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: DAYLIGHT’S END

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daylight's endVertical Entertainment
2016
NR

The world is full of low-budget straight-to-video zombie flicks. One might say we’re overrun with a plethora of zombie movies. What we don’t seem to have enough of are low-budget straight-to-video movies that are I Am Legend-esque post-apocalyptic vampiric zombie movies. Specifically, I Am Legend-esque post-apocalyptic vampiric zombie movies that features Lance Henriksen as one of the stars of the cast. Fortunately, here’s Daylight’s End to help fill in that void in our horror subgenre.

Years after a mysterious plague has devastated the planet and turned most of humanity into blood-hungry creatures, a rogue drifter on a vengeful hunt stumbles across a band of survivors in an abandoned police station and reluctantly agrees to try to help them defend themselves and escape to the sanctuary they so desperately need.

Daylight’s End manages to be another generic post-apocalyptic action horror that checks off all the points, but doesn’t really do much beyond that to contain my interest. More character types than characters, a big macho action lead that’s stuck in constant 90s-era brood mode, and story beats that tread no new ground…Daylight’s End is an easily forgettable movie about five minutes after the end credits roll.

Movie Review: ATTACK FROM SPACE

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attack from spaceWalter Marley Enterprises Inc.
1964
NR

Back in the later part of the 1950s, there was a series of short films produced in Japan featuring a superhero names Super Giants. Note I said “a” – singular – superhero, that goes by the name “Super Giants” – plural. It’s one guy, who is also not so giant–he’s regular size. His origin story goes that he is a human-like being created from the strongest steel by the Peace Council of the Emerald Planet to destroy evil and restore peace in the universe. There were nine total short films in the series, all of which were purchased by Walter Marley Enterprises and Medallion Films for television distribution here in the United States.

Of course, here in the States, instead of showing them in their original cuts, we had to edit some of them together into movie-length features, renamed the main hero Starman, resulting in some completely bonkers sci-fi flicks. Attack From Space was one of those movies.

Featuring an edit of the 5th and 6th films in the original series, Attack From Space has our hero Super Gi…er, I mean Starman sent to Earth to protect us from the jerks from the Sapphire Galaxy, who want to conquer our universe. For what reason, I don’t know. Prime real estate? Closer proximity to Starbucks? Regardless, they want our world, and they begin by kidnapping Earth scientist Dr. Yamanaka and take him another satellite of EVIL! And it’s up to the goofy looking Starman and a couple of annoying Earth kids to save Dr. Yamanaka and the Earth from the Sapphireans’ Death Star! And no, that wasn’t a joke. They really have a “death star”.

Attack From Space is one of those mind-bendingly bad movies that you enjoy like one enjoys an old-timey Flash Gordon serial: by repressing your logic sensors and enjoying the weirdness in all its low-budget glory. Revel in the goofiest-looking superhero get-up you’ll ever lay your eyes upon. Marvel at the level of earnest cheese of the plot. Try not to have your head explode over the blatant abuse of logic. And remember to have all of your friends with copious amounts of adult beverages around when you watch this.

Movie Review: FUTURE FORCE

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future forceEcho Bridge Entertainment
1989
R

“David Harris? I’m John Tucker, Civilian Operation Police. You have committed a crime and are presumed guilty. You have the right to die. If you choose to relinquish that right, you will be placed under arrest and imprisoned. I haven’t got all night.”

Imagine, if you will, a movie that conspired to mash together Dirty Harry with RoboCop (the original good one), bringing in a beer gut-sporting David Carradine to star and give it a budget approximately a quarter of that of a regular action blockbuster. The result is this experiment in schlock b-movie cheese, Future Force

After an introduction informing the viewer that in the post-apocalyptic future of 1991, we learn that the regular police forces have been replaced by a kind of privately funded bounty hunter league that goes by the acronym C.O.P.S. The biggest bad-ass member is John Tucker, who has a Nintendo Power Glove Cyber Gauntlet to help him fight the crime…which he utilizes only a couple of times, and keeps in the trunk of his vehicle. Otherwise, he relies on his swagger, a couple of pistols and his beer gut-fueled sweet, sweet martial arts moves. Of course, the corporate jerk who funds the C.O.P.S. is what you would call a bit corrupt, so while putting a bounty on a news reporter doing an expose’ on his corrupt-ness, Tucker decides that something’s amiss, and takes to protecting the reporter. Which leads to a bounty being put on Tucker. Now he has to protect the reporter, and avoid being ganked by his fellow C.O.P.S. who didn’t really like him much to begin with, and uncover the conspiracy behind everything in time to get back to doing what he does best. Whatever that is, I’ll let you know when I find out.

Future Force turns out to be the kind of sci-fi action flick that is short on both action and sci-fi. That’s not to say it’s totally bereft of both: There’s some riveting 35-mile-an-hour chase scenes, and that power glove cyber gauntlet thing that is featured so predominately on the movie poster is actually utilized a couple of times. Once by remote control, to punch a guy in the crotch. And then give the “thumbs up” before flying back to the main protagonist’s trunk of his vehicle.

Everything about this movie is low budget. The effects, the acting, the settings, the filming and editing. The fat that the “future” in a movie called Future Force is only two years off from when the movie first premiered is a major red flag. But, oh, the biggest disappointment here is David Carradine’s phoned-in performance. I didn’t expect A-level action star calibre from him, mind you…but I expected something.

I would say, overall, Future force would barely qualify as a So Bad It’s Good flick. Maybe to marvel at the ineptitude of it all. Otherwise, you’re not missing anything if you pass on this.

Movie Review: SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS

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santa claus conquers the martiansEmbassy Pictures
1964
NR

“Well, when Voldar ‘accidentally’ left us in the airlock and then came up here and ‘accidentally’ threw the door switch, we knew we had to get out of there in a hurry or that would be the end of us. Eh, uh, ‘accidentally’, of course.”

The first time I watched this classic hilarious-for-all-the-wrong-reasons bit of Holiday Sci-Fi cheese was by way of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode roasting this chestnut. Didn’t matter that it was the middle of summer, or that it was late at night; I was marveling at the sheer awfulness of this movie, and constantly doubled over in laughter from the constant barrage of barbs being slung at this from the MST3K crew.

That was then. And now, nearly twenty years after happening upon that particular episode, I now own the original movie sans the color commentary alongside the MST3K episode. And as many fans of this particular brand of bad movies understand, it’s a holiday tradition that gets shown every year in the annual Christmas movie list.

Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is so deliciously bad: the ridiculous premise, the thin story, the cheap costumes and sets (this movie is famous for using Wham-O! brand air popper guns for “freeze rays”, and perhaps the worst guy-in-a-polar-bear-suit and cardboard robot I’ve seen this side of The Forbidden Planet), the groan-inducing acting (also featuring the debut of a young Piza Dora), and a theme song that is incredibly annoying yet will become lodged inside your skull. In a certain way, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is the perfect metaphor for the Holiday season, really: you know what you’re experiencing is shoddy and bad, but you can’t help but enjoy yourself despite the goings on. I can’t be the only curmudgeon this time of the year.

Regardless of your take, you owe it to yourself to watch Santa Claus Conquers The Martians at least once. I would recommend the MST3K edition for you newbies out there. For those of us seasoned veterans out there, you know the drill: Grab your friends, keep the eggnog flowing, and sing along with me- “Hor-ray for SAN-TEE-CLAUS!”

Movie Review: The PREDATOR

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the predator20th Century Fox
2018
R

So, here we are. Yet another movie involving the intergalactic hunter species known as the Predator. Ever since showing up on the big screen in 1987 with the very first movie, the fanbase can’t seem to get enough of the creature. Even with every sequel that doesn’t seem to live up to the insta-classic that was the first one. Even when they pitted the Predator with that other intergalactic fan favorite, the Alien (which is, ironically, technically more of a predator than the actual Predator is). Since it’s been 8 years since the release of the better-than-most-realize sequel Predators, another go at a sequel was not surprising, but again I don’t think a lot of people were clamoring for another one. But we got one. And of course I went to go see it on the opening weekend.

So, the story for The Predator goes as such: a couple of Predator space ships are battling it out over Earth when the smaller ship ejects something, and then crash lands on our planet, in the middle of a hostage retrieval mission. One of the snipers picks up some sweet Predator hardware, and mails it to his autistic son for safe keeping. And because Hollywood treats autism like it’s magic, the young boy figures out how to use the Predator mask and arm gauntlet. Meanwhile, the captured predator has come to and escaped the super-secret military lab where was in the process of getting looked at by Jake Busey (Busey Lite…you get all the Busey with only half the crazy), and tracks the kid who’s out trick or treating with the Predator tech. Which, technically, this makes The Predator a Halloween movie. Anyway, Sniper Dad was being transported to a government prison during all of this, but managed to escape with his fellow inmates and tracks down the escaped Predator and saves both a scientist and his son from not only the Predator, but kind of a bigger, scarier Predator that’s been hunting the first Predator for reasons. Stupid reasons, as we’ll come to find out later. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. The gov’ment is also hunting the Predators, and it seems that the aliens are looking to upgrade their species with the best of the best DNA, and in this case, that’s from the sniper’s son, because, and I’m quoting from the dialog here, “autism is the next step in human evolution.” *sigh* Anyway, the Apex Predator does the whole Most Dangerous Game thing with the gaggle of inmates and gov’ment guys, captures the young lad, and makes to take off for home, when the surviving inmates take out the ship, then takes out the Apex Predator, and the movie ends on sequel bait.

For what it is, The Predator is exactly what it is: a Predator movie. Nothing more, nothing less. But, this one feels like a bit of a hot mess, mainly due to the combination of awkward humor beats, some choppy editing (possibly due to the controversy surrounding one of the actors who was cut from the final film), and some attempts to build on the Predator mythos that doesn’t make much sense. The real hits to this, though, are not only the autism treatment, but The Predator once again uses Tourette’s as comic relief. It just pisses me off.

The Exalted Geeks and I went to see The Predator the Saturday after it opened, and the theater was mostly empty. This is not doing well as of this writing, and we’ll probably never see that sequel the movie was hinting at. Just as well. I give this movie a frustrated head shake and a “wait for the rental”.

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