Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Video Wrap-Up

Back in the 80s and 90s when I was seeing about 200 new movies per year I used to keep composition books complete with ratings and capsule reviews. Boy did I have a lot of free time... imagine the notebooks from SEVEN but filled with one paragraph write-ups of everything from Robert Ginty's THE BOUNTY HUNTER to blockbusters like BIG and a smattering of Nina Hartley porno flicks. (I still have those notebooks and reading through them is a disturbing trip down Beer-Addled Memory Lane.)

These days I can pretty much encapsulate what I've watched over the first two months of the year this way -- Not Much. Here's a quick wrap up:

In the Highly Recommended category I'd include: Tom Savini's unjustly savaged remake of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD as well as the first two installments of Armondo d'Ossorio's Blind Dead series, TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD and RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD (full reviews will be coming soon). I also got the chance to revisit HOWLING II: YOUR SISTER IS A WEREWOLF which I had seen -- and hated -- about 20 years ago. Approaching this radically different sequel in the right frame of mind (ie, with a few beers in me) I found it to be a highly entertaining camp romp.

Another cinematic surprise in this category would include THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED, an obscure and riveting Spanish horror from the 1960s starring John Moulder Brown and a bevy of chicks. In the future I'll be writing more about this crafty tale of murder and intrigue in a girls' school.

Not quite as great as those flicks but definitely Recommended are the Spaghetti DIRTY HARRY riff MARC THE NARC, Eli Roth's CABIN FEVER follow-up HOSTEL (which I dug but at times seemed to be grisly for grisly's sake), and the pimps and rap drama HUSTLE & FLOW which probably belongs more in the Highly Recommended category if I gave this more thought. You'll go, like I did, to catch Terence Howard's star-making turn as D-Jay, but you'll love the support characters, especially the chick who plays pregant hooker/stunning backup singer Shug.

Bringing up the rear in terms of recent views would be GHOST GALLEON, a not-as-much-fun entry in the Blind Dead series and M Night Shamalamadingdong's wretched THE VILLAGE which is as predictable and insulting as THE SIXTH SENSE was fun and engaging.

Perhaps the highlight of recent weeks, though, came from an unlikely source... The Lifetime Network. A week or so ago we caught A FACE TO DIE FOR which I definitely recommended if you're in the mood for a train wreck... Crystal (WINGS) Bernard stars as a mousy, scarred accident victim married to horse trainer and wager-aholic Doug (MELROSE PLACE) Savant. He kills her father and frames her for financial shenanigans so she gets sent to the Lifetime equivalent of a women-in-prison flick and he can take over the horse training business her father built.

She fights back against a gang of chocolate-loving lesbians (!) who pummel her within an inch of her life. Luckily, her injuries get her into a special program where plastic surgeons donate their services and she gets her face repaired (well, sorta, she just looks like a non-scarred Crystal Bernard) and a new hairstyle. Thanks to the Lifetime equivalent of Pam Grier she gets a new identity and sets out to get revenge on her hubbie. She lands a job as a financial wheeler dealer in NY and convinces a wealthy land developer to let her manage his money and invest it in horses. She returns to the town where she grew up where nobody, including the boyfriend who abandoned her after the scar-causing car accident, recognizes her. Slowly but surely she begins dismantling the empire built on cocaine and dubious training techniques her ex-husband has built. Scripted like they ran it through some sort of Lifetime Movie Plot Generator and not as great as the Lorenzo Lamas FACE/OFF-esque MASK OF DEATH, but a laughably fun way to kill two hours

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