nutsy

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Reviews

Nemesis 2: Nebula
(1995)

Dumber Than The First One, But Almost As Good
I enjoyed Albert Pyun's "Nemesis" for its cheesy action and semi-complicated script. A lot of people complain about the "confusing" plot to the first film, which is probably why "Nemesis 2: Nebula" has a dumb as rocks plot with the same super-action to carry it through.

This one gives the name of the first movie's hero, Alex, to a bulked up super-female sent to the past to save the future. She is raised by a tribe in Africa. A good portion of the film only has dialogue in an African tongue without subtitles, which I liked because it made it seem somewhat authentic (how often do movies in this genre really try to do that?). It doesn't take long for the evil cyborgs to time travel back in time to find her and try to kill her.

Don't get me wrong, this is a piece of crap (not that the first one was anything great). There are subplots involving Africa's political unrest, treasure hunting, and tribal combat. The picture is very short on brains, so none of these things gets a very good treatment. The picture is basically a drawn out fight with some chases that boils down to muscle-babe vs. cyborg. It has its entertainment value, just don't expect quality, or anything of the first movie.

To Live and Die in L.A.
(1985)

Not Bad, but Not Good Either
"You want bread? Then go f*ck a baker."

How's this for a setup? - William Friedkin, John Turturro, and Willem Dafoe, all together for one movie. What could go wrong? It stars William L. Petersen and has music by Wang Chung. This movie is the kind of mistake that could only happen in the 80s.

This is a movie almost bereft of dialogue and none of the characters get close-ups. Our hero is a secret service agent named Chance (how lame is that?) and he's played by a wooden William L. Petersen. He's a wild kinda guy. He likes to bungee jump off bridges and shoot Arab bombers. When his partner is killed (with only three days left until retirement) investigating a counterfeiter, Chance becomes obsessed with revenge. That plot has got to be one of the most overused in film history. According to Friedkin that's alright, because this film is based on a book by a former secret service agent and it accounts some of his real experiences. It does not, however, go an inch for making this movie interesting.

Some of the characters and their dilemmas could have been very intriguing if they'd actually been developed. The trouble is that, while there are other things going on, the only dialogue is that which refers to the plot, and that plot is a boring one. The great Willem Dafoe is Masters, the complicated artist who burns his paintings and provides the Los Angeles underworld with counterfeit money. He's ruthless, connected, attractive, but sadly underused. Debra Feuer is a woman who gets information for Chance in exchange for staying out of prison. They sleep together, he treats her like dirt, she wants out. She is, however, given little to say or do, and is tied down to one location for most of the film. Dafoe's girlfriend is also a character of some kind; it's hinted that she's playing him and has a lesbian relationship with a partner, but she almost never speaks and the audience never really gets to know her, so she might as well be an extra. Turturro's part is depressingly short: he's a baddie who Chance arrests, Dafoe puts an unsuccessful hit on, and pretends to turn stool pigeon in order to escape. This is all somehow connected, but with the way it's presented, you won't care.

Later in the film come shifting loyalties, the dilemma of Chance's new partner (Pankow), one genuinely cool twist (I'll let you be surprised), and, what you all came to see, the car chase! The thing is a welcomed breath of fresh air. The film finally gets on the move, the bullets start to fly freely, and, best of all, we get a break from the monotonous Wang Chung score. Friedkin compared the scene to Kafka, but I think of it more as a way to keep the audience awake. It's not like this chase rivals the famous one Friedkin already had to his name, but it is fun to watch.

If only that one fun car chase could make up for all that came before: a tacked on prologue, a slow, if informative lesson in counterfeiting, a bad score, and a complete lack of depth. It's sad to see these mistakes coming from a veteran director who made the only horror movie with a strong dramatic core. I went into this movie open minded and came out of it hating Friedkin. He tried to pick up on some of the grit of his Oscar Winner, not realizing that Petersen is no Gene Hackman and that 80s LA doesn't have half the character of 70s New York. If he'd changed cities his luck would have been a little better, but the real problem is the shallow script and the uninteresting direction.

Don't bother with this one, folks. If you want a good cop movie, there's THE FRENCH CONNECTION, for a good car chase there's that and THE BLUES BROTHERS. Even if you wanted a better Petersen movie, there's MANHUNTER (and that's it). This movie is an uneven, poorly assembled screw up that you shouldn't seek for entertainment.

Dancing with Danger
(1994)

Bad Even for a TV Movie
Lonely guy meets dancing babe who may or may not be a killer. There's the short of this bad made-for-TV flick. Back around 1998 I started a long TV-movie kick. None of these movies were actually good by real movie standards (limited acting, story, direction, artistry, technical skill etc.), but I got good feel for them. DANCING WITH DANGER was one of the movies I saw while on this particular train of viewings. It's bad, folks, really bad and that's when compared to other TV movies, which are inferior to real movies in almost every way.

What DANCING WITH DANGER is trying for is a noir feel. You get the old-fashioned music, the 40s style location, and the lady in red. This could have been a great idea if the writer and director could have put their heads together to do something instead of just having the idea. It proves even worse to have a fake style than to have none at all.

There are some truly pathetic scenes. In one scene, drama is attempted when our hero visits his ex-wife and asks her to dance with him (I'm being nice by even calling this an attempt at drama). The suspense is weak, but, like I said, this is a TV movie. The conclusion makes you sorry you bothered to watch the movie. In short: avoid.

The Silencers
(1966)

Bad Start to an Alright Series
Many dreadful things followed in the profitable wake of the James Bond series. The Matt Helm series was not the worst of these. They were a comic turn on a serious series of spy novels by Donald Hamilton. Now, I love Dean Martin, and Bond spoofs/rip-offs, I even love some of the Matt Helm films (#2, MURDERER'S ROW, and #3, THE AMBUSHERS), but THE SILENCERS is just plain bad.

Director Phil Karlson (WALKING TALL) is mostly to blame for the failure of this film. I know this because he also directed THE WRECKING CREW, the last film in the series, and it had all the same problems. He introduces us to our hero, lying naked in bed, having dreams of models in various silly costumes which are narrated by Martin's singing. Meanwhile, Matt Helm's boss, MacDonald (James Gregory) is trying to call him to get him on his mission. This is supposed to be funny, but it's tedious as hell and a bad start for an action-comedy.

In the only well shot scene in the movie, we see agents of I.C.E. (the good guys) chasing agents of BIG-O (the bad guys) in cars on a deserted stretch of highway in Arizona. The viewer is introduced to a fairly standard plot involving the threat of the United States being destroyed with its own missiles. Things never pan out quite right in this movie, though. All the action sequences are mishandled and the attempts at romance and comedy are painful. The bad guys, who are supposed to be imposing and exotic, try to defeat Helm with mundane items like police cars and telephones. Meanwhile, Matt Helm gets a gun that can shoot backwards (leading to a bad running gag) and exploding coat buttons.

The film's love interest is Stella Stevens, playing a clumsy girl who somehow got caught up with BIG-O without knowing it ("Big *O*? You are sick! S-I-Q-U-E, sick!"). The scenes between her and Dean Martin are all awful stuff that tries to be funny, but just slows the movie down. A very long sequence has the pair driving to San Juan. Helm gets her drunk to get her to talk, and... Well, don't say I didn't warn you.

Things do end up building to a Bond-like climax involving BIG-O's underground base of operations and an animated missile. Our villain, the man in the chair, has to be the saddest attempt to make a white man look Oriental in screen history. I'd call it racist, but it's really just pathetic.

MURDERER'S ROW had all these bugs worked out and came in a tighter, funnier package thanks to Henry Levin. THE AMBUSHERS, often called the worst in the series, is still bad, but it's a lot easier to watch than this or THE WRECKING CREW. THE SILENCERS simply does everything wrong. Sometimes it's hard to tell whether it wants to be funny or what. Elmer Bernstein wrote a good score for this, so it's even more annoying that Karlson leaves so much of this film silent. If you are stuck watching this for some reason try to either fast forward or fake a heart-attack. If you want a Bond spoof/rip-off that won't make you want to die, see either MURDERER'S ROW or OUR MAN FLINT. THE SILENCERS can only give you pleasure if you burn the tape and get high inhaling the fumes.

The Last House on the Left
(1972)

Exploitive Non-Horror
Wes Craven's THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was one of the first in a very long tradition of exploitive films that were labeled as horror but weren't. This film is not particularly exploitive (at least when compared to later examples of the genre), but it isn't scary either. I'm not a huge fan of horror, but this fails as a film for any genre (or none).

-POSSIBLE SPOILERS-

This really doesn't even pretend to be a horror film. It's a very dated tragedy/drama about two girls who are kidnapped, abused, and murdered by a group of criminals who are eventually murdered by the parents of the victims.

-END SPOILERS-

Throughout the film, there are no shocks, no creepy music or photography, nothing even resembling horror. What the viewer gets instead is nudity, blood, sadism, dismemberment, violence, and a soundtrack composed entirely of really bad folkish 70s songs. THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was cheaply made, so it's lacking in the technical aspects and does no wonders in the artistic ones.

It was based on THE VIRGIN SPRING by Ingmar Bergman, which I haven't seen, but it's got to be better than this. This is a drama about senseless murder that isn't character oriented enough to justify its approach and is simply too exploitive to be taken seriously. The conclusion is gory stuff, but it isn't enough to turn this into the "horror classic" it's been hailed as.

I don't know how Wes Craven ever managed to have a career after this. A semi-sequel called THE HOUSE ON THE EDGE OF THE PARK was made six years later with one of the same actors and is actually slightly better than this. If you want to see an early Wes Craven film, THE HILLS HAVE EYES is better than this (don't expect THE GODFATHER, though). If you want good horror, don't see this. THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is no more than a weepy video-nasty with a bad score.

Spacejacked
(1997)

I Own This Thing
That's not an easy thing to admit. I found SPACEJACKED on sale in the bargain-bin at a Hollywood video in Las Vegas. Once I saw Corman's name I just had to have it. I'm a sucker for Corman's B-movie productions. I also found and bought another Corman-produced movie at the same store, STAR QUEST 2. SPACEJACKED proved to be the better of the two. Knowing who made this and how little I paid for it, I was ready to take the film with quite a few grains of salt.

On a space-cruise-ship in the future (where else), rich people live it up and are served by androids. They have virtual-reality sex and behave badly. Then, the unexpected happens, the ship is sabotaged by one of the crew and the rich passengers are held hostage. Corbin Bernsen is our villain and Amanda Pays is our hero. Bernsen sits in the control room and makes threats over the com-screen while his android does his dirty work. Pays puts on a spacesuit and crawls around. The situation plays out from there as you'd imagine it would, if your imagination was limited to a budget lower than the price of your house. It's like a cheap DIE HARD in space. If you can accept that, then you can enjoy SPACEJACKED, on a certain level. The ending, however, is weak even for this kind of film.

The production design to the film is good (though obviously limited by the budget). They did a good job creating the wrecked spaceship. The script is tenth rate stuff. The director, composer, and cinematographer may have a future with Corman, but I doubt they'll graduate to real film anytime soon. The acting is not the selling point here, so just try to ignore it.

This isn't a movie you need to see. SPACEJACKED is low-key fun for the morbidly curious. For those looking for a good action movie, there's always the original DIE HARD and anything John Woo made in Hong Kong. If you want a cheapo sci-fi-action film that entertains rather than inspires pity, try my old favorite AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK. You don't really have to avoid SPACEJACKED, just don't expect anything, and whatever you do, don't be fooled by the packaging (lame as it is).

Universal Soldier: The Return
(1999)

Van Damme's Worst Movie
Jean-Claude Van Damme has made some real stinkers in is time. He's fought himself on several occasions and made us all laugh or scream with his attempts to act. His movies are crap, but I find a lot of them fun to watch. UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN does not have to requistite b-movie fun that saved the other Van Damme pictures from utter unwatchability.

This sequel is essentially a low budget action movie trying to imitate a high budget action movie and failing. Often times a low budget will inspire a creative approach to the material by the filmmakers, but the director of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN is a former stuntman who can't quite grasp the concepts of creativity or originality. The entire film is a hideous mound of cliches. Some of the fight scenes are good, but they can't redeem the failings in script, direction, photography, casting, score, performances, etc.

Van Damme plays the same character he did in the first film, now helping the military to train the newest line of cyborg/zombie soldiers. His daughter makes friends with S.E.T.H., the HAL like supercomputer that controls the universal soldiers. A general shows up talking about cutting military spending and how the universal soldier program must be shut down. Van Damme makes a lame remark about how its better to turn dead soldiers into cyborgs than to send live people into battle (Ha!). The computer gets mad, takes over the base, and tries to survive with the help of a mis-stereotyped computer hacker. Van Damme is trapped in the base with your typical lovely reporter whom he must save while trying to stop the computer and the soldiers it controls. From there everything is completely predictable, accept more annoying then you thought it would be.

The movie is a waste of film and time and the meager budget wasted on it could have been better used on a dozen better independent films. The money did this movie no good. The "high-tech" military base is composed mostly of break-away glass and aluminum siding. The cyborg soldiers in this one are just people with laser-pointers stuck on their glasses. One unisol, who looks like a pro-wrestler, is killed again and again by our hero and all he can say is "I hate that guy". The action is all confined and the film is under-populated.

UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: THE RETURN is a useless and boring waste of resources that even Van Damme is better than. Instead of this, watch CYBORG or LION HEART. They suck, but compared to this, they're classics.

Land of Doom
(1986)

"The Road Warrior" meets "Star Wars" plus crap
I'm a longtime fan of cheezy foreign knock-offs of THE ROAD WARRIOR and such. Often times that kind of exploitive, badly dubbed, low budget trash makes for high entertainment. Sadly, LAND OF DOOM brings no such entertainment. It's the future again, and it's post-apocalyptic. The world is ravaged by plague and evil bandits (sound familiar?). A woman named Harmony and her rugged hero partner (she won't let him touch her) try to escape from the Land of Doom to a fabled paradise. Some overlord villain type, who wears a lot of fake chromed armor and studded leather, tries to stop them. The best part of the whole movie is the opening shot of a dawn over a bleak looking landscape, accompanied by some appropriate music- Harmony's explanatory narration begins and it's all down hill from there. Some creatures that look suspiciously like the Jawas from STAR WARS appear and some things explode. LAND OF DOOM is oddly short on the over-customized junk cars that usually roam the post-apocalyptic wastelands of these pictures. Naturally, all the dialogue is awful as are the attempts at sexual tension between our two heroes. Plague victims sport painted on sores and behave like zombies. Much more frightening is the ineptness of the production and the performances. The ending is left wide open for a sequel that never came. Over the end credits runs a horrid tune called "Harmony's Land of Doom" which tries to sound like a modern pop song, but is just as dull and low key as the movie. In short: skip it and rent 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS instead.

Nemesis
(1992)

Pyun's Stylistic Semi-Classic of the Crap Genre
I first saw NEMESIS on late night TV when I was about 15. The first time I saw it I thought it was exciting if a bit confusing. It was a lot better than most other movies they showed at that time of night. On subsequent viewings the plot became very clear and it was the action that got less appealing. Strictly speaking, NEMESIS is not a good movie. It is however, a kind of crap genre classic that had an influence on some mainstream film.

Alex (Oliver Grunner) is an LA cop in the future where "it pays to be more than human". He fights terrorists who are all cyborgs. Alex gets hurt a lot, so he also he's also part machine. Rebecca Charles's weak script has most things explained by a narration. This explains Alex's motivations for leaving the police force (after getting himself blown up and put back together again). He goes to Mexico with his dog and has another run-in with the terrorists. He gets hurt and put back together again. This time when he wakes up, he finds himself blackmailed into the service of a government official. He goes to an island in the South Pacific where nobody is what they seem and everyone carries a gun. Alex eventually learns of a coming war between the cyborgs and the humans. The rest is shooting and shifting loyalties.

This film had a number of good ideas going into it. Some of the action sequences are exciting and memorable. At one point Alex is trapped in a hotel room and shoots a hole through the floor, falling and shooting through three stories. The sunglasses and trench-coat look most of the characters have is very MATRIX like. The hero has to deal with a bomb in his heart and the listening devices his bosses have planted in his body. Sadly the conclusion is weak, the would-be love interest is annoying, and the last half hour or so ditches substance entirely. The make-up effects are good. Some of the special effects are weak, but it's to be expected for a low budget flick like this. Grunner is fine as our hero.

Albert Pyun has proved he can make better movies than this (MEAN GUNS, THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER), so he isn't really to blame. A better script would have improved this immensely. A remake might be in order, with more money and better writers. NEMESIS really could have been something, although it isn't exactly nothing. For this crap genre, though, it scores fairly high.

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song
(1971)

Deserved its X rating
SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAAD ASSSSS SONG has a reputation as a landmark film. Some hail it a masterpiece for depicting whites, and "The Man" as the oppressor. It is also called the first blaxploitation film (even though COTTON COMES TO HARLEM predates it). In spite of this reputation, few have actually seen it.

The truth is that SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAAD ASSSSS SONG, in spite of the good intentions of its message, is poorly made pornographic trash. At the opening of the film we see an under-aged Sweetback have sex with a fat prostitute- and when I say we see it, I mean we SEE it. Not too much time goes by before we see grown up Sweetback (director Melvin Van Peebles) performing in a live sex show. The viewer is treated to a closeup of the star's member as he strips off a female disguise. Soon thereafter the "plot" starts. Our hero is arrested by the Oakland police. He witnesses them beating a young black man and kills them in his defense. The rest of the film is Sweetback running from the racist cops, sometimes stopping for graphic sex.

The photography in this film is terrible. A number of scenes are shot at night without lighting, basically making the action invisible. There is very little dialogue and Sweetback almost never speaks. When people are talking, they are badly miked and their acting doesn't help matters. The chase scenes are done in psychedelic montage which is both ugly and confusing. There are a number of scenes where the cops are asking members of the black community (the film's real star) as to the whereabouts of Sweetback. These are taken from the cops POV and from how it looks, the filmmakers just approached random people on the street and asked them if they'd seen Sweetback. The editor somehow managed to cut off most of their answers. It's hard to tell what's going on half the time, since the camera work is so bad and the dialogue so hard to hear. At one point Sweetback winds up with some bikers. What's he do? He has a kind of sex-match with one of the female bikers. This scene features enough clumsy disolves to make you dizzy and enough genital shots to get the X rating for any ten movies.

I can't tell why this mess is called such a great piece of work. It fails in every technical aspect, the "art" is bad even for an acid-head movie, and the story is nothing special. If anything, this movie hurts the cause of equality since it essentially depicts blacks as inhuman sex-addicted stereotypes. The whites are pretty much shown as monsters. This is the worst blaxploitation film I've ever seen and easily one of the hundred worst movies ever made. SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAAD ASSSSS SONG is no more than badly made violent pornography for the acid head. It's not a classic and it's not important.

Red Heat
(1985)

Worst Movie Ever?
Not quite, but close! Linda Blair has proved again and again that she shares a rare quality with Mark Hamill, the ability to attach herself to one cinematic landmark and follow it with an entire career of complete trash. I saw RED HEAT on TV when I was about 11. Perhaps I was too young to understand this film's more basic appeal at that time, what I did get from it was that women in prison do crazy things to each other. Was there a plot beyond that? I'm not sure. There's something about an escape attempt but it isn't very clear. RED HEAT can really be best described as crap. It doesn't even succeed at that fun/pathetic B-movie level. The picture is alternately boring and confusing. The ending is about as clear as a muddy ditch and a lot less satisfying. I'd comment on Blair's performance if she'd actually given one. RED HEAT is a forgettable, exploitive little thing that should have been made by someone who understood the genre. I give it no stars.

Disclosure
(1994)

One of the Worst of 1994
1994 was a great, great year for movies. That year, audiences and movie history were blessed with the classic THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, Tarantino's milestone of cinema, PULP FICTION, Stone's own landmark Tarantino adaptation, NATURAL BORN KILLERS, the much loved FORREST GUMP, and many other good movies. Then there's stuff like DISCLOSURE, no... that's unfair. Very little Hollywood fluff gets as bad as DISCLOSURE. There were other bad movies released in 1994, but they were the safe, normal bad movies we've come to expect.

DISCLOSURE dares you to enter the terrifying cut-throat business world in which bad dialogue runs rampant, characters appear in cartoonish clarity or linger blurred in the background, and all dramatic points are rendered in stark black and white.

If I hadn't seen a little cheapie shot-on-video horror movie called HELLSPAWN, I'd call DISCLOSURE the worst movie of its year. The packaging looked intriguing at first: we have the usually respectable Michael Douglas, the "talented" Demi Moore, and the once respectable Barry Levinson. Then there's that whole roles-reversed sexual-harassment thing. It sounded like a neat idea at first, but they brought it off as some cheesy thriller complete with bad suspense and a hero who is constantly accidentally implicating himself. It's like FATAL ATTRACTION plus crap.

In short, it's about a guy (Douglas) being sexually harassed at the workplace by his superior, and ex-lover (Moore). Nobody believes him because guys generally like girls coming onto them even when they're married (if the film was good it might have dispelled this sexist stereotype). The matter gets legal and things complicate.

Now, we've seen hundreds of these bad thrillers, but DISCLOSURE isn't satisfied with being a regular old bad thriller. Instead, Demi Moore, Donald Sutherland, Michael Douglas, and probably the entire supporting cast are entangled in some kind of shady deal involving technology and the manufacture of microchips overseas. This wouldn't be so bad if it didn't result in supposedly important techno-babble about the technologies for which they obviously failed to consult a technical advisor. That isn't the worst of it either. The real stinker of this flick is the virtual reality scene. Michael Douglas puts on the virtual reality goggles to uncover footage exposing corporate black-ops, only to find a cheesy 2D icon of Demi Moore deleting his files with what looks like a laser-beam (Ha! Ha!). And then comes the computer-geek with angel wings and a halo, trying to warn Douglas while still in virtual reality. The scene inspires one to say out loud "What the F***?"

Meanwhile in reality, Douglas has a wife who doesn't trust him, people in his office shifting loyalties, accusations- the whole deal. None of it is interesting, and you can see the twists coming a mile around the corner. Levinson renders it all very dull, taking no steps to save the picture from its script. Levinson even fails to put the beautiful Seattle locales to the proper use. I think this one really unmasked him as a bad director (after all, how good was RAIN MAN, really?). DISCLOSURE is a bad 80s concept trying to squeeze into the newly forged 90s in all the wrong ways.

The final result is truly inexcusable. DISCLOSURE should only be watched for laughs, and even then, only out of severe boredom. For a good suspense/thriller involving a domineering woman and sex, see PLAY MISTY FOR ME. For a good 90s movie, see any of the films I named in the first paragraph. Just stay far away from DISCLOSURE!

Deadly Game
(1977)

Laughable Garbage
Poor Andy Griffith should have stayed in Mayberry because he's completely out of place in this poorly made government-suspicious thriller. A truck carrying a deadly substance for the government "accidentally" crashes in Andy's town. Meanwhile he's building a concrete boat. Military brass (one of whom has a British accent [?]) shows up to assure the people that they won't die from the deadly substance "so long as the wind doesn't pick up". Andy continues to make his concrete boat. People are found dead before each commercial break. Is it a government conspiracy? Will the toxic stuff kill the townspeople? Will Andy Griffith finish his boat? By the end you won't give a damn. The direction and performances are very poor, even for a TV movie. The discovery of dead bodies is handled worse than any thing else. A conversation will be going on and then someone in the background will scream "look at that" and a clumsy zip-pan shows us poorly framed corpses in the distance which quickly fade for a word from our sponsor. Considering that some 70s TV movies are now regarded as classic (especially DUEL), DEADLY GAME really is a pathetic entry. Only watch it to laugh at its ineptitude.

Shepherd
(1998)

DESERVES TO BE CALLED "CLASSIC"!
There are only a few movies which can be called `must see' and SHEPHERED is one of those films. In many ways it was ahead of it's time (and you can tell it was a source of inspiration for several better-known films) Copied by many, equaled by none, this truly is one great movie.

The story is complex but unfolds itself as a taut yet frequently amusing thriller and highly thought provoking exploration of the nature of humanity. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where people must live underground and chaos reigns. C. Thomas Howell is a `Shepherd' one who protects the populace for various religious leaders by killing off any unfit members of the society. The whole idea made me think about our society. It's really a brilliant social commentary, which is more than I can say for certain recent sci-fi/action blockbusters. MATRIX RELOADED and REVOLUTIONS didn't make one feel that any real innovation was taking place, just dull video-game effects. But SHEPHERD scores on the action scale too...

Not once does this movie let the viewer catch their breath. Peter Hayman proves himself to be one of the few genius action directors. We're talking 100%, high grade, down home kung fu fighting! It was excellent. Really good special effects, shoot-outs, bleak-futuristic cyber-punk noir style… the film really has its own elements.

When talking about SHEPHERD, it's impossible not to mention how much style it has. The vision of this city is really stunning. It recalls images of Tim Burton's very memorable vision of Gotham in BATMAN. And these sights are photographed by Graeme Mears with a degree of skill that puts Gordon Willis and Conrad Hall to shame. Even the special effects proved amazing. Doubtless the scenes where fighting occurs are landmarks in all of filmmaking. This movie is a ballet of awesome visual display.

Still, at the base of it all, there lies an interesting story, carried through by a strong cast. The acting (especially Rowdy Piper) and the plot are both great, and excellently directed. In contrast with loads of futuristic films made with a strong artificial flavor, the characters are believable and the dialogue is natural and full of wit. I'm always proud to see a great film like SHEPHERD come along. It's a damn shame that it didn't receive good distribution and made nothing in the box office. It's a rarity worth searching for. This movie will impress you and make you feel 10 times cooler for having seen it!

Battlestar Galactica
(2003)

Typical TV Crap- A Non-Event
I'm no fan of the original BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, but damn does this new version suck! The production design is terrible, the performances are wooden, the is CG very obvious, and even the music sucks! Typical to all the junk I've seen on the sci-fi channel, we don't get more than two minutes into it before sex is referenced. The duplicate robot-people are supposed to be creepy, but aren't. The space battles and space-flight CG is awful because they intentionally make it appear that it has been photographed by some tourist who can't quite get the zoom right or keep the spaceships in frame. Edward James Olmos is a great actor and deserves better. I mean how lame is it that he has to keep repeating "so say we all"? All the photography is typical of contemporary television in that it doesn't even attempt to hold it's shots steady. All the characters are typical television stock and nobody gives a performance worth remembering. The character sub-plots are all standard fare. The futuristic setting is so incredibly lame and contemporary PC that I almost threw up. They say "frag" instead of f*ck! This is really of the "I couldn't care less" variety. If I had any expectations I'd be disappointed.

Not special. Not original. Not good. Just crap.

Burn it, don't buy it.

The Book of Mormon Movie, Volume 1: The Journey
(2003)

Pain! Pain! When will it end?
I saw this movie out of boredom, and for $6.75, all I got was more boredom. Boredom and PAIN! Hence my summary. After about twenty minutes of watching THE BOOK OF MORMON THE MOVIE, that's exactly what I was thinking. This is a lot like those terrible made-for-video Christian movies of the Bible, except this time it's with the Book of Mormon. As with those, this is a cheapie. The costumes, sets, props, and special effects are all bargain-basement. The script is filled with horrible dialogue laced with "thou"s and "thee"s in an attempt to sound authentic. The actors don't help things along either, seeming more like they're in a school play than a movie. Gary Rogers directs, writes, and produces for the first time, and boy does it show! The script is no more than plodding samples from the book which fail to develop character and pushes it's points home with the force of a jackhamer. Subtlety is blasphemy, I guess. The bad characters look angry in every shot and the good characters just look stupid. Nephi is your typical muscle man who looks around like he's blind, prays, gets tied up, prays, scolds his brothers, prays, is set upon by his brothers, prays... I mean it goes on forever! There isn't even the illusion of pacing. And the Utah desert is not a convincing Jerusalem. The Joseph Smith wrap-around consists of two scenes and a partial montage and is a cheap as the rest of the picture. The "golden tablets" are unmistakably plastic. Some people marvel that this was made for under $2 million, but it looks really bad, even for an independent film. And considering that MAD MAX, CLERKS, and BLOOD GUTS BULLETS AND OCTANE cost collectively less than this movie, THE BOOK OF MORMON MOVIE is a truly pathetic failure. Nobody should see this. It's not a good religious film and the laughs you get out of the ineptitude of it all won't diminish the pain.

Paycheck
(2003)

Another bad John Woo movie
Does anybody remember when John Woo made good movies? He used to make exciting, original, even thought-provoking action films like HARD BOILED, FACE/OFF, and THE KILLER. For some damned reason he had to go and screw it all up with MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2, WINDTALKERS, and this. PAYCHECK is a sci-fi action movie with poor action and some pretty boring sci-fi. This is one of the weaker adaptations of a Phillip K. Dick story which is really just another star turn for Ben Affleck, moved by action that is not worthy of other John Woo pictures.

HERE COME THE SPOILERS

Affleck plays an engineer whose bosses for-go the non-disclosure agreement and simply erase his memory after each job (with his consent). He doesn't seem to mind losing the memories because he gets paid the big bucks, but when his latest job doesn't pay out and the feds start chasing him, Ben begins to have problems with his employers. It turns out the project was to build a machine that can see into the future. Using the machine to discover its own evil implications, he leaves himself the "19 clues" to use to survive and solve the mystery after the memory-wipe. Discovering the subterfuge, Affleck's bosses try to kill him. The only one who can help him is Uma Thurman, who he fell in love with while working on the project (as muhsy photographs display). This leads to bad gunfights and a lame conclusion involving a Lotto ticket and an FBI guy with a heart of gold. Oi.

END SPOILERS

It all goes downhill into a terrible chase-thriller. This makes the movie feel shorter (except for the awful ending), but also thinner (as a vacuum is to a brick). Action sequences drag on for too long, and explanation is reserved to direct statements rather than dialogue. All the actors are given very "connect the dots" roles to which they bring nothing more than their faces. Eckhardt is over the top, Affleck naturally sucks, and Uma isn't really given space to shine.

There is also plenty to hate with the look of the movie. The flash-backs are all washed out (I guess drugged memory is supposed to be poorly developed), bad music video effects are employed to laughable "dramatic" effect, and the production design is typical of today's electric-blue techno-pop. John Woo's trademark makes an appearance in a single dove that is so badly animated that I suspect Woo was spoofing himself. The machine is pretty silly too. After all the hype, it's really just an overblown palm-reader.

It isn't quite as bad as WINDTALKERS or MI2, but it's still bad. Just skip this and watch HARD BOILED again, or, if Dick is what you're after, pop in BLADE RUNNER. PAYCHECK is not the way for a fan of either to get their fix. Now, if you came in to see Ben Affleck, you deserve what you get.

Chôjin densetsu Urotsukidôji: Mirai hen
(1992)

Sex, Violence, and Pathos
Let it never be said that the UROTSUKIDOJI series is merely porn. Like the others in the series, this entry has characters with histories and motivations, as well as sex drives. We follow familiar characters through a hellish, post-apocalyptic neo-tokyo, on a mission from the partially born Overfiend.

As expected, there are tentacled monsters who rape women, there is also gore and violence, but there is a plot. Our villain is a fat cyborg named Caeser whose daughter falls in love with demon Buju. Other plots run along side this, but the love story is usually the most interesting thing in this series.

This entry in the OVERFIEND series features such high points as a nuclear missile fight, gory flash-backs, and the usual things the series is famous for. I think of it as a series that's enjoyable on many levels (usually the lower ones). It certainly isn't for everyone, but dammit, it's a hell of a lot more accessible than the likes of CALIGULA.

Lukas' Child
(1993)

Fun, thin, exploitive, but not too bad.
I found LUKAS' CHILD on a two disk set with the truly terrible THE SCREAMING and one of the worst movies ever made, HELLSPAWN. This was the best of them. The best scenes in this movie have a cult wearing skull masks feeding girls to "the child". The guy who plays the cult leader does a great job. However, the subplot about the detective investigating the cult and the snooping kids are both garbage. Watch this for the cult scenes, girls undressing, and some (unintentionaly) funny bits. It's at least as good as some of the things Roger Corman produced. The folks who made this clearly have a future in the exploitation/horror movie business.

The Screaming
(2000)

Your home videos may be better.
THE SCREAMING is a very low budget horror movie that was shot on video. It features passable acting, poor lighting, a weak story, and some of the worst monster effects I've ever seen. The plot has a college student being pressured to join a cult by his attractive landlord. The cult is a parody of Scientology with a book similar to Dianetics. This would have been a funny shot at that group were it not for a dumb script and the cheapness of the production. The monster effects look awful and the picture quality makes it feel like you're watching a home video or a public-service announcement. I think anyone who sees this will agree that movies should be shot on film.

Future-Kill
(1985)

A Death-Trap With Giger as Bait
I'm sure I saw FUTURE KILL for the same reason as most people: the awesome poster by HR Giger. And like everyone else, I was disappointed to find that the movie could not live up to the poster (Giger said that director Moore actually begged him to do it). When I first saw this, at the age of 14, I thought it was the worst movie ever made. I'd still think that if I hadn't seen certain movies on MST3K since then.

The plot has a bunch of annoying college boys driving into the "mutant city" to kidnap a gang-leader for their fraternity. That's when they meet Splatter (Ed Neal), a mutant/cyborg/psycho who kills the gang leader and blames it on the frats as an excuse to hunt them down and seize power. The rest of the movie consists mostly of chases. A hand-full of frats try to battle their way out of mutant city (which I think is supposed to be LA, even though it was made in Texas). There's some pseudo-political stuff about the frat boys' society being pro-nuclear weapons and the mutant-society being anti-nuke. There's talk of how Splatter became a freak due to radiation. Most people develop cancer from radiation, but splatter just shoots spikes and slaughters girls. Yeah, that makes tons of sense. At one point, our heroes rescue a mutant girl from two pro-nuke police, and she shows them "how the other half lives." The other half, it turns out, are all punk kids who dance around to a bad 80s pop-band. So our little epic is both dumb and dated. That's really all there is to it. Frat boys running around in messed up buildings while guys who look like bikers try to kill them... Oh, and it's the future.

I don't think you'll have any doubt about why Ron W. Moore never made another movie. This thing is a real stinker. If you like Giger, buy his books (they have the poster without the horrors of the movie), or just watch ALIEN again. FUTURE KILL is a waste of time that nobody needs.

If this description makes the picture sound good, there's another crappy movie that does the same thing, only bigger and better: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK. It's crap, but it blows FUTURE KILL off the screen.

Mystic Nights and Pirate Fights
(1998)

Bad Kids' Movie
Parents, don't subject your kids to this cheaply made, poorly written crap!

This movie is just a commercial for Mystic, Connecticut in the guise of a GOONIES-type kids adventure movie. It will fail to entertain them. Why? How could a kids movie fail to entertain kids? By throwing in endless long shots of the town which try to make it appear beautiful (and fail).

One of the major characters is a kid who works on a fishing boat with his dad and befriends a new kid (named Jonah of all things) whose father works for the Navy. They discover a German water-mine and wind up hot on the trail to buried treasure. There's an evil archaeologist who wants the treasure too.

Kids have fun/adventure. Jonah must overcome a bully. There are light-weight family problems. It's all really lame and slow. Filmed in a Connecticut studio with obviously limited resources. The color quality is very poor (green is almost never shown). The story they tried to tell wasn't worth the pathetic effort put up to make it. I mean, the production quality is passable, but I've seen better stuff from bad TV-movies.

My vacation video from my trip to Mystic was more entertaining than this, so just don't bother. Show the kids WIZARD OF OZ, or any other kids movie made by professionals. This attempt belongs in the scrap heap.

The Kiss
(1988)

Not Scary, Just Bad
I can't believe anybody gave this piece of crap a '10'. This is reutine horror which uses a thriller structure to try to legitamize the absurd idea of a woman possessed by a demon with a demon-cat to do her dirty work.

*SPOILERS*

The acting is pathetic and the suspense is workman-like at best. It really feels like made-for-cable horror with better film-quality. It attempts to be classy with a "historical" prologue in the middle-east.

When we meet the leading girl (or favored victim) she is just another teenaged thing without any remarkable features and we are asked to like her and her bimbo friend. Her friend speculates about the possessed aunt "Screwing Mick Jagger and Sting at the same time", only adding to her valley-girl "cuteness". She is attacked by an escalator, but sadly we don't get to see her die. The rest of the film involves the demon-aunt seducing the girl's father and using her demon-cat to protect her secret. It all boils down to the same old tired, ancient-demon-stalks-present-day format which Lovecraft tried to make work back in the day.

*End Spoilers*

Don't bother watching this if you seriously want to be scarred or intrigued. There isn't enough plot, horror, or exploitation in this wreck to please any horror fan. This thing is purely for insomniacs or for people who have no discriminating tastes. THE KISS is just your typical waste of time.

Rivals
(1972)

A HORRIBLE MESS
The late 60s-early 70s rush of independent films was a good thing and many good films came of it, but RIVALS is one of the bad films to come from this. This is THE GOOD SON for the 70s without talent or forethought.

*SPOILERS*

It is basically about a boy living with his mother in New York who makes his own films and doesn't want any man to interfere with their lives. The mother is lonely, and naturally wants to have a man in her life. The boy rejects all his mother's suiters and spends his time making Sesame Street-type films with neighborhood kids. When his mother falls for the most irritating man imaginable (he basically taunts her into bed with him), the son becomes isolated and weird. We see his films, which become like an acid inspired orgy, crossed with the mother making love to her man and memories. In one disturbing scene the mother confesses to a friend that giving birth to her son was "like an orgasm". The thing is like a confused and poorly made Oedipus story. The boy argues with his mother and his step-father and goes revenge-crazy. The shocker climax in which the mother is killed is poorly handled and feels simply cruel rather than dramatic or purposeful. This is a really poor attempt to make a psychodrama about a disturbed child.

*END SPOILERS*

This acid-age indie mess is worth missing. If you want a good on-the-fringe picture from the time, you can't do better than MEAN STREETS. If you're looking for another movie like this, good luck finding it, but if you do BURN IT! Mistakes like this should be tracked down and destroyed.

Mandog
(1972)

1970s TV Gem is Still A-lot of Fun!
I honestly can't remember where I first saw this, but it managed to leave an impression. The science-fiction/time warp plot elements are nice touches to what is basically a very 70s kids show. Think the Disney WITCH MOUNTAIN movies meets IDAHO TRANSFER. The show is great for anyone on a 1970s nostalgia trip or insomniac sci-fi fans. This is cheesy space-age action from the time of bell-bottoms.

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