly what turned me off from it when I first heard of it, as I am not a Beavis and Butthead fan. Fortunately, this movie is not retarded.
In fact, some viewers may find that this movie moves too slowly for their tastes. The movie is filled with jokes, but they are quiet jokes, you never see an actor really leaning on a punchline. I’d say it’s more like a Christopher Guest movie in style.
The big question is, “Will I find this funny even if I have never had a shitty office job?” I say yes. I’m not smart enough or educated enough to get an office job, but I still loved this movie. I think it taps into the archetypes that we can relate to if not as coworkers, then as customers at places like banks, post offices and the DMV.
I had never actually seen this movie before the other night. I knew of it certainly, and had even quoted, “Conan! What is best in life?!?!” many times, but I just never got around to watching it until now.
The plot: ‘Lil Conan is shown being instructed in the ways of the world by his father, until one day, a band of men arrive in their village and slaughter everyone except Conan and a few other children. Conan and the rest are sold into slavery, where they are used to push a large mill, Conan is eventually forced into becoming a pit fighter for the entertainment of his captors. After many victories, Conan is released and sets out into the world to find his fate. He befriends a thief named Subotai and while breaking into a temple of a powerful snake cult, they meet and befriend Valeria, whom Conan is quick to have sex with after their heist. Word of their bold escapade spreads and the three of them are recruited to infiltrate the main stronghold of the snake cult in order to rescue the daughter of a king who has fallen to the cult’s influence. Along the way Conan figures out the cult is led by the same men who killed his father and the rest of his village. The trio eventually ends up inside the inner sanctum of the cult, where the attempt to free the captured princess. Sword fights and hilarity ensue.
Ok, this isn’t exactly a great movie. It features a lot of Arnold Schwarzenegger standing around looking grim. Then again, when he is standing around looking grim, he isn’t speaking, so we have that to be thankful for.
Upsides: Conan punches a camel for no apparent reason. All practical special effects. James Earl Jones turns into a snake.
Downsides: Arnold Schwarzenegger is boring to watch. Nothing happens for large stretches at a time. James Earl Jones doesn’t do anything cool as a snake.
I enjoyed this movie well enough as a Netflix rental, and I have the next two Conan movies in my queue. We’ll see how I feel after watching the others.
Yeah, so . . . those of you who have heard of this one already are prolly a little worried about where this is going to go. This is prolly fair. I will say that my experience watching this movie and the uncomfortable parts for me were prolly not the same parts most other viewers found uncomfortable. Look, lemme just get the plot summary out of the way and I’ll explain.
The plot: A couple of hapless female tourists on a trip through Germany, break down in their rental car on the way to some club. They decide to hoof it toward help, unfortunately, the house they find belongs to the evil Dr. Heiter (subtle isn’t it?) who is a world renowned surgeon that specialized in separating conjoined twins. Apparently, Doc is getting a little weird after all these years and now wants to try to create a conjoined human. There are several times in the movie that reference “his beloved 3 hound”, which was 3 artificially conjoined dogs that the doctor created presumably as a prototype. Dr. Heiter soon has the girls tied to hospital beds in his basement along with Japanese tourist Katsuro. In a bizarre sequence, the doctor explains how he plans to join the three captives ass to mouth with a series of diagrams via overhead projector. The operation is successful and the three become his “Human Centipede”. The doctor then spends time trying to train them to walk in uniform movements and obey him. Eventually two detectives show up and suspect the doctor of involvement with the suspicious disappearance of two American girls, which is mostly due to the doctor acting like a complete idiot in front of the detectives. Things get desperate, and hilarity kind of ensues.
Ok, so this is a pretty gross movie for mainstream audiences. Many people are turned off just by the premise. I think this movie might qualify for what I call “street cred” movies. Street cred movies are films you can say you have seen when someone else is talking about a movie they think is really fucked up when you want to slap them down. I usually use movies like Cannibal Holocaust, Aftermath or Salo: 120 Days of Sodom for this purpose. I think this one may end up being in that group, or if not, perhaps it’s planned sequel.
Speaking of movies being fucked up, lemme take a moment to offer a brief aside. I love horror movies, I watch a lot of them, however, I rarely see them in theaters. This is because I have a tendency feel faint and even pass out at the sight of blood on screen. I know, this makes it seem like I should prolly not watch horror movies at all, but I can’t help it, I love them. My solution for the last few years has been to watch them at home, where I can pause the movie if I start to feel woozy, and pick it back up once the feeling passes. It is also worth noting that the average gorefest slasher or zombie movie is not gonna trigger this response from me. It is usually much smaller, more realistic injuries that set me off. Past examples include the scene in The Exorcist where Regan is at the hospital and while drawing blood from her there are a couple spurts onto her sheets, the end of the first Saw movie (I know that one wasn’t so small) and a scene from the movie event Horizon, I can’t remember which exactly. That last example had me leaving the movie to go splash water on my face to try to feel better, and waking up laying on the floor of the bathroom. When I returned to my seat I found I had missed about 20 minutes of the movie. This is why I watch movies at home now.
All that is a long way to say this movie got me sick too, but it wasn’t for the human centipede, ass to mouth nonsense. In a scene shortly after the girls are captured, one of them manages to release her restraints on the hospital bed and starts to run away, it is only then she realizes she has an IV in her arm as it is ripped out, tearing the flesh of her arm. This got to me and I felt sick for most of the rest of the movie. This freaked my wife out a little, for while I am sure I have mentioned this particular idiosyncracy to my lovely and tolerant wife, this is the first time she has seen it in front of her.
But I digress. The movie as a whole was not great. I tend to agree with most of the reviews I have found in thinking that the movie was one interesting idea that someone had, but there was no real story to go along with it. Really, once the surgery is complete, the movie is pretty much just the centipede shambling around moaning and crying. Eh. Despite his unfortunately cliched name, Dr. Heiter is the most interesting person on screen throughout the movie, though his inability to act reasonable even in front of cops makes you wonder how the hell he got as far as he did in life.
My lovely wife and I have just conferred and we agree that it isn’t a good movie, or even one you should really bother to see just for the hell of it because it is streaming on Netflix. It seems best suited to being a street cred movie for horror buffs to freak out their more mainstream friends.