29 December 2008

Thank God It's Friday

Thank God It's Friday
United States - 1978
Director - Robert Klane
Sony Pictures, 2006, DVD

In lieu of a written review, I present a photo collage of the costumes and characters from Thank God It's Friday starring among others, Jeff Goldblum, Donna Summer and The Commodores who sport some bitchin' mirrored "soul armor".

Thank God It's Friday is available from Netflix.

27 December 2008

Xtro 2: The Second Encounter

Canada – 1990
Director – Harry Bromley Davenport
New Line Home Video, 1991, VHS

Xtro 2 is preceded by trailers for Eve of Destruction starring tap-dancer Gregory Hines as a tough guy fighting a homicidal cybernetic hot chick, and also for Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare which looks about as bubble gum juvenile as you can imagine. In retrospect it makes sense that the caliber of movies advertised in the preceding trailers would give a clue as to the subsequent feature.

Some martial music brings us through the credits and into a laboratory where Dr. Sommersfield escorts a guy in a suit into a giant computer control room where the Dr. immediately professes that all operations are controlled by the main computer, a remark which guarantees some future unstoppable computer dilemma. While the Dr. and the Suit verbally catfight, the woman character commences a particle accelerator inter-dimensional transportation experiment. Suited up in their H.G. Wells model science gear the subjects are zapped into smoke and a few minutes later are communicating from the “other side”. Sadly though, contact is brief and after a couple of screams only one of the team survives.

Fire up the dumbenator!

In fact from here on out it’s clear that what happened was that they transport themselves through a dumbening event in which they returned with a severely challenged version of Aliens, (and Predator if you believe the shameless declaration from the box cover). Summoning the Hero Shepherd from his self imposed exile, the main characters, including a team of stoner mercenaries have a meeting and decide to take action. The alien however makes the first move, bursting forth from Survivors chest in the form of a savage hand-puppet, it quickly grows, issuing alien like screams from alien like lips, and begins catching people and eating them into gooey scraps.

Try holding it like that when you're firing live ammo and see how bad you get burned pal.

Another meeting, and just as they’re about to take action again, the scheduled computer problems begin, first, sealing them into the building, which I predict, will be followed by some kind of imminent mechanical death. Sure enough before I can even finish that thought. The Mercenary boss unzips his trousers and flops his giant polished penis extension onto the screen but in his debut fight scene is greased to make way for that misunderstood Hero (Jan Michael Vincent who doesn't hesitate to put the largew caliber compenasater to work himself) who exchanges stony glares, and squealing noises with the alien amid a storm of aberrant gunfire. Time and again the alien catalyzes the bickering shitheads into firing wildly and somehow feeding it another member of the team, the last part being far and away the most appealing part of each exchange.

Only appearing to get killed seems to be this monsters modus operandi, and trusting appearances it would seem, its opponent’s primary weakness. If it hadn’t been for the splattery alien generated messes which pepper this soap opera caliber gem, (in particular the computer nerd falling down an elevator shaft) I would have been wishing I could have transported myself back in time 92 minutes.

24 December 2008

Full Metal Ninja

Full Metal Ninja
Hong Kong – 1988
Godfrey Ho(as Charles Lee)
Imperial Entertainment Corp., 1989, VHS

Preceded by its own trailer, Full Metal Ninja wastes no time in attempting to inflate its own appearance beyond reasonable expectations by including the few good parts of the film in this misleading preview. If we've learned anything about Godfrey Ho at this point, this film is going to be a long uphill battle.
Leon, a honky ninja sporting a fabulous pink outfit, engages two black clad ninjas identified as henchmen working for Boris the evil yellow ninja. Leon kills one of them with the terrifying destructive might of a flintlock pistol and sends the other to tell Boris his time has come. Boris weaves a heartwrenching tale of intrigue and betrayal between ninjas to his sidekick (red ninja, Luther), to explain the bad blood between he and Leon.

In the Asian portion of the film a fighter named Eagle nearly duplicates the Leon-Boris epic as he winds his way through an absurd confused costume drama while looking for an evil General, who's holding his wife hostage and making sweet love to her. Despite a promising start this mismatched period piece rapidly degrades to wacky Flintstones outfits and clown makeup.

Nevertheless Eagle makes a point of punishing most of these over-the-top villains for having flashier costumes than his own. The fights involve much wacky jumping and samurai-like single sword-strikes, and even though there is almost no other weapon-on-body contact, Eagle inflicts enough body party detatchment and blood squirts to impress Leon who asks him for some sword lessons while standing in front of a blue sheet on some distant cheap set. Eagle grumbles and offers him a raincheck so he can continue his own blood-soaked campaign of terror against cloying couture. Unfortunately when Red Ninja Luther and lackeys attack, Leon goes all "full metal", blasting away wildly with his flintlock and killing most of them. This guy has yellow fever so bad you'd think that he would want to surround himself with as many ninjas as possible to give himself some credibility, but he can't restrain from firing off his saucy hardware. Lucky for Luther, the flintlock Leon has pointed at his chest is empty because bullets are "expensive and hard to come by", so Leon sends him back to Boris with yet another warning, wishing I'm sure that he hadn't blown his full metal wad on the small fry and had someone else to play ninja with.

Left with little screen time, and desperate to some smidgen of credibility before Eagle finishes his part of the movie, Leon enlists a Buddhist monk to quickly mutter over the remainder of the proceedings and convince Eagle that he is in the same movie and will join Leon to defeat evil. The only catch is that to make the prayer work, they each have to speak aloud the others name as often as possible even if the other is not present in the same shot. It takes the monk saving Eagle's grits from the General, and inviting Leon over to ply the gritty, restrained Eagle with drinks before he will join up with the effusive Leon (or rather, play along with the whole name uttering scheme).Eagle, perplexingly, restrains himself from dispatching the gaudily clad Leon, and finally teaches him some sword skills - skills Leon promptly ignores, preferring his tried and true tactic of bashing his fellow ninjas to death with his sword as if he were hammering nails.

08 December 2008

The Last Hunter

The Last Hunter
Italy - 1980
Director – Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony M. Dawson)
Vestron Video, 1985, VHS
Run time - 1 hour, 37 min.

Sometime near the end of the American Vietnam War, in a Saigon strip club a bunch of burnout ‘Nam rats lounge about while local girls wearing next to nothing gyrate lazily. David Warbeck, crustiest of those present, swings in his hammock, smoking and staring into space. When a drunk tries to intimidate him into a confrontation, Warbecks ethereal bitterness and detatchment prove unable to target, and the drunk moves on to the other stereotype, Steve. High strung and high as a kite Steve is more than willing to fulfill the batshit crazy role, and blasts the drunk guy in the face with a pistol before giving himself the same treatment.

During the credits, Warbeck boards a Huey and heads to a hot drop zone where he leaps solo from the chopper armed only with a rifle and a rucksack.Landing in a river he is soon picked up by a small liason team of boonie-rats including Tisa Farrow (fresh from Zombi 2), as a foreign correspondent. Trekking toward Warbecks first rendezvous point the tiny team stumbles repeatedly into multiple ‘Nam movie cliché’s from booby traps to the ubiquitous child-with-grenade trick in a village which the team subsequently reduces to splinters with small arms fire along with said inhabitants. Later that night, much to Warbeck’s disintrest Tisa squeezes out some back-story. He on the other hand can merely fever-dream flashback his motivations –both military and moral (i.e. the plot we've been waiting for) - in a cold sweat, ensuring that the bleeding-heart mothering Tisa will “ironically” fall for the distant wounded warrior.

Arriving at their destination the team discovers another bitter recalcitrant commander and a bunch of stoned demoralized and disheveled loony-tunes GI’s. Warbeck justifies their near-raping of Tisa with the old it’s OK, the war made ‘em do it, it’s not their fault excuse. Just then, the cave is infiltrated by VC and Warbeck easily flips the off the cuff mass-killing switch back on again. He and his surviving team members escape and leap onto a passing boat loaded with other stoned GI’s and shoot them all. Only Warbeck escapes unwounded and returns to the jungle where he is captured and complains bitterly when he ends up being the recipient of strangely familiar mistreatment.

Since director Margheriti made Cannibal Apocalypse the same year, it’s a bit disappointing that Last Hunter is merely typical Italian knockoff trash. Warbeck and Farrow give it some credibility but the plot itself is a lifted and degraded mix of The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now. The addition of some effective gore and the subtraction of some logical continuity and all moral message from its influences merely reinforces its base, reactionary, um… ‘Namsploitation.

03 December 2008

Computer Beach Party

United States - 1985
Director – Gary Troy
Vestron Video, 1988, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 37 minutes

Bespectacled Andy and his muscly but self-conscious and hyperactive beach pal Dennis are a couple of average Galveston nerds. They spend their days sail-buggying along Galveston beach, working on Andy’s sweet computer or his ’67 convertible Caddy, and checking out chicks. While they pose painfully for the camera (a disconcerting trend throughout the film), local brick-dumb bully Turk speeds up in his Jeep causing Andy and Dennis to wreck their sail-buggies. Thinking themselves face down in the sands of shame, they must alter the very fabric of beleivability to redeem their honor and win back the beach they so adore.

At the same time, Andy finds himself enamored of Turks passenger, the golden haired treasure Allison, a heartily proportioned airheaded princess and daughter of the real-estate tycoon mayor of Galveston. When she turns up again in a Betty Boop swimsuit to ooze all over Andy he begins wooing her with seductive whispers of attending the exotic Galveston Community College, then turns up the heat with a demo of his cool rattling and buzzing computer setup - each clunky geometric single-button component lovingly encased in thick cream colored safety plastic - which he and his dad built. Whirring to life when Andy inputs his and Allison’s birthdates, the machines astrology program chugs out two surprise predictions: he will soon throw an awesome beach party, at which Allison will fall in love with him.

Taking the smoking machine at its green pixilated word, Andy and Dennis decide to program the life they desire and input hot chick and keg party plans into the computer. No sooner have they slapped eachother on the back than the computer delivers a beach full of jiggling white people ready to arhythmically embarrass themselves and sing along with local fringe-vest ugly-dude glam band The Panthers, whose frighteningly asexual members churn out songs about beach parties while mugging for the camera.

Although they do have the ulterior motive of saving the pristine beach which they do so enjoy sprinkling with empty beer cups, Andy and Dennis are really fighting an uphill battle against more than just the mayors real-estate scheme and a few invasive lifeguard stands. Their task is nothing less than to make the life of line-dancing computer-surf-nerd Texans in a town full of boneheaded drunk retards seem desirable.

The filmmakers task is no less monumental. Finding themselves in possession of a big sack of nonsense, they engage in a shoddy effort to force it out into a presentable mold. Dubbing obviously unmatched dialogue over the actor’s lines and cramming disembodied banal banter into the uncomfortably long and quiet expanses of Computer Beach Party’s simpleminded and painfully dated coarseness, they more or less manage as well as our two hometown heroes to make meathead nerds into plausible characters. Admittedly, I found myself somehow, slightly covetous of Andy & Dennis’ simple happy life. Ignorance is bliss, or so I’ve heard.

Compare the title design on the cover of Computer Beach Party with the title design of Bachelor Party. Misguided inspiration?