30 July 2012

Velocity Trap

United States - 1999
Director - Phillip J Roth
Columbia Tristar Home Video, 1999, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 29 minutes

23 July 2012

Danke fur Die Award for LVA

Thanks to Mr. Elwood Jones at  From the Depths of DVD Hell for liking this writing project enough to grant me the pleasure of the Liebster Award in which I must answer questions, presumably in an effort to further nerdify myself. I'm okay with that.

 1.) Who is your favorite Kajiu monster and why? Monster-Zero (Ghidora) because he has three heads and was born when a meteorite mated with a fucking volcano.
 2.) Were does your interest in movies come from? Monsters are great metaphors for rebellion. I'm a rebel.
 3.) You are being sent to your own private island so what book, film, album and luxury item are you taking with you? Whatever I'm in the middle of. (presently: Captive Bodies: Postcolonial Subjectivity in Cinema, Death Ship, 2-Pac: Me Against The World and Rosemary Ciabatta bread.)
 4.) What is the most underrated film of all time? Nothing is constant. At the moment, The Bodyguard.
 5.) Is Noel Clarke the worst thing to happen to modern cinema and as such should be banned from any kind of acting / directing / writing project or am I overreacting? Don't know who that is.
 6.) Why should people read more, rather than just waiting for the film version? Because they sound (and after enough of this shit, are) ignorant.
 7.) What is the scariest movie ever made? The Corporation or Manufacturing Consent
 8.) What film is most memorable for traumatizing you as a child? Critters
 9.) What are your golden rules of blogging? Find something you hate in every film you like, and vice-versa.
10.) How big is your watch pile? Enough to keep me going for a few months.
11.) What was the last scene in a movie which truly blew your mind? Something from The Pruitt-Igoe Myth. I fucking love this film.

Expect No Mercy

Canada – 1995
Director – Zale Dalen
Imperial Entertainment Corp., 1995, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 31 minutes

The 1990’s was a decade best described with the words “rich”, “fertile” and “loamy”, where just about any old pop-culture seed dropped on this heady mixture of adjectival modifiers yielded some sort of cinematic fruit. In Expect No Mercy Billy Blanks and Jalal Merhi cultivate their first team up since TC 2000 introduced us to the millenarian concept of next-week future dystopian Canada. I know it must be hard to believe that such a thing could actually exist, but in the future, Canada, or at least the immediate Toronto/Scarborough area is going to be perpetually threatened by some white guy or other with ambiguously evil plans from which Billy and Jalal will repeatedly be called upon to save it.

In this installment, anchored firmly in the center of the decade, evil white guy Warbeck runs a giant Virtual Reality dojo where he trains an army of mercenaries which he hires out for various unspecified industrial espionage conspiracies. Justin (Blanks) and Eric (Merhi) are both posing as “students” at the complex, and soon get hip to Warbeck’s nonspecific dastardly plot and attempt to thwart it with some martially artistic action versus exponentially ineffective faceless lackeys. Despite their overwhelming numerical inferiority, the heroes are captured and subjected to a series of virtual reality battles with goofy ‘90’s video-game vilains. The digital environments are actually more aesthetically appealing than the industrial-park architecture and interior design styles in the rest of Expect No Mercy proving beyond a pixelated shadow of a doubt that unfinished slabs of bare concrete will be at the cutting edge of the future. A disappointment to be sure.

Justin and Eric escape again of course and drag Expect No Mercy to its conclusion in a hail of gunfire and “kee-ai’s!”, but the Mortal Kombat-esque virtual reality scenes and Billy Blanks fishnet shirt prove to be the high-water marks and historically significant touchstones of this engagingly asinine film. For the benefit of fisherman-fashion enthusiasts and very-near-future science-fiction fans throughout the Toronto metropolitan area, this makes Expect No Mercy one of the most visually exciting parochial dystopias available for retinal consumption.

20 July 2012

Rental Store - New Star Video

Alas, there is no location information on this label. However the VHS copy of Nightbreaker was purchased in a used shop in Vancouver, BC, and the tape was manufactured for the Canadian market, so that narrows it a little bit.
Did you rent from New Star?

18 July 2012

Facial Flex

Facial Care is More Than Skin Deep
United States - 1996
Facial Concepts Inc., 1996, VHS
Run Time - Ten minutes

Comparing itself to the Greek pursuit of physical perfection of the human form, Facial Flex takes exercise to a whole new level of intensity. A level so intense that intensity cannot quite capture the stomach turning intensity that is watching repetitive puckering. It has never been more clear to me that the mouth is simply the opposite end of the same tube that terminates with an anus. Just different names for a sphincter muscle.
Thanks to VideoArchaeology for the full fuggin' video.

13 July 2012

Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death

United States - 1988
Director - J. F. Lawton
Paramount Home Video, 1989, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 30 minutes

Is there actually a cut-off point when parody becomes self-parody? That is, is it clear, can it be clear, the point when making fun of something or someone says more about the mocker than the mockee? Or is it a sliding scale subject to variations in context and interpretation? The great questions of the universe may never be answered. We do however have Cannibal Women In the Avocado Jungle of Death, a film written and directed by J.F. Lawton, the man who brought us Pizza Man and The Hunted.

As tempting as it is to prove my intellectual superiority by talking trash on this movie, about how it's funny but it's so bad and I'm sooooo aware of that, it's much easier to be honest. After watching CWAJD I retired to my study and consulted the ultimate arbiter of objective truth, Wikipedia where I discovered that there were a number of clever references in this film that I had completely missed. Oh, it's true, CWAJD is low budget, looking more like a Corman produced Filippino production from the same era, and the dialogue and acting are a bit flat (sorry Bill,) but it's far better than it pretends to be.

The foundation of my argument rests on the fact that despite ample opportunity, this film didn't rely on nudity to compel viewership. It could easily have made fun of feminism (it does) and been chock full of boobs thereby undermining its parody of men. But it didn't and so, even though Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death was way over my head, what I was able to understand was worth it.
Thanks to zhukaiww for the trailer.

11 July 2012

Collision Course

United States - 1989
Director - Lewis Teague
HBO Video, 1992, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 39 minutes 

It might be sadly noted that Collision Course merely caps one phase of the ongoing buddy-cop cycle. Coming as it did at the end of the 80's, it would seem to mark the end of the era when the formula could legitimately be taken at least somewhat seriously. Within a couple of years, the genre would be actively autocannibalizing in a frenzy of self-referential degradations that boggle even the most callused mind.

But, by brazenly condemning itself to near-instant obscurity with a plot lifted from an all too brief moment of history, Collision Course happily embraces its fate. As the American auto industry was breathing the last of its hegemonic gasps, racial tension in the USA was at its feature-length comedy finest. So fine that it could afford to hire the likes of Pat Morita and Jay Leno for a little stereotype-pantomiming and good-natured bigotry double-act routine. While primarily concerned with this crude, groan-inducing send-up that Leno is so suspiciously good at, the film does actually dip its pen oh so briefly into real-life before skimming its way to the manichaean Oriental conspiracy toilet.

The welcome addition of battle hardened second-stringers Ernie Hudson and Soon-Tek Oh make the going a little more bearable too. Hey, you've got to look for the good stuff in every one of these things as they flicker across the screen. By the time it was released in the US some three years after completion, Collision Course would would be even more esoteric, ushering in that new cycle of buddy cops that would be the lifesblood of my own blessed generation in the years to come.

06 July 2012

Reform School Girl (1994)

United States - 1994
Director - Jonathan Kaplan

Before watching, I read the synopsis of this film that were provided  at a number of websites, but was still surprised to discover that it is actually a remake of the 1957 film of the same name. Of course I should in the common, less stigmatizing parlance of the day more properly call it a "re-boot." None of the descriptions were entirely accurate to the film at hand, but neither is it really a re-make.

The early scenes right up to Donna's Incarceration are a close recreation of the original film including the opener featuring the lecherous uncle (watching the original film on television no less!) who assaults Donna (Aimee Graham) and gets beaten up by her "friends," including a sleazy Matt LeBlanc just short of his Friends career who commits the requisite vehicular homicide that lands Donna in reform school.

In 1957, Donna found herself increasingly fighting for survival against her fellow students, with the teachers and friendly, pipe-smoking school psychiatrist doing their benificent best to save the girls from themselves and unattached directionless independence. In the end of course, the vulnerable Donna, one of the lucky ones to be sure, passes from the compassionate embrace of the penal institution safely into the hands of her lifelong male guardian and everyone lives happily ever after.

In the subsequent 35 years since that film however, the 50's era benevolence of established institutions like medicine and domesticity  has vanished. Instead we have a conflict that is as much the opposite as it is a rejection of the central argument. Here it is the school itself, complete with a lecherous psychiatrist (oh how times have changed!) from which Donna must be saved. And instead of finding refuge in the shadow of a man, Donna takes her fate in her own hands, effectively protecting herself, and eventually her little sister as well. True, much has been made of the lesbian relationship that takes place between Donna and a fellow inmate, but while this is technically the opposite of the original in which she fears and fights with her peers, it is very nearly forgotten by the end of the film. I was tempted to suggest that the whole thing was exploited primarily for the hetero-male-fantasy, which is undoubtedly there, but coupled with a number of other telling choices,  I'm willing to give it some credit for rocking the boat.

I went into this expecting something much grimier and much lower quality than I got. While it wasn't exactly the apogee of dramatic entertainment, neither was it disappointing. What it lacks in stylistic flair (a great deal) it makes up for in refreshing sense of independence, both ideologically and from the very generic narrative cycle that bore it.

If you're curious to see it yourself and compare it to the original, this one is currently streaming on NutFlex and there's a link to the other included with my review.

04 July 2012

Reform School Girls

United States - 1986
Director - Tom DeSimone
New World Video, 1987, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 34 minutes

You'll have to get you ass over to Paracinema if you wanna read my review of this puzzlingly popular 80's cult-favorite. If you're too lazy to read, I'm not sure what you're doing here, but I'll give you some posters as a consolation prize.

These posters are on loan from the fantastic Wrong Side of the Art

02 July 2012

Reform School Girl

United States - 1957
Director - Edward Bernds

This snappy little poster does a wonderful job of making an otherwise tame film appear incredibly exciting. They sure don't make 'em like this anymore. With over fifty years of retrospect it's easy to call this movie tame; by today's standards nothing in Reform School Girl is shocking in fact, much of its tension seems downright silly, its claims simply naive, but in 1957 well, things were a little different than they are now. But, while the shocking moments might plausibly have mellowed with the social changes of the last half century, the overall scope of the film, that is good girls gone bad, seems not to have lost it's appeal. What remains interesting are the circumstances of the protagonist(a)s fall from grace and, her subsequent redemption.

Thanks to Lewis Wayne Gallery for the lobby cards.

And her redemption is essential to films of this era (and still to a lesser extent) because in the end, the starlet must be made appealing to the audience once again. I would venture that there are not too many movies before the 70's that started to feature irredeemable protagonistas. It's always titilating to see how low she can go, but ideologically we prefer the pure girl after all. In Reform School Girl, Donna (New Mexico native Gloria Castillo) is the product of a broken home where her harpy aunt and lecherous uncle each abuse her in their own way. Seeking escape she goes out with some kindof-friends only to be harangued and abused again by her rotten 'date.' When he runs a man over and the two are caught, Donna is sent to a rural Reform School where she soon finds herself fighting for survival with the other girls. Finally, a local farm boy sneaks onto the school grounds and slow dances the warmth back into Donna's heart. The End (more or less.)

So, while the love of a good man proves once again to be the saving grace of the lost woman, Reform School Girl still offers some interesting tributaries into the river of tradition. The fact that Donna's home life, and the rotten boy who gets her into trouble are clearly centered in the city suggests that the new (in '57) urban way of life is responsible for the erosion of traditional family structures. Note that Donna is saved by a rural boy whose greatest transgression (by his admission) was the borrowing of a tractor without asking. Compound this with the fact that her uncle, clad in dungarees and an undershirt ('wifebeater') idles at home ogling Donna while aunt Rita comes home and goes out again wearing a handkerchief on her head, hinting that she is the one earning a living. The working class way of life and the eroding of traditional gender roles are, if not equally at fault, at least complicit in the urban industrial decay of ideal feminine purity.

If Reform School Girl's conservative solution is less than surprising, it does at least highlight the abusive nature of objectification. In the opening scenes, shots of Donna's uncle watching in the mirror as she puts her clothes on are cross-cut with shots of the rotten boy dressing in front of a mirror surrounded by pin-up-girl posters and Donna spends a good deal of the movie voicing her subsequent distrust of men. And for a movie, and a genre marketed to a predominantly male audience that sort of critique -however obtuse- can't be a bad thing.
 The two posters come thanks to MovieGoods.

Thanks to Psychotronic 16 for making this movie available for us to watch. It's worth the hour and ten minutes it takes up and boy does the time fly!