Movie Review: SHORT CIRCUIT

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short circuitTriStar Pictures
1986
PG

“Hey, laser lips. Your mama was a snow blower.”

There are a few movies from the 1980s that I refer to as my Psych Ward Movies. these were movies that ran in theaters that the staff members at the psychiatric ward I was in at the time would take us to once in a while as a group outing. Takin’ the crazy kids to the movies, and all that. One of those movies we were taken to was th surprise sci-fi comedy hit, Short Circuit

I remember sitting there with my fellow inmates from 4 East, taking in the wacky hijinks of this military grade robot whi is now ALIVE!, running around with Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy avoiding that other guy from Police Academy, thinking this was the greatest movie I had ever seen. Keep in mind, I was also 12 years old and terminator 2 had yet to be released. but, for what I was able to see in the theaters that year, Short Circuit was just what I needed.

Steve Guttenberg and Ally Sheedy co-star in this high-tech comedy adventure about Number Five, a robot who escapes into the real world after he short-circuits in an electrical storm and decides that he’s human. Because he’s carrying destructive weapons, the Defense Department and his designer are desperate to find him. But Number Five is being protected by a young woman who is teaching him a gentler way of life.

Watching Short Circuit now, sure, you can say that the movie didn’t hold up that well, both from the acting and the story departments. And of course, using an actor in brownface to portray a character of Indian (as in, from the country of India) decent would not fly in this day and age. And really, I find Ally Sheedy’s character more annoying than whimsically charming. But, beyond that, the two highlights here are Johnny 5, and the always lovable Steve Guttenberg. Also, any movie that has G. W. bailey is worth a watch, really. Even if it is the Police Academy movies.

Overall, Short Circuit is a product of its time, and that product is a whimsical fantasy featuring a living robot getting in wacky situations. Think of this as a prequel to Pixar’s Wall-E if you want. Recommended for a nice 80s throwback.

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Movie Review: PLANET OF THE APES (2001)

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Planet Of The Apes ¥ Art Machine job#4112  POSTER C comp VVV.rev1 ¥ 05/30/0120th Century Fox
2001
PG-13

“Get your stinking hands off me, you damn dirty human!”

Having been a long-time fan of Tim Burton, there’s been some debate as to what point the quality of his movies began to dip in quality. Some say it began with Mars Attacks! Some say it was with Sleepy Hollow. I am of the opinion that it was his remake of the science fiction classic Planet Of The Apes when the prospect of a new Tim Burton movie began to lose its luster.

Released in the summer of 2001, this particular remake of the 1968 Charlton Heston classic actually started development back as far as 1988 and at one point had Arnold Schwarzenegger starring. Of course, it went through the usual development hell issues, being passed around various directors and producers, and several script rewrites, the movie was put into active production and Tim Burton was hired to direct. By the time it was finally released, hype for the movie was pretty high. I went to the movie the weekend it was released, along with my usual crew of Nex, Cass and Boz. I can’t really speak for anyone else, but as far as I’m concerned, 2001’s Planet Of The Apes was–and still is–a mixed bag.

In the year 2029, interstellar reconnaissance missions are relegated to chimpanzee pilots from the space station Oberon in deep space. On one such mission, a chimp loses communication and vanishes from the radar. Fearless astronaut Leo Davidson launches a rescue mission and, following a malfunction, lands on a jungle-like planet not unlike the earth. To Leo’s astonishment, English-speaking apes and primitive humans inhabit the planet. Following his capture by the apes and consequent escape, Leo assembles a small band of defiant humans and empathic apes in an attempt to re-establish contact with Oberon, but his focus changes following an unexpected discovery. Armed with this new information, Leo leads a rebellion against an overpowering ape force that will result in freedom or complete annihilation.

On the one hand, Burton’s Planet Of The Apes manages to build on the original by way of the set pieces and consumes and effects. The ape makeup was just outstanding, and the actors in the getups were very good at making you believe an ape can talk and reason and stuff. And you have to admit, the story and scope of this was pretty epic. However, concerning the story, it does get snagged up in a few places: Mainly, the whole social commentary wasn’t handled as deftly as it was in the original. Also, while I’m not a purist of the original, I still don’t like the decision to make the humans be able to talk. It seems…wrong, somehow. Some character motivations are a bit questionable and head-scratching, like the tender romance that pops up between Captain Leo and Ari. And don’t get me started with that twist ending, there.

Overall, 2001’s Planet Of The Apes isn’t that bad, really. It’s a movie that’s a bit long in the tooth, will dazel you and then frustrate you. It’s worth at least a rental, there.

Movie Review: The LAST EXORCISM Part II

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last exorcism iiCBS Films
2013
PG-13

“There’s a whole bunch of people out there who are definitely convinced that they are possessed.”

As much as I enjoyed the 2010 movie The Last Exorcism (despite that ending), I wasn’t really thinking that this was a movie that needed a sequel to continue the story. But, what do I know? three years after the fact, we got a sequel, anyway.

Nell Sweetzer is back in the relative safety of civilization and sent to live in a group home where she’s encouraged to leave her past behind and start a new life. Just as Nell settles in, she is tormented by the seductive demonic presence that once possessed her. She realizes that the evil force is back with unimaginably horrific plans which could only mean that her last exorcism was just the beginning.

I’ll give credit where credit is due: At least the makers of this movie didn’t go with the found footage route. Ashley Bell does an outstanding job as Nell, giving the character a great sympathetic quality, like Sissy Spacek in the original Carrie movie.

I just realized that I live in a time where I have to clarify which movie based on Stephen King’s book Carrie I’m talking about.

You just want to take her into your arms and comfort the kid, let her know everything is going to be okay. Maybe give her a cookie. Which lent a bit more weight to how this movie ended. Also good was the character of Nell’s would-be boyfriend, Chris, who is just adorable. Then there’s Gwen, a character that was woefully underused, as you get the feeling there’s more to her going on with her, the way she’s just a touch unsettling and creepy. I wanna see a movie about her.

the movie excels at building a tense atmosphere and utilizing some gorgeous cinematography. Working against it, is the slow pace, overuse of the “boo” scares and misplaced music stingers, and one of the more anticlimactic exorcism scenes I’ve seen. Not the worst; that one goes to the exorcisms in the Ed Furlong flick The Visitation. The bits of weirdness building up to Nell’s breakdown didn’t seem all that effective, really.

Overall, while it wasn’t really necessary, The Last Exorcism Part II is a fairly decent supernatural horror flick that sticks to the general formula and doesn’t require much investment. It’s good for a time waster rental, at least.

Movie Review: ATOR The Fighting Eagle

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ator the fighting eagleComworld Pictures
1982
PG

“I love you.”
“And I love you.”
“Why can’t we marry?”
“Ator, we are brother and sister.”
“I’ll talk with our father.”

Ah, Ator. If there was any poor-man’s Conan the Barbarian that came out in the 1980s (and there were many to chose from), I have to go with Ator. Played by Miles O’Keeffe, he with the pecks of melons and knees of fringe. Of course, it was through MST3K and their send-up of the classic Cave Dwellers…which was originally titled Ator The Invincible, then Ator The Blade Master. Fantastic episode, you need to watch it if you haven’t. Point is, that the movie that eventually became known as Cave Dwellers is the sequel to the first Ator movie, titled Ator The Fighting Eagle.

Born with the mark of Thoren upon his infant flesh, he was destined to assert his might over the terrible powers of darkness: the High Priest Dakkar and the entire protectorate of the Spider. When they murder his loving parents and snatch Sunya, his beautiful bride, Ator is resolved to be avenged. Encouraged by the High Priest Griba, and assisted by the lithesome brigand woman Roon, he plans his great assault on the temple of all evil…”

Look, I’ll just go ahead and say it: Ator The Fighting Eagle is better than Cave Dwellers, simply by the sheer level of ridiculousness. And that, of course, is the surprise incest angle that everyone seems okay with. Sure, you could argue that they were never biologically related to begin with…but they didn’t know that before Ator talked with his father about marrying his sister. I kinda see why they retconned that out of the sequels, there. So now we’re watching our hero battle the evil minions of the Spider god to save his sister so he can marry her. Let that sink in.

Anyway, Ator The Fighting Eagle is as low-budget and bad as you can imagine. The effects are laughable, the props are quite obviously scrimped together by what they had laying around, the big giant spider is what you expected them to be, and yet again there’s a scene where Ator battles invisible warriors, a concept they reused in Cave Dwellers. The dialogue is as cheesy as it gets, and you just can’t help but laugh unintentionally at the sheer earnestness of this. Truly, Ator The Fighting Eagle must be seen be be beheld. A recommended So Bad It’s Good flick for you and your friends.

Movie Review: DEMONIC

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demonicDimension Films
2015
R

“I want to put a baby in you.”

Demonic was another one of those movies I knew nothing about until stumbling on it on the Family Video website’s New Releases section some time ago. The picture itself wasn’t all that special–I have a glow-in-the-dark t-shirt with the same type of pattern–and the descript was another one of those stupid young adults play around with the dark forces, and wackiness ensues type scenarios I’ve seen so many times. But, this movie had the name of James Wan stuck to it. Sure, he was merely the producer of Demonic, and the cover listed it as James Wan Presents, which can mean he either had a bit of a hand in making this movie, or it’s just his name being lent out to lend a bit of legitimacy to an otherwise mediocre horror film.

Spoilers: Turns out it’s the latter bit.

Demonic centers on the aftermath of a horrific massacre where five college students were brutally murdered inside an abandoned home. Detective Mark Lewis and psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Klein question one of the few survivors who explains they were amateur ghost-hunters, seeking out paranormal phenomenon at the abandoned house, which was believed to be haunted. But what started out as a harmless activity turned into something truly terrifying.

Overall, Demonic wasn’t a bad film, per se. It did have some interesting use of visual atmospherics, as well as switching between the found footage style and standard filming techniques, using the found footage stuff as a means of exposition to what took place. However, the big downer with this is, if you’re even a novice with these kind of horror movies, you pretty much know what the plot is, beat-for-beat, pretty much picking out the big twist long before you get even close to it. For what it is, Demonic is not a bad way to kill some time. Good for an afternoon rental.

Movie Review: MIAMI CONNECTION

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miami connectionDrafthouse Films
1987
R

“They don’t make buns like that down at the bakery.”

In the pantheon of So Bad They’re Good movies that have graced my eyeballs and earholes since I can remember, there are a few that seem to transcend their own ineptitude and become classics merely out of the sheer might of their popularity with the fanbase, languishing in abject obscurity only to be discovered by one person, who helped to bring it to the masses of Cheesy Bad Movie loves everywhere.

Such is the tale of the movie Miami Connection.

Like the other greats in the list of classic bad movies, the making of Miami Connection itself adds to the overall awesomeness. It’s downright inspirational: Co-writer/producer/actor Y.K. Kim arrived here in America in 1976, homeless and not knowing English very goodly. Before that, he grew up in Korea, and received the black belt in Taekwando when he was 13. After hitting American soil, he began opening up Taekwando schools on the East Coast, eventually landing in Orlando with a school that was described by the local paper as “the McDonald’s of martial arts schools.” I think that was meant to describe the franchise nature, and not a dig at the quality. Then, by the mid-80s, he teamed up with Korean director Richard Park and made Miami Connection in 1987. Nifty.

Of course, upon the initial release, the movie was lambasted by critics, and sadly fell into the void of obscurity…that is, until 2009, when a programmer at the Alamo Drafthouse bought a 35mm print of the movie off of eBay and screened it one night. The reaction to the movie was tremendously positive, which lead to the Drafthouse guys to try to buy the licensing to give the movie a proper DVD release. Once Y.K. Kim realized the guys weren’t joking, the world finally got Miami Connection unleashed in all it’s resplendent glory in 2012.

But, enough of the history lesson. Let’s get to the movie, shall we?

The year is 1987. Motorcycle ninjas tighten their grip on Florida’s narcotics trade, viciously annihilating anyone who dares move in on their turf. Multi-national martial arts rock band Dragon Sound have had enough, and embark on a roundhouse wreck-wave of crime-crushing justice. When not chasing beach bunnies or performing their hit song “Against the Ninja,” Mark and the boys are kicking and chopping at the drug world’s smelliest underbelly. It’ll take every ounce of their blood and courage, but Dragon Sound can’t stop until they’ve completely destroyed the dealers, the drunk bikers, the kill-crazy ninjas, the middle-aged thugs, the “stupid cocaine”…and the entire MIAMI CONNECTION!!!

Miami Connection is a revelation of a movie. This transcends the So Bad Its Good label, and ascends into the pantheon of Great Bad Movies by the sheer earnest ridiculousness of it all. The overacting is amazingly over-the-top, plot points are hammered in out of nowhere (one of the band members finds his biological father! and the ensuing scene chewing is jaw-dropping), everyone’s a biker ninja, and I find myself desiring a bootleg tee-shirt of the fake band in this movie.

I’ll go ahead and get to the point: Not only does everyone need to watch this, everyone needs to own their own copy of Miami Connection and watch it at least once a year.

Movie Review: DEADLY PREY

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deadly preyAction International Pictures
1987
R

“I like being on the winning side. It’s a lot healthier.”

Recently, while house- and pet-sitting for my sister’s family, I decided to spend my holiday binging on as many bad action, horror and sci-fi movies from the 1980s as my brain could handle. I really don’t recommend doing this for any novice reading this; I am a well-seasoned, professionally trained idiot, after all.

One of the cluster of free-to-stream movies was Deadly Prey, an obscure low-budget action flick from 1987 that I chose solely by that poster art. I mean, look at it. Those rippling mussels, those cut-off shorts that can barely contain anything, and that sweet, sweet mullet. That had “cheese-fest plastered all over it. And boy, oh boy, Deadly Prey did not disappoint in that arena.

Apparently one of the first movies produced by low-budget movie house Action International Pictures, Deadly Prey really hits all the points that make for some prime cheesy movie watchin’ enjoyment. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, here…

The sadistic and psychopathic Colonel Hogan is a mercenary for hire who finds a benefactor in Don Michaelson, a ruthless businessman in need of skilled killers for a special assignment. It’s a win-win for both sides. Michaelson will finance Hogan’s training camp and Hogan will use his trained mercenaries to help out Michaelson. Hogan has the manpower. What he doesn’t have is the prey to hunt in preparation for the big day. His solution: troll the streets of Los Angeles and randomly abduct people. What Hogan didn’t count on was that one of those people would be Mike Danton, a Marine with killer skills, who doesn’t take too kindly to being kidnapped. Hogan, Michaelson and the mercenaries are in for a world of pain…

Where do I begin with this movie? The late-80s mullets and fashions? All the action posing? The fact that Ted Prior (who plays protagonist Mike Danton) spends the majority of the movie clad in only a pair of barely contained cutoff denim shorts? And I haven’t gotten to the derivative script, the shoestring effects, the “acting” and confusing pacing issues.

Which is to say, Deadly Prey is awesomely bad and should be watched by everyone. Preferably in a group with lots of libations and sarcasm.

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