Wednesday, November 23, 2016

VHS WEDNESDAY: SKATEBOARD (1978) with Leif Garrett, Allen Garfield, Orson Bean

Allen Garfield is one of my very favorite character actors of all time. He's one of those guys whose very appearance, however brief, will enliven any movie. (I think my favorite Garfield performance was as Fishbine, the owner of the ambulance company in 1976's MOTHER, JUGS AND SPEED.) SKATEBOARD (aka SKATEBOARD: THE MOVIE) is a rare starring vehicle for him and he makes good use of his inflated screen time. He really milks his lovable loser character for all its worth but you only wish that the screenwriters (one of whom is future Law & Order czar Dick Wolf) gave him better material to work with.

Garfield plays a talent agent who owes his ex-wife a lot of money and a notorious gangster even more. Desperate for some quick cash, he cooks up a scheme to promote a skateboard team after he witnesses their ringleader jump over his car while riding a board. Garfield takes the kids up and down the coast performing in skateboarding exhibitions under the moniker "The Los Angeles Wheels". When his top skater leaves the team abruptly, the youngster Brad (Leif Garrett, yes, Leif Garrett) steps in at the last minute for the big downhill race.

This was made a few years before guys like Tony Hawk and the Bones Brigade made skating cool. Because of that, most of the skateboarding scenes showcase the skaters doing more freestyle types of tricks. Still, the shots of kids skating on downhill courses, in drainage pipes, and in empty swimming pools aren't bad for what they are.

That pretty much sums up the movie.  It's okay for what it is.  It's amiable for the most part, but ultimately it's harmless and forgettable.

Garfield's performance carries the film a long way.  It seems like THE BAD NEWS BEARS was probably the inspiration as it features a foul-mouthed loser in charge of a bunch of kids (except for the fact that these kids, unlike The Bears, are all good at what they do). Garfield's exasperated kvetching while bossing the kids around is good for a few laughs on its own. If only he actually had some legitimate zingers to toss out, the flick could've been a real winner.  espite the weak script, Garfield plays the role as well as you'd expect him to, and most of the kids are naturalistic and appealing.

Since it's a definite product of its time, you can have fun watching it and knowing that they would never be able to get away with some of this stuff nowadays.  or a kid's movie, there's a surprising amount of drug talk early on (a drug dealer tries to sell Garfield some Maui Wowie while he's in the unemployment line) and there's a subplot about Garfield having to keep his star skater from messing around with a younger teammate (you know, because nothing sells a kiddie flick like a couple of statutory rape jokes). I also got a laugh from the scene where the star skater was arrested for drinking and skating. (I'm not kidding.)

As a sports film, SKATEBOARD is predictable and formulaic. Even within that genre, it comes up short as the skateboarding scenes get a bit repetitive after a while. (Future Direct to Video star Chad McQueen was one of the skaters.) Thanks to the detailed vans, short-shorts, and bellbottoms it almost (pardon the pun) skates by on pure '70s nostalgia alone. I mean no matter how patchy and overlong it was, I can't completely hate any movie in which Orson Bean plays himself. – Mitch Lovell

Mitch Lovell is a frequent contributor to the print version of Exploitation Retrospect. He is also the editor of The Video Vacuum and author of several film books including the recent Double Vision: Hollywood vs. Hollywood. He last wrote about THE DOGFIGHTERS for VHS Wednesday.

SKATEBOARD is available from Amazon.




Tuesday, November 22, 2016

TROMA TUESDAY: CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 3 – THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE SUBHUMANOID (1994)

After our usual post-Halloween ennui and associated hiatus we're back, loaded with treats for the holidays. Up first it's the latest Troma Tuesday installment with Evan Romero tackling yet another entry in the CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH series.

"Third time's a charm." So goes the quote. When approaching CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 3: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE SUBHUMANOID, this quote hung in my head. Maybe THIS installment will be the charm!

After a recap of the events in the second one (reviewed here by Evan in a previous Troma Tuesday installment), we are introduced to Adlai Smith (Brick Bronsky), son of Roger Smith (Bronsky again), and his girlfriend, Trish (Lisa Star).

Unbeknownst to Adlai, his mother Victoria gave birth to twins. His twin brother, Dick (Bronsky yet again, who clearly thinks of himself as Peter Sellers), was kidnapped by Dr. Slag, PhD (John Tallman) and Professor Holt (Lisa Gaye) at birth and raised to be evil. Slag then uses Dick to frame Adlai and ruin his good reputation. Why? Simple: he wants to reduce Tromaville to toxic waste! Will Adlai be able to stop Dr. Slag, PhD's plan? Will Adlai be able to convince Dick to turn good? Will YOU, dear viewer, learn to make better viewing choices?

Third time's a charm? Nope. In the case of CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 3, third time is absolutely the pits. Seriously, this installment sucks ass. While the second had a few mild guffaws sprinkled throughout, this one offers up absolutely nothing except boredom and irritation. It's truly amazing what SEVEN – yes, SEVEN this time – screenwriters can do, which is to take what made the second installment awful and amplify it! Yes, more unfunny humor, more meta-references, and more Brick Bronsky! Oh God, kill me now and give my body unto the necrophiliacs! As an added bonus, seven screenwriters don't make the film's pacing any better. In fact, this installment moves along as slow as a snail in molasses. No joke, I was far more interested in rearranging my movie collection.

Also, I wonder just who in the hell thought it would be funny to make a farting noise EVERY TIME Lisa Star's ass appears on screen. It isn't funny the first time, and it isn't funny the umpteen times they do it afterwards.

Toxie shows up once again to remind you that you're not watching THE TOXIC AVENGER. And, you get two added bonuses: Ron Jeremy pops up to remind you that you're not watching one of his porn scenes, and THE ELEPHANT MAN is referenced during a birthing scene to remind you that you're not watching that movie. This movie is practically trying to tell you, "Hey, don't watch me! Go watch something better!"

And yes, the subtitle DOES reference THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, yet another superior film you could be watching...

CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 3: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE SUBHUMANOID is a subhumanoid of a movie. It's shit that thinks that knowing it's shit makes it not shit. But it's still shit either way you cut it, folks. Toss this movie to the fuckin' dogs. Once again, I'll close by altering the quote on the cover, this time from Joe Bob Briggs: "The worst CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH movie... since the last CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH movie."

CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 3: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE SUBHUMANOID is available on Blu-ray and DVD. Features include an intro by Lloyd Kaufman, a Lisa Gaye interview, and other stuff. – Evan Romero

Evan Romero is a regular contributor to the pages of ER and spends much of his time reading morally questionable books and watching movies no sane person would touch. He is the vocalist/bassist for the punk band Porno Holocaust (you can find them on Facebook and listen to some demos if you’re inclined). You can read more of his reviews at ReelAtrocities.com or at PopHorror.com. He last wrote about SHIN GODZILLA.

CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 3 is available from Amazon.



Friday, October 21, 2016

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: This SHIN GODZILLA (2016) Review Brought to You by GoToMeeting

The first teaser trailer for SHIN GODZILLA (GODZILLA RESURGENCE) filled my inner ten-year-old with raging excitement. Hearing it was coming to theaters for a limited run in the States made me guaranteed to give work the shaft – I was hellbent on seeing the Big G's latest adventure! In the theater, I was giddy with excitement and anticipation. When I walked out, my soul was crying with disappointment.

A leak in Tokyo Bay's Aqua Line tunnel sends government officials speculating on the cause. Was it some kind of underwater eruption? Or is it Godzilla? If you guessed the Big G, you're correct. Soon, Godzilla emerges from the water and begins trashing everything in sight en route to Tokyo. Will the Japanese government be able to stop Godzilla? Or will he turn Japan into a graveyard?

Let me tell you, my heart literally skipped a beat when Godzilla's stomp and roar were heard during the Toho logo. And I have to give SHIN GODZILLA credit for dispensing with the bullshit in the beginning and getting right down to business.

However, things go downhill from there.

First off, Godzilla's new look is sure to inspire more laughs than frights. G's look in GODZILLA VS DESTROYAH is an obvious influence here, minus the menace: those big eyes and TOO disproportionate arms make him look more like Godzilla's retarded cousin, Derpzilla. And that's not even the worst part: the first time we see Godzilla he looks more like the degenerate offspring of Zilla and Anguirus. Why? Simple: because Godzilla's still evolving. It isn't until nearly halfway through that we see him looking more like his normal self. Maybe Derpzilla is one stop along the way to Godzilla. Only sequels will tell.

Godzilla also has some new special features, which include: an atomic ray instead of radioactive breath, a lower jaw that splits, a tail that likewise shoots an atomic ray and a laser light show that erupts from his back (I wonder if he's available for raves?).

Call me a luddite, but I'll take a dude in a rubber suit smashing models over CGI any day. However, the CGI in SHIN GODZILLA is actually pretty good. For the most part anyways. While objects look nearly lifelike, there are instances when Godzilla looks pretty dodgy. Also, Godzilla's animation is real stiff at times and makes him look more like an action figure being moved by a little kid as opposed to an organic being.

But enough about Godzilla himself. How does the rest of the movie fare? I'm not shitting you when I say Godzilla falls asleep halfway through the movie. That tells you quite a bit.

A lot of people bitched and moaned that 2014's GODZILLA didn't have enough monster action in it. This is true. However, the action it DID have was rousing and exciting. In SHIN GODZILLA, the action is barely half-mast. Godzilla does very little except trample things, knock down buildings and smash shit, none of it very exciting. Then it's nap time for the remaining hour until he is stopped in an unexciting and limp-dicked finale.

A good chunk of the movie is taken up by board meetings, political squabbles and bureaucratic inefficiency – all of which are, supposedly, digs at the Japanese government's inadequate responses to the 2011 Tohuku earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. I have no problems with genre films tackling "big issues," but not at the expense of entertainment. Which is exactly what SHIN GODZILLA does.

And for a film that choses to focus more on the human drama than the monster action, the characters here are pretty lifeless and one-note. And there are way too fuckin' many of them. Half the time I didn't know who was who. The only one who stands out is Kayoko Patterson (Satomi Ishihara) because she speaks English at times and is nice to look at.

And another thing I have to bring up is the film's constant need to tell you WHO everyone is (no matter how minor a part they play) and WHAT everything is (no matter how insignificant) and WHERE everything is (once again, no matter how insignificant). Text constantly appears on the screen telling you the who, what, when, where, why, and how. It's acceptable to tell me the location is the Prime Minister's residence. You DON'T need to tell me when we're in an elevator. Or in a hallway. Or that a helicopter is some kind of helicopter. Or that a tank is some kind of tank. Or that a character in one scene for ten seconds is Mr. Of No Consequence. It's just distracting. And annoying.

At the end of the day, SHIN GODZILLA disappoints - and disappoints big. While it has its moments, there is very little to recommend here and should only be seen by Godzilla completists. All others are advised to play Kick the Can instead. – Evan Romero

Evan Romero is a regular contributor to the pages of ER and spends much of his time reading morally questionable books and watching movies no sane person would touch. He is the vocalist/bassist for the punk band Porno Holocaust (you can find them on Facebook and listen to some demos if you’re inclined). You can read more of his reviews at ReelAtrocities.com or at PopHorror.com. He last wrote about GORGO.

SHIN GODZILLA is currently in cinemas.



   

Thursday, October 20, 2016

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: Is GORGO Really TAKEN With a Giant Monster Instead of Liam Neeson?

The Japanese have GODZILLA and its numerous sequels, reboots, remakes and whathaveyou. The Americans have KING KONG and all its sequels, remakes and a crossover with Godzilla. The British have GORGO, one of the better giant monster flicks not in the previous two franchises. The Brits may have a reputation as a stuck up lot, but GORGO proves this doesn't apply to the destruction of London.

A volcanic eruption off the coast of Ireland unearths a giant monster. Joe (Bill Travers) and Sam (William Sylvester) see only dollar signs in their eyes and decide to take the monster back with them and sell it to the circus. But, in a plot device not utilized before, they discover that the 65-foot-tall monster is only the infant - with the parent being over 200-feet-tall! Soon, the parent emerges from the ocean and begins trashing London in search of its offspring. Will the army be able to wipe out this creature? Or will parent and child be reunited?

What makes GORGO such an excellent film is that, despite appearances, the monster is not the villain here. Instead, villainy is placed at the feet of Sam and Joe, whose greed and opportunism is the catalyst to London's destruction. Unlike, say, GODZILLA, where the monster, though created by human meddling, is the villain and we are to root against it, GORGO asks audiences to sympathize with the monster. It's not out to harm anyone. It just wants its child back. Essentially, GORGO is TAKEN with a giant monster instead of Liam Neeson. Awesome.

But what's a giant monster movie without some destruction? GORGO has plenty of that. Watch as Big Ben, Waterloo Bridge and Piccadilly Circus are trashed, smashed and thrashed! The model work is exemplary, especially for its time. One awesome shot has Gorgo taking a huge chunk out of Waterloo Bridge: looking closely, you can see people falling out of it to their deaths. The blue screen might be a bit dodgy here and there, but it's better than many productions from the same era. GORGO even contains a small homage to the original GODZILLA: the army attempts to stop him with powerlines, much like the Japanese did in GODZILLA.

And I just have to mention how cute Gorgo and Son look when they wiggle their ears like a small puppy.

Overall, GORGO is an excellent time at the movies. With stuff like SHIN GODZILLA threatening your insomnia (Editor's Note: stop back tomorrow for Evan's review of the latest Toho monsterfest meets bureaucratic primer), why not spend some time with something that ISN'T gonna put you to sleep? Something like GORGO, one of the best giant monster flicks out there.

This review is Gorgo Approved. – Evan Romero

Evan Romero is a regular contributor to the pages of ER and spends much of his time reading morally questionable books and watching movies no sane person would touch. He is the vocalist/bassist for the punk band Porno Holocaust (you can find them on Facebook and listen to some demos if you’re inclined). You can read more of his reviews at ReelAtrocities.com or at PopHorror.com. He last wrote about NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES.

GORGO is available from Amazon.


Friday, October 14, 2016

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: We Interrupt This Feature for Some Recent Views

Trying to put the finishing touches on a mammoth 30th anniversary issue and stay on top of our 31 Days of Fright blog feature may have been biting off more than I could chew.

In fact, it'd probably be for the best if we just moved Halloween to sometime in November.

Everybody cool with that?

Well, assuming that's going to get about as much traction as #repealthe19th I better put on my big boy pants and get back to work on both things!

But first, I wanted to dash off a few quick capsules of some of the movies I saw in the theater this week. That's right! I actually made it out to not one, not two, not three, but FOUR honest to goodness movies this week which throws my whole theatrical screenings average for a total loop. (Okay, so one was that MIDDLE SCHOOL movie which I saw with the wife and daughter but hey, it meant putting on presentable clothing and venturing into the outside world.)

First up was a trip to Silver Spring, MD for a couple screenings at the American Film Institute Theater. I'm pretty embarrassed that I've lived in this area for close to 16 years and last weekend was my first trip down there. Considering the number of revivals and their annual Spooky Movie Festival (which was the reason for the trip), I should probably have my "Movie Lover" card revoked. Bonus points for the burger, tots and Double Duckpin at the Quarry House Tavern around the corner, even if they did charge per can about what I pay for a six pack.

Up first was MY FATHER DIE (2016), the debut feature from Sean Brosnan, son of that guy who played James Bond. Chester (Chester Rushing of STRANGER THINGS) is best buds with and protector to his younger brother Asher (Gabe White). But when he crosses the line with their biker father, Ivan (an impressive Gary Stretch who looks like Norm McDonald's impression of Burt Reynolds coupled with Barry Bonds' steroid regimen), it results in Chester's death, Asher's hearing loss, and a long stretch in the slammer for dear old dad. Fast forward two decades when a grown, but still deaf, Asher (now played by Joe Anderson from TV's HANNIBAL) discovers that Ivan has been released early and he must ramp up his plan for revenge. A swirling, sweaty Southern gothic stew of preachers, porn, stomped cops, torture sessions, car chases and gun battles ensues as Ivan and Asher head towards their inevitable showdown. Maybe a touch long at 102 minutes, Brosnan's debut is nonetheless riveting and explosive, with plenty of humor to offset the revenge-driven mayhem. And yes, that's John Schneider as the grizzled cop following the trail of blood and bodies.



Shifting gears completely was the Spooky Movie followup. Tim Reis' BAD BLOOD: THE MOVIE (2016) is an ooey gooey love letter to all those mad scientist VHS flicks we rented in the 80s. Making her feature film debut, Mary Malloy stars as Victoria, a young woman home from college to find herself. Unfortunately, she finds herself living with her mom, meddling stepfather (Brian Troxell) and reptilian stepbrother. Out for a night with friends she ends up attacked by a slimy creature and is reported missing, presumed dead by Stensland (Troy Halverson), the investigator hired by her stepfather. When she turns up weeks later it's assumed she's hooked on some kind of designer drug which stepdad Wade quickly smashes so that she can get clean. Unfortunately, the "drug" was actually an antidote designed to keep her from turning into a hideous "werefrog". Calamity ensues. Reis, who also wrote the script, deftly juggles both horror and comedy, making BAD BLOOD feel like any one of a hundred similar flicks I rented over the years. Halverson practically steals the show as the deranged ex-cop on the werefrog's trail and though the ending never went as far as I hoped the whole slimy affair has me in search of THE DEMON'S ROOK (2013), an earlier flick Reis worked on.



Last but not least I had a chance to hit the theater last night for a screening of SHIN GODZILLA (2016), the latest Tokyo stompfest featuring The Big G. I'm neither a Godzilla fanboy nor a purist, so I wasn't bothered when friends whose opinions usually track with mine mentioned that the flick was maybe a tad talky and even, well, boring. These lowered expectations probably served me well and with a Bobby Flay Crunch Burger and Onion Rings in my gut and a Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA in hand (oh how I love modern cinemas!) I settled in for 120 minutes of wanton destruction. Unfortunately, it's more like 20 minutes of wanton destruction, Godzilla evolution and laser tails coupled with a solid 100 minutes of meetings, meetings about meetings, subtle digs at the US, not so subtle digs at the US, charts, origami, copier setup and did I mention meetings? Seriously, the BluRay should come with a 30 Day free trial for GoToMeeting. I'm thinking that having Godzilla TAKE A NAP (?!) in the middle of the movie probably wasn't the best plot device and the whole thing felt pretty anti-climactic, but any night that includes burgers, brews and a stompfest can't be all bad. – Dan Taylor


Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect. He's pretty sure his recent case of writer's block is over. He should really get back to work on the 30th Anniversary issue of the zine.

Monday, October 10, 2016

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: CUT THROAT (aka SCARED) Doesn't Quite Make the Cut

"We're gonna need T&A if we're gonna sell this thing."
– DEATH BLADE Producer Guy

I couldn't agree more DEATH BLADE Producer Guy! A little T&A would help sell this thing. Maybe even some gore. Unfortunately, both CUT THROAT and DEATH BLADE – the movie within the movie known as CUT THROAT – lack in all of those departments.

Which brings us to CUT THROAT (aka SCARED), Kevin Walley's 2002 SCREAM wannabe aimed at, well, I'm not sure exactly what audience. Despite bearing "Unrated" status on the DVD case, CUT THROAT features the pretty chaste tale of a low-budget horror flick beset by a bunch of murders including a lead actress getting stabbed in front of the crew while the murderer gets away without much effort. (The masked killer literally crashes out the window, stabs the living shit out of her and disappears.)

With DEATH BLADE's lead chilling in the morgue a call goes out for a replacement and Samatha (TV vet Kate Norby) – who just happens to have a romantic past with director Hamlin (future 'Pictureka' host Cory Almeida) – slides into the final girl role. Has she hacked her way into the lead? Was her busty pal (Racquel Horton) looking to carve her way onto the Double D-list?

If you've watched more than a dozen slasher flicks in your life you'll immediately sniff out the villains as this drab example plays itself out over 90 painless but dull minutes. In addition to the hyper director there's Nick The Screenwriter (co-writer Luciano Saber) who feels like his brilliant wordsmithing is being ignored, Hunter The Producer (Doug Cole) who knocked up the AD (and wants her to have an abortion in a completely pointless subplot), and Detective Hartley (Brad Lockerman) who isn't so much a suspect as he is a constant source of amusement thanks to his soap opera level line delivery.

Longtime readers of ER know I love a good slasher. Hell, I can even love a mediocre slasher under the right circumstances. Unfortunately, the lack of key elements combined with the fact that Almeida and Saber come off as being far too unseasoned for the roles of a feature film director and his ambitious screenwriter keep this one from making the cut. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of Exploitation Retrospect, which celebrates 30 years of covering junk culture and fringe media this month. Watch for an announcement regarding availability of the mega-sized 30th anniversary issue soon.

CUT THROAT is available at Amazon.

Friday, October 07, 2016

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: Sorta Slasher Friday with LEGEND OF THE HILLBILLY BUTCHER (2014)

Carl Henry Jessup lives up in the mountains with his pretty half-sister and makes a deal with a demon to bring back his parents from the dead and, yes, he still has their rotting corpses in his possession. He fills the rest of his day talking about the good old days, drinking moonshine and killing trespassers for their meat. Grade A Meat!

Carl Henry Jessup learns the hard way that you never want to make a deal with a devil. It never turns out good.

Let's talk about what I liked about this movie: it attempts to embrace the good old Grindhouse days. The computer program that they used to add the film wear and tear was pretty good. Probably the best I've seen. Not too much repetition in the flecking and scratches and the orange flare ups on the edges looked pretty authentic.

The lead, Paul E. Respass, did immerse himself in the role and came across as a cannibalistic madman with a soft spot. By the end, it's too late for him, but the actor brought a lot to the role. Theresa Holly, who plays his half-sister Rae Lynn, is drop dead gorgeous. Old school pin-up girl gorgeous. All in all the acting comes across as professional.

So, what we have here is a really good looking film with some excellent performances.

It's a shame that's all we get.

Some hillbilly up in the middle of nowhere killing people and eating them? I've already seen THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Hell, I've seen a couple of the sequels. Does this really need to get made again? Sure, there's a demon and some creepy shit going on here, but so what? It doesn't feel like the main part of this particular story and at a running time of 99 minutes it could do with some trimming.

Not scary. Not creepy. The gore effects are fine and look like a hundred other movies doing the same effects. It just doesn't bring anything noteworthy to the table and if you expect to sell a few copies of the DVD you really need that.

Now, a true shining part of the film is the part of Papa Jessup played by Ron Jason of LAS VEGAS SERIAL KILLER and ANGEL OF VENGEANCE fame. Any guy who worked with Ray Dennis Steckler and Ted. V. Mikels is okay in my book, but there wasn't enough of him in it. More like a glorified cameo.

Finally, the entire story is told by a fella just credited as The Storyteller (S.E. Feinberg). He opens and closes the movie with a trio of little kids sitting and listening to this twisted tale. He made me laugh both times and deserves a special mention in this review just for that. Especially at the end. I saw it coming and laughed anyway. Well done, sir.

The DVD comes with a making of documentary, a short film that I didn't bother with, a horror happens interview and three trailers for this movie. I knew I was in a little trouble when I watched the first trailer and thought to myself, "This seems like an awfully long trailer." If I'm bored by the trailer, what chance does the movie have? – Douglas Waltz

Douglas Waltz is a longtime ER contributor and the editor/publisher of the long-running zine Divine Exploitation (available from Amazon). 

LEGEND OF THE HILLBILLY BUTCHER is available from Amazon.