Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Review of "Bottom Feeder (2006)"

Bottom Feeder (2006)

Adventures in Maintenance

This movie's notoriety comes not from itself but rather as a rest stop in the Twilight Zone that is the life of Tom Sizemore. It was prominently showcased in the VH1 reality show about the events following rehab and the crystal meth induced flashbacks of Tom Sizemore's "Shooting Sizemore". It is clear from watching the show that this movie was not an option for Tom Sizemore. It is obvious that he had money problems at the time and would have done dog food commercials if anyone had offered. It is also the movie he quit two days into shooting. After a lot of soul searching, this movie was filmed and Tom was back on the road.

This is a low-budget straight to video type movie. If Tom wasn't in this movie, no one would have probably blinked. There is no originality in anything this movie tries. The elements are piecemeal Frankenstein with Machiavellian conspiracies from the vantage point of custodians. The release of this movie in any form is an accomplishment in itself. I keep thinking this would have been perfect on an adult version of the Sci-Fi Channel. Oh right, thats Cinemax.

A scientist develops a Wolverine-like serum with consequences (which are somewhat vague and leave the possibility for a sequel). An offspring of Pineapple Pokopo and Bruce VeSota attempts to get the serum for his own needs. The serum is not tested and the scientist is "volunteered" to test it. The rest is a Predator-like cat and mouse game, in some abandoned sewer-like corridors. First they try and capture it. When that doesn't work, elimination is the next option.

Tom does an adequate job with a half-ass story and horrible dialog. This is the kind of dialog that belongs in a Steven Seagal movie. You can tell Tom is just going through the motions and he still outshines everyone else. I am not even going to wonder where they got the fake Jamaican hobo, Sarge. I haven't seen a performance that bad since Jar Jar Binks tried it.

This is an appropriately titled movie, since Tom was rock-bottom at the time and everyone else has been scrapping the bottom of the acting barrel for years. I wouldn't be surprised if some of these "actors" had to act for food (a.k.a. porn). It isn't that this movie is enjoyable, it is more that it is not annoying (except for Sarge). Give it a chance as a rental, if you like low-budget modern schlock or Tom Sizemore.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Review of "Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)"

Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)

MTV presents Asian Kids

What I mean is this seems more like an amalgam of Kids, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Cheats, Dazed and Confused, Napoleon Dynamite, Risky Business, Trainspotting, Juice and Very Bad Things, from a teenage, angst ridden Asian perspective. Things get real. Instead of hanging out doing drugs, and having sex, these "kids" study hard, get good grades and build up extra curriculum activities to get into a good university. The twist is that all this is a facade/cover for their teenage rebellious activities in the suburbs, again from an Asian American perspective. This is when the Math Club pulls scams, sell drugs, uses drugs, parties like '99 and guns (Colt '45, maybe ?), in an attempt to be the high school Triads.

No one is who they seem to be. Through this cycle of events, life is lived and things are learned. Growing up is tough and sometimes it is more than shelter, warmth and food. The movie somewhat implodes in the third act when making an omelet takes precedence over it all. I do believe this is one of the director's (Justin Lin) best. This isn't saying much. The whole experience isn't overly original but time passes quickly and it sure beats Annapolis or Tokyo Drift.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Review of " 3 Dev Adam ( 1973)"

3 Dev Adam (1973)
a.k.a. Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man

Deep within Turkey..... a woman's purse, Captain America, flag on the moon.

One of the most auspicious movie starts in history, yet a walk in the part for movies coming out of Turkey. I thought I had seen everything Turkey had to offer. From Turkish Star Trek and Star Wars to Turkish Superman to Turkish Young Frankenstein. I was not prepared for a mostly green Spiderman, with a red hood and giant, untrimmed eyebrows.

This isn't your Marvel Spiderman though. Turkish Spiderman is leader of a gang. His whole racket involves smuggling artifacts from Turkey to the US, selling them cheaply to dealers and then buying them back with fake money. The opening scene is of Spidey and his gang building a hole in the sand, dropping some woman in a night gown into it and then pushing a boat (along with its turned on power motor) into her face. The Spider (as he is called in Turkey) has no powers whatsoever. He knows movie martial arts, is quite the escape artist and tends to sneak up on people. His primary weapons include a 2 inch knife, a shower head, shish-kabobing people and a complicated torture device involving hamsters. Welcome to Turkey !!

Aytekin Akkaya is Turkish Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America (minus a shield which would have cost extra). You may remember him from Turkish Star Wars. Sadly I cannot forget seeing his shirtless performance as he bounced around on the screen. His partners include a luchidore who stores everything in the crotch of his tights and a female secretarial assistant (who does most of the undercover work). Their mission is to stop the Green menace (thank you Jonas).

This is truly an exercise in Turkish 70's film making. Turkish movies often remind me of the old movie serials (Flash Gordon, Batman and Robin,etc). They seem to be made on the cheap, poorly edited, poorly acted and done very quickly, often with little regard for intellectual property (the music seems to be from a James Bond movie). It is as if this is Turkey's attempt at mimicking the exploitation movies coming out of the US and/or the martial arts movies coming out of Asia. Exploitation is definitely what this movie is going for. It has all the elements for grind-house: a striptease (with pasties), graphic violence, shower scenes in underwear, crappy disco music, sex and alcohol. Well what did you expect, Turkey is a much different place? What was tame for us was probably raunchy for them. Context people, context.

As with all the 70's Turkish movies I have seen, I cannot take them seriously. I find them quite amusing along with the lingering misogynistic undertones (seems like more women died in this movie than men). There also seems to be a lot of time spent in showing running, driving and chasing. If you have never seen a Turkish movie, try to get one with the appropriate subtitles. Understanding the dialog will only help you slightly, as the plots and edits are "complicated" (not to mention the cultural differences). I have seen Turkish movies without the subtitles and I can tell you it gets pretty confusing (Turkish Star Wars, I'm looking at you).

These movies would have been prime candidates for MST3k. If only that were still possible. Maybe in an alternate universe. Until then, make mine a double whiskey. It's for the pain.

Review of "Come Rubare la Corona d'Inghilterra (1967)"

Come Rubare la Corona d'Inghilterra (1967)
a.k.a. Argoman
Aren't hovercrafts great ??

Roger Browne is Argoman (a.k.a. Sir Reginald). A Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman) like character, without the brooding and fighting crime. Think of Roger Browne living the playboy lifestyle in a wrinkled Roger Moore mask. The differences are also very striking for each of their alternate personas. Batman is an athletic, crime fighting inventor (or at least what he's evolved into). Argoman is a telekinetic pervert who manipulates people, governments and especially women, for the sake of "world peace". While Batman wears the blue/black outfit, black cape and generally looks like bat, Argoman is dressed in sunshine yellow (with black underwear), black hood with Cyclops' red visor and a black cape with red velvet lining. Batman had Gordon as his official contact, while Argoman indirectly uses an uptight Scotland Yard inspector. Both have swinging bachelor pads. Batman generally doesn't work outside of Gotham City (not counting his work in the JLA), while Argoman mainly focuses on global problems. Batman's nemesis would have to be the Joker, while Argoman has Jena Belle, Queen of the World. I don't think Batman would be making out with Joker or that Joker would be telling Batman how he'd want him inside of him. Batman's services are not available for purchase, while Argoman works not for money nor gold, but instead for historical one-of a kind museum pieces. But then again this isn't Batman. It is Argoman.

Now to elaborate. Batman has no special talents. Argoman is a telekinetic. A telekinetic Samson, with the power in his sperm. When he loses it, he loses his power for exactly 6 hours afterwards. Argoman is no Jedi knight. Celibacy is not the answer and technically this was filmed in the "swingin' sixties. This leads to some interesting theories. For example, is his libido somehow connected to his power? Does he need to wait 6 hours before he can have sex again or is it just the powers that need a recharge? On a tangent, this could be a perfect candidate for the plot of a comedy/adult movie (is NC-17 still around??). Orzasmo II : Orgasm in Paradise ?

This is truly an inspiring performance by Roger Browne (a.k.a. Roger Moore's older, older brother). It was one drop kick away from completely channeling William Shatner. Are you thinking of William Shatner playing Batman or maybe Adam West? Yeah me too. I wonder if Shatner was separated at birth from his older, English brother?

If you liked Austin Powers, James Coburn's Derek Flint or even Dean Martin's Matt Helm, then you'll like this spy who's also a superhero. It is very much like a watered down and sweetened version of Bava's Diabolik. This is light sauce, nothing heavy here. The music is upbeat and typically 60's "acceptable" pop instrumentals. This occurs in all scenes, thereby negating the chance that any of this is suppose to be serious. It is visibly tough in cheek on the obvious parody. Its not as overt as Austin Powers, but it is definitely there.

It is quite formulaic in story and layout. The soundtrack and visuals are mostly forgettable. There is nothing original about any of it, yet it just works somehow. It is enjoyable and campy enough to not even notice how the time flew by. I would have given this movie a higher score but the sheer amount of Roger Browne de-robements left me much depleted and nauseous. I guess he used the Shatner clause in the contract which most likely stated that he must act in at least a third of the movie in his robe. The studio agreed when they realized how much money they were saving on the costume budget (S&M henchmen not included). Argoman does make it up to us, by showing us an interesting array of modified pick up techniques involving telekinesis, a bow, a suspended bed, a Rolls Royce, being rescued from a robot holocaust, The Price is Right and a phone call . Was that shoot the red or the white? I guess I have to watch this again.

Review of "Fast Food Nation (2006)"

Fast Food Nation (2006)
What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

When I initially saw the trailer, this looked to be a dark humored satire, much like Thank You for Smoking. It isn't. It actually is not funny at all. The movie completely blindsided me and not entirely in a negative way. It was more surprise than anything. It is still nice to see that a movie is still capable of this.

The movie seems to be less about fast food itself and more about the culture that spawned it. It is full of Magnolia-like interactions, albeit more possible since it takes place in Cody, Colorado (and not LA). It seems to be some sort of class study as we see how each level lives (the executive class, Dirty Jobs type people, the immigrants and even the cows). Each has some role to place in this fast food based hierarchy. Richard Linklater creates an adequate movie that tries to show the intricacies and gray areas associated with America. It displays this through some generic/stereotypical relations. It tries to say something or make us aware, yet in the end I have no clue if there was even a message at all. About the only message I got is that things have become so intertwined that it would be easier to cut off live flesh and start anew, than to try and fix whatever was in place already. Someone once said I want to eat the meat and not meet the cow.

There is a particularly brutal scene at the end where they show the death and dismemberment of the cattle. This is extremely graphic. Unless you have seen any of the Faces of Death or the features on the Eyes Without a Face DVD, this will probably be very graphic (and looks quite real).

Its nice to see Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) and Maria Full of Grace's Catalina Sandino Moreno. They seem to be somewhat typecast at this point. I guess it takes a while. John Leguizamo had a funny sketch how Latinos would always be typecast as drug dealers and junkies. I would just rent this one.

Review of "Caligola (1979)"

Caligola (1979)
Roman Tax Reform..........couldn't hurt ??

This is one of the earliest movies I can remember seeing. The other two being Conan the Barbarian and Halloween. My initial view was a brief 30 minutes or so, caused by a cultural misunderstanding. It would take another 10 years or so before I saw the movie in its entirety. It is interested to see how things have evolved and shows like Rome and the Tudors (movies like the Gladiator, 300 and Alexander) have come in the aftermath of this movie. It would almost seem as the prototype for the dramatic historical fiction narrative. It is graphic in terms of sex and violence and tries to depict Rome in terms of its own morals and not ours. This isn't an everyday Roman's view, but rather a look at lasciviousness of the ruling class.

Written by Gore Vidal, starring a pretty good cast. Peter O'Toole (as the dying and diseased Emperor Tiberius), Malcolm McDowell (Caligula) in yet another full frontal movie (Clockwork Orange), Sir John Gielgud and Helen Mirren (thats right the Queen herself).

It is nice to see Peter O' Toole and Malcolm McDowell fully embedded in the hedonism of ancient Rome. I can easily see them as downing cartons of wine before scenes and hanging out with John Holmes in the mirror room. It is nice to see the classically trained (Mirren and Gielgud) joining in this Roman foray as well. I can't help but me reminded of Fellini in terms of style. I am thinking of the influence of Roma and Satyricon. It is heavily stylized and the theatricality is quite visible. At time is feels more like theater than a movie. It might lead one to forget that one is watching porn.

Even though there is a heavy story about how Rome works and perhaps the other motivations of the young Emperor (sympathetic eye towards Caligula amongst the cruelty and scandals), the politics of Rome and the question of morality, it is still in the context of the incest, sex, orgies, homosexuality, sex, bestiality, sex, masturbation, and pure unabashed hedonism (and sex) of a corrupt and failing system. The authenticity and production quality leads more to the impression of a stylized documentary rather than porn. And just when you are comfortable with that assessment of the movie, it shoves some genitals in you direction just to make sure you remembered this was a porn. Yet despite all this it still somehow works and has some time to develop. As opposed to most porn, it doesn't forgo the story for the sex. The story develops organically, while periodically linked by one of Rome's eccentricities (a.k.a. the sex). The scene where Caligula rips the Emperor's ring off is amazing. The sheer energy of this scene(sound and imagery) sets the mood for the rest of the movie. Powerful imagery such as the metaphor of casting a ship to sea (and thus declaring war) to the frenzied energy of a fellatio.

This one is hard to recommend to anyone. This is a view at your own risk kind of movie, not suitable for the TGIF/Fast Food Nation family crowd. It is artistic, graphic and somewhat accurate. I guess its a lot like the history its trying to recreate.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Review of "Ikarie XB 1 (1963)"

Ikarie XB 1 (1963)

The Undiscovered Country....

Somewhere between the Outer Limits and Star Trek lies this little science fiction gem from the former Czechoslovakia. This isn't I. Robot or that type of science fiction, which is Asimov wrapped up in a shiny steel and glass box. This is the actual story and not just the wrapping paper. It proudly carries on the tradition started by Forbidden Planet and This Island Earth, even though its not as exciting. It is actually more like the Magnetic Monster and the Outer Limits. This is science fiction done in crisp black and white. The screen may not be vivid, yet the special effects have an ethereally surreal quality. Mix that in with the futuristic Shostakovitch-like score and we have a compelling and eerie trip into the unknown.

The excitement and glory that comes from living and exploring space (Star Trek, Star Wars, etc.) is minimized in the movie. We get the basic day to day activities of the crew of the Ikarie, on its 28 month (15 years pass back on Earth) mission to our closest solar system, Alpha Centauri. We also get the dangers and rewards of hurling ourselves into the vast darkness.

It is the 22nd Century and we are out in the galaxy searching for life. The crew is comprised from a co-ed international pool. We never get to see Earth, yet we get a glimpse of what humans are like from the interactions of the crew (work, entertainment, nutritional intervals, exercise, reproduction and crisis). This is a future full of video screens, blasters, personal transmitters, turbo lifts, artificial gravity, Beatnik-like futuristic dancing and even Nike light up magnetic boots. This is the perfect/classical example of the sci-fi antithesis to Idiocracy. Humanity will improve with time.

The future is bright, shiny and worth waiting for. Man fixes the malaise of his species. We are never shown anything more lethal than a hand blaster, when it comes to weapons. On their mission, they encounter a perfectly preserved space relic from an Earth expedition of the 20th century. Let's just say our predecessors had very little nice things to say about us. Let's not forget that the 20th century contained two world wars, numerous genocides, the birth and use of the the atomic bomb.

One would also assume that a movie made in a Soviet influenced country would contain a certain amount of Communist and Pro-Soviet propaganda (for example, Planeta Bura). Thankfully this is all missing. About the biggest commentary comes from the critique of our 20th century counterparts. I found the only anti-capitalist message in the writing on the Earth relic. Everything inside is written in English, the ship was fully loaded with nuclear warheads and the the crew turned on each other. And even this critique is more of a jab at our collective selves then at full fledged opposition to capitalism.

If you are looking for epic space battles for the fate of the universe, look elsewhere because the crew kills absolutely no living thing. If you want 90 minutes of Georges Méliès mixed with Jules Verne, then you have found the perfect movie. I can easily see this movie as an influence on Kubrick's 2001, Rodenberry's Star Trek, Lucas' Star Wars and even Irwin Allen's Lost in Space. We even have a robot. He's definitely not as cool nor as good as Robby the Robot nor the robot that constantly saves the Robinsons.

We named him Patrick. Patrick the Robot. RIP. (Pour out some alcohol for the robots that aren't with us anymore).