Shane Watches a Bad Movie on Facebook with Friends: The Impossible Kid of Kung-fu

1982 spy movie

Rating: 6/20 (Fred: 19/20; Carrie: 20/20; Libby: did not finish)

Plot: Mr. X, a criminal who wears what looks to be a KKK hood, is kidnapping millionaires as part of some not-very-elaborate plot to get some money. Only one little secret agent can stop him!

I've decided that my Facebook friends don't really understand my movie rating system. Fred called this the worst movie we've seen to date with the Bad Movie Club, but he gave it a 19/20 because he was enamored with a scene where Weng Weng walks on a tightrope. Carrie, halfway through, announced that she wished she would have just done her homework because that would have been more entertaining than this movie. But she was impressed with a scene where Weng Weng jumps over a chasm on a pocket rocket. I mean, who wouldn't be? Libby was unable to finish. But heck, what are people looking for? You've got 2'9" Weng Weng, the previous Billy Curtis Award winner who I wrote about here, riding that aforementioned sweet ride, beating up on thugs three times his size, taking time to love on the ladies a bit, and performs what I have to believe are his own stunts, most notably that jump across the ditch on his motorbike and a leap of about 150 feet from a building. The plot is so simple that a first grader could have penned it, but it still somehow manages to be confusing. Weng Weng's great in this sequel to For Your Height Only, but nobody else in the movie really belongs in a movie. The worst thing about the film is probably the score which alternates between three songs--one flute-heavy suspenseful piece, one song that sounds a little too close to Mancini's "Pink Panther" thing, and another one. They're as repetitive as the rest of the movie. But, come on! Weng Weng displays action chops that I'd stack against anybody's, and he's got one of the best haircuts that I've ever seen. In fact, the next time I get my haircut, I'm going to ask the to "give me the Weng Weng," and when they look at me in a confused manner, I will hook up a VCR and pop in a tape of Weng Weng's highlights. But there's no way in hell I'm going to allow any of them to operate a scissor after that experience!

Shaun of the Dead

2004 zombie comedy

Rating: 15/20

Plot: Zombies! The titular slacker hero has to survive and save his girlfriend and best friend.

The whole zombies-in-a-world-where-everybody's-kind-of-already-a-zombie thing, with characters living life obliviously, has been done before in other zombie movies, and this loses its rhythm a little in the second half of the film. And with what seems to be a bottomless supply of zombie comedies out there these days, this might seem like just another in a superfluous pile. And the title of the movie is a pun which just doesn't seem like a good idea. Still, this one manages to stand out. First, it balances its slapstick and more sophisticated gags really well as well as its comedy and drama. There's a love story that both works and doesn't get in the way of what the audience really wants to see--people being chased around and sometimes eaten by zombies. And the characters act precisely how slackers would act during a zombie epidemic. For me, the visual humor works a lot better than the humor in the dialogue. I actually sided with the girlfriend about Nick Frost's character. I did like the line--repeated, like so many in this movie--about how it was the poor guy's "second album [he] ever bought." But the real genius in this is the visual humor. There are always things going on in the background of shots, a ton of dramatic irony, and some really fun foreshadowy moments, my favorite being the parallel episodes in a pair of tracking shots as Shaun takes a trip through his neighborhood on the way to a store. Some rhythmic zombie beating and remote control t.v. surfing are other bits of genius. The zombies looks great, and you've got to appreciate the little magic trick they pull off with impaled Mary in Shaun's backyard. You could say this is a little formulaic, but it still manages to feel so fresh, a real credit to the writing and brand of humor. And it's a rare zombie movie that might benefit from repeated viewings.

You could probably talk me into bumping this up to a 16/20 if you wanted.

A Talking Cat!?!

2013 talking cat movie

Rating: 2/20 (Emma: 4/20; Abbey: 3/30)

Plot: The titular cat!?! brings a pair of families together.

"Is that a cat?" You'd be surprised how many times that line is in this movie. This is a movie about some people who apparently have never seen a cat before. And that's weird because there are several times when the cat gets up and walks away and you can clearly see cat food on the floor. That leads me to believe that these are people who have cat food but who aren't sure what a cat looks like. And that's the real mystery of this movie. This is one of those movies where all the pieces come together so imperfectly to produce something so beautifully awful that you want to tell everybody you know about it. The acting isn't the worst that you'll ever see, but combined with everything else, it seems almost magical. The worst offender is Eric Roberts who provides the voice of the cat. The cat is fine, but Roberts sounds like he was locked in a closet, fed nothing but vodka and oatmeal pies, and forced to read his lines. He mostly sounds tired, and when he doesn't sound tired, he sounds bored. When he doesn't sound tired or bored, he sounds like he has come to a point in his life where he despises himself and his maker. Johnny Whitaker isn't a realistic father or millionaire, but he's got a soul patch and does a great Bogart impression. Justin Cone is awful as his son, surly and effeminate in cut-off jeans. He nails one line though: "I did see a cat--that one!" Soap star Kristine DeBell is just as bad playing a character who doesn't need oven mitts when taking things out of an oven. She does play exasperated well, probably because that's how she feels about having to be in this movie. The music is also terrible, and whoever scored this thing should be put to death immediately. I know that sounds harsh, but we're talking about somebody who threw a MIDI version of "La Cucaracha" in this thing. This is clumsily written and poorly paced. I was convinced halfway through that this was possibly written in under a half an hour. Cheese puffs were mentioned extraneously, the explanation of the cat's powers of human speech were never explained in a way that made sense, and the human characters seemed to have been created by people who have never heard human beings interact with each other before. Most impressive of all might be the special effects that allow the cat to talk. I was confused about whether the cat was "talking" to the human characters telepathically, but the magic of special effects made it clearer later with an animated black mouth. Dreadful, the kind of special effect that makes you feel sorry for everybody involved in the production of this so that you start weeping in front of your daughters. This is the type of movie that is around ninety minutes but seems like it goes on for ninety days, sad since it was really about twenty-five minutes of movie padded with random shots of a waterfall and some trees. In fact, the only thing that might have been in the movie more than nature shots were shots of the cat's butt hole. That thing popped up so many times in this movie that I began to wonder if it was intentional.

Good news: A Talking Pony!?! is in post-production. It features DeBell and Whitaker, so it must be a sequel. Also, director David DeCoteau has a movie in post-production called My Stepbrother Is a Vampire!?! I almost wish I was making the punctuation up.

It's possible that I'll see a worse movie this year, but this is a strong Manos contender right now. And Roberts, in a voice-acting role, just could grab himself a Torgo. He's really that bad here.

Over the Top

1987 arm-wrestling epic

Rating: 9/20

Plot: Estranged truckdriving father Lincoln Hawk tries to reconnect with his son after his ex-wife's death. His father-in-law is against the idea, and his son doesn't like the idea either. Hawk wins his son over after impressing him with his arm-wrestling prowess.

Pow! I saw this movie in the dilapidated movie theater in Brazil, Indiana, as a middle school student, and I thought it was pretty stupid back then, and I was a pretty stupid kid in 1987, the type of kid who still thought the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi made perfect sense. It's your standard father/son road trip movie sprinkled with the arm-wrestling scenes, scenes that seem to be there only so Stallone can show off his guns. Then, the truck crashes into a mansion, and you realize what a stupid story you're watching and, at least at the age of thirty-nine, start to doubt your decision-making abilities. I've been a busy guy the last few months, and I just haven't had the time to watch as many movies as I'd like. So I get a little free time and watch Over the Top? This movie reminds me of just how bad I always was at arm-wrestling. This movie came out and made a very tiny splash, but it was enough of one to get kids to start arm-wrestling each other. We'd all try the little wrist twist thing that Stallone uses in this, but I'm not sure it ever did anything. Neither did putting our baseball caps on backwards. I'm really glad that was explained in this movie, by the way, or I would have lost sleep. I had little twigs for arms, and even girls would beat me although I had trouble focusing because the physical contact with a female made me giddy. I'm surprised Stallone's character didn't have the same issues because most of his opponents are real lookers. A handful of them are interesting characters who aren't given a chance to shine and add a little personality to this drab movie. One of the main issues is that arm-wrestling isn't really all that interesting, even in a Hollywood motion picture where you have some white-knucklin' edge-of-yo'-seat back-and-forth action. It's a lot of slow-motion grunting and despair. The biggest issue with the movie is the kid. He's played terribly by David Mendenhall, an actual kid, and although the acting is as terrible as you'd normally expect from a kid, the main problem actually has more to do with the writing. Basically, the kid comes across like a real asshole. He flees across traffic on a highway in an effort to escape, says, "I hate you!" a few too many times, and grows to like Lincoln Hawk a little too quickly. But Mendenhall doesn't help matters. I mean, if you can't look effectively disgusted after Sylvester Stallone says, "Would you like to use my shoulder for a pillow?" then you're just not an actor. This movie doesn't know how to develop a story or its characters and instead leans on a bunch of montages. I thought one song during an early montage was the worst thing I'd ever heard in my life, but then I heard another song that might have been worse. It was like Eddie Money and Frank Stallone, the latter who I bet is related to the star of this movie, were having some kind of competition to see who could make my ears bleed most. So many montages though. I think one montage even contained its own montage.

Tai Chi Zero

2012 kung-fu movie

Rating: 11/20

Plot: Some guy with a horn travels to a town to learn some kung-fu. The master refuses to teach him. A pissed guy with a giant tank invades, and the guy with the horn and a woman have to help defend the city.

Though there's a lot of vibrancy and neat ideas, this movie is the type that is better to casually watch and appreciate aesthetically instead of think about and try to care about the characters at all. There's plenty of cutesiness with little pop-ups that tell about characters and the town. And the mash-up of steampunk imagery and weapons with the martial arts genre, the reason I decided to check this out in the first place, is kind of inspired. The giant tank thing, like a bulbous metallic turtle or some sea creature, moves quickly from being a novelty to something you just don't care about anymore. The special effects, those flashy sorts of effects that dominate a lot of modern kung-fu movies, cheapen the whole thing and make the fight scenes glossy and cartoonish instead of anything that has any real emotion. There's enough different about this to make it frustrating that it wasn't something better, and it's just fun enough in spots to make me interested in a sequel.

Stephen Fung directed this and played a character. Hark-on Fung is also in this. I just wanted to type that name.

John Dies at the End

2012 horror comedy

Rating: 12/20

Plot: A pair of slackers get involved with a drug called "soy sauce" which causes them to drift between two dimensions. They have to save their world from something named Korrok.

What a mess! It's almost a delightful mess, but it's unfortunately just a little too much. I applaud its creative spirit and unique vision. The story and director Don Coscarelli take chances, but the budget's neither tiny enough or large enough to make it work and this desire to be 21st Century and hip gets old after the first, mostly fresh, twenty minutes or so. A lot of me wants to just appreciate the craziness of all this--animated meat that seem straight from Jan Svankmajer, a dog driving a truck, insects that would make Cronenberg giggle, exploding Robert Marleys, a creepster who'd be right at home in a David Lynch movie putting some giant insect thing down a guy's shirt, a punk song about a "Camel Holocaust," bare-breasted people from another dimension, and Paul Giamatti. The movie seems to get more coherent as it goes, but when you really think about it, it's just a movie that is pretending to be coherent and not doing a very good job at it. It also gets more and more frustrating as it goes, building to something that is so poorly realized with computer effects that you end up caring about what happens less than you care about the characters. And you didn't really care about any of that unlikable lot anyway with the exception of a dog. There's enough here to probably make this a cult classic, but I can't think of any reason why I would watch it again. Cool poster though.

Shane Watches a Bad Movie on Facebook with Friends: Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror

1981 Italian zombie movie

Rating: 12/20 (Libby: 4/20; Fred: 6/20; Carrie: 12/20)

Plot: Couples look for a good time at a creepy mansion but encounter zombies.

Don't get me wrong. The zombies in this are as creepy as zombies get. They're in various stages of decay, and a lot of them have wiggling maggots on their faces. They move like zombies should, feast on human flesh, and shamble out of unexpected places beautifully. But they are nowhere close to the creepiest thing about this Italian schlocker. No, that would be Peter Bark, the "unnerving Italian midget thespian" (according to who plays a twelve-year-old boy in this movie. His countenance and dubbed voice are creepy enough, but when he begins to sexually assault his mother? It's the stuff of nightmares. The problem with this movie isn't a lack of horrifying or suspenseful moments because once it gets going, really early in the proceedings, it's filled with horrifying and suspenseful moments. The problem is more with the storytelling, mainly that it doesn't have very much of it. The zombies aren't explained until the end with a quoted "profecy" that has more than one typographical error. And it's not exactly an explanation either. The human characters are a lot dumber than the zombies which doesn't make any sense. These are zombies that can use power tools. The humans? I'm not sure they can. I know one doesn't seem able to use a pitchfork. This festers with a lot of really nice horror movie moments including one that involves monks, and anybody popping it in for the gore will probably be satisfied. For me, it's the "unnerving" Peter Bark that I won't be able to shake out of my head.

Directed by Andrea Bianchi. It's a movie I liked enough to check out something else by him, maybe Strip Nude for Your Killer which was released six years earlier. That title's got some serious potential.

Is There Sex After Death?

1971 sex comedy

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Dr. Rogers from the Bureau of Sexological Investigation roams about in the Sexmobile and interviews experts in sexual matters, talks to everyday people on the streets, and visits key sites to answer the titular question and others.

Prankster Alan Abel and his wife created this now-dated look at sexuality. It's funny forty-some years later, but after a while, it gets a little tedious. There are plenty of naked people, but if this makes any points at all, it makes them early. The wad is shot, so to speak, and then it keeps going. Abel himself plays the roving reporter and does it as a sort-of straight man. It's amazing that he keeps his composure while sitting so close to so many naked people or hearing an actor say, "For the vegetable, it was exquisite," or a "Professor of Dildography" talk about "millions of miles of unused orifice," or an x-rated magician ask, "Is that not your urine sample?" or an expert claiming that "you'd be up to your ass in dwarfs" if one of eight didn't die during sexual intercourse. In between all that, Abel takes us to a sex Olympics, a nudist colony where they sing "Dinah Won't You Blow Your Horn" and later dance in a way that makes nudity seem like a pretty terrible invention, a perverse art gallery, and a pornographic opera. Oh, and there's a brief penis puppet show. Robert Downey Sr. makes a pair of appearances, but he's nowhere as entertaining as Earle Doud who plays the x-rated magician or Marshall Efron who plays Vince Domino, the "master of filth and excretion" who talks about making a pornographic film with a goose and a donkey. This is nothing revolutionary, some bits fall completely flat, and it's not always even all that much fun, but it's an interesting enough little time capsule item nevertheless.

Star Slammer

1986 women's prison space adventure

Rating: 5/20

Plot: A scantily-clad woman is arrested and taken to a women's prison on a space ship. She tries to escape.

The other title--Prison Ship--would have given away that this is a women's prison/science fiction mash-up. I thought I was just popping in a Star Wars rip-off, but then there's lesbianism and cat fights with other scantily-clad women. Fred Olen Ray--co-director of Dinosaur Island, a movie that barely looks like it has even one director--created this gem, and a glance at his filmography probably should have at least given away that there would be some sleaze. The heroine, played by Sandy Brooke who reminded me a little of Joanna Kerns, was cute enough and tough-looking enough, and the other women brought just the perfect amount of skank to their roles. The beginning part of the movie takes place on some anonymous planet, but I'm going to go ahead and guess that it was filmed on Earth. There's a bulky vehicle that I'm sure was borrowed from some other B-movie and a variety of alien things that look kind of cool along with a bunch of incoherent action. The majority of the movie takes place on the ship, and it gets a little tiresome and redundant after a while. The sets are cheap, and the thrills are cheaper. No amount of rubber rodents, robot rodents voiced by the director, a handful of goofy-looking alien guys, or over-the-top dialogue of Bantor--a Vader-type character played by the incomparable Ross Hagen--could save this movie. And neither can a five-minute scene where one of the women finds a harmonica and plays it.

My wife saw a few scenes from this and said, "I don't like this movie." But she did miss the sleaziest parts.


2005 Best Foreign Film (2006)

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A thug inadvertently kidnaps an infant during a car-jacking and becomes a total wuss.

It's difficult to know how to read the denouement of this movie. And yes, I'm going to spoil things if you haven't seen this already, so you probably should probably skip to the next paragraph or not read this at all. Most people on Earth have no problem not reading my blog, however. Anyway, the ending. Is it an unhappy ending because our main character--the titular gangster--is about to be arrested and spend a significant portion of his life in prison? Or is it a happy ending because despite the trouble the kid is in, his soul is in much better shape at the end of the movie than it was at the beginning? This is a bleak movie with a bleak setting and desperate and characters who you never feel are going to be OK, but there are all these rays of hope that perforate the thing. I think I would go ahead and lean toward happy ending since the incredible amount of tension built up during a kind-of stand-off in front of the baby's home is at least eased in a way that would make the other characters happy.

This is a good film, and Tsotsi is the kind of juicy complex character that I imagine would be difficult to create, both by the actor and the director. Presley Chweneyagae plays him, very nearly to perfection. A lot of the performance is about body language, and the first shot we see of him in front of a window with this menacing sky behind him while his friends are trying to add four and five with some neo-reggae/rap hybrid music popping up is a great introduction. It's difficult for me to pinpoint exactly why this baby has such an effect on this character, but Chweneyagae's performance sells it so well that it doesn't matter. There's a bit of movie trickery in humanizing this thug with scenes of an old running Tsotsi morphing into a young running and crying Tsotsi, but for the most part, it's the performance that makes this complex character work. He goes from hardened thug to baby-faced human being, often within a few frames. There's so much that goes unspoken in this movie, and you can read it all on his face as he interacts with characters or wanders around, especially when he explores the child's room. I also liked Jerry Mofokeng who played a crippled beggar, and now that I know his last name starts with "Mofo," I like him even more. The baby was also incredible. The Johannesburg slum is a setting that allows for some cool visuals, a setting that doesn't make any excuses for the characters but that definitely helps explain how circumstances lead to bad decision making. I'm still not sure which visual is more shocking--a shot of the baby with ants crawling all over him or a couple shots of homeless children living in big pipes. The afro-rap soundtrack, most of it performed by a South African artist named Zola, seems a little oppressive at times, but it adds a lot of color, and I ended up liking it. In fact, I'm listening to the soundtrack now while typing this.

Recommended by Cory.

Shane Watches a Bad Movie on Facebook with Friends: The Angry Red Planet

1959 science fiction movie

Rating: 12/20 (Fred: 8/20; Carrie: 7/20; Bryan: 12/20)

Plot: Four astronauts go to Mars and realize that they're not wanted there. Luckily, they brought both a machete and a boat.

I know it's 1959 and all--many years before mankind would actually set foot on Mars--but having the characters travel with a machete and an inflatable boat still seems silly. This movie's kind of cool for it's use of "cinemagic," a special effect that makes everything pink and red. See the poster up there? When the characters leave the spaceship and walk on the titular planet that is both heavily-foliaged and containing giant bodies of water, the whole screen is this watery hue. The astronautic quartet are stock--there's a smart one, a horny hunky one who looks a little like Bogart and frequently has his shirt unbuttoned, a weak dame who is sometimes in distress, and a goofball there for comic effect. You have to trudge through a lot of scenes where "science" is discussed to get to the giant rat spiders and Peeping Tom aliens once they decide to investigate Mars. The set looks like it's been hand-drawn, and the aforementioned Peeping Tom alien (see the guy on the right side of the poster up there) is oddly two-dimensional, but there's a charm to it all and the reddish-pink does kind of look neat. This is the type of sci-fi that would offend most scientists and more than likely any being that lives on Mars, and it's nothing I'd call classic science fiction or anything. Still, it's actually kind of fun.

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention that the male astronauts are wearing loafers. Cinemagical loafers!

Shane Watches a Bad Movie on Facebook with Friends: Duel to the Death

1983 kung-fu flick

Rating: 15/20 (Fred: 17/20; Libby: 16/20; Bryan: dnf)

Plot: A Chinese guy and a Japanese guy travel to Holy Sword House to see who is the greatest swordsman. Ninjas attempt to stop them.

[Spoiler Alert!] In one of seven climactic scenes, the main bad guy has his head chopped off. It sails through the air and gets impaled on a tree limb. Then, it speaks: "You will die!" Then, it explodes!

That's right. We messed up and watched a movie that wasn't bad at all on Bad Movie Club night. Not only was it not bad--it's a borderline kung-fu classic! First, it's got ninjas galore. They're ninjas that pop out of the ground, throw bombs, fly into scenes via kites, spin webs, turn into women, and in one jism-inducing sequence, morph together a la Power Rangers into one menacing giant ninja. These are ninjas who fight dirty. There are some incredible, physics-defying fight sequences in this, and luckily for dumb kung-fu movie fans like me who get a little bored with verbosity and too much plot, this is almost wall-to-wall action funkiness. The two swordsmen are so quick, and with all those ninjas, a handful of monks, a pair of chicks, and a bunch of other underdeveloped characters, there's often a bunch of action stuffed into the screen at the same time. If you do require things like character development and plots that make sense, this might frustrate a little. The battle for swordplay supremacy is easy enough, but there are so many twists and turns in this and the confusing character motivations make things really confusing. Gender confusion, a dubbed bird, a legless guy, and puppet show foreshadowing gum up the works. But none of it matters because you don't watch kung-fu movies for things like plot and character development. You watch because you want to see people kill other people in poetic and beautiful ways, and Duel to the Death delivers the goods there. Highly recommended for fans of the genre.


2012 Best Picture

Rating: 16/20 (Jen: 18/20)

Plot: One of those countries with all the oil finds a bunch of white people and decides to attempt the world record for the longest sleepover. Six people aren't invited, presumably because they are "dweebs," and they go whining to some friendly Canadians where they subsist on a diet of elk juice and sugar-free Pop-Tarts. The U.S. sends in a guy who they think might be Mexican because he has a dark beard to play a practical joke on them all.

This is very well done drama, tense and meticulously detailed. The period details and snippets from news footage or speeches helped nail the realism, at times almost to the point where I thought it was a little too much, like they were shoving the fact that all of this might have happened just like this in my face. It's definitely one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction type films. The best part about it, I think, is that it maintains high levels of suspense even if you know the outcome and the fate of all these characters. It's edge-of-your-seat stuff as things build to a tense crescendo, a final series of close calls after a whole bunch of other close calls. I'm impressed with Affleck's direction--as well as his depiction of a Mexican man--because he pulls this all off without any trickery. This is all fairly straightforward, pretty much exactly what a movie version of this story would have looked like in the 1970s if that were possible. I also liked that there was a little humor mixed in with the drama, a lot of it from the characters played by Alan Arkin and John Goodman.   Argo's got good performances, an authentic look and feel (I have no idea about the historical accuracy or inaccuracy of what's going on), a consistent tone, and a ton of thrills. I'd watch it again and probably enjoy it just as much. But is it really a Best Picture?

I heard, by the way, that they're working on a sequel featuring Boba Fett. That is definitely something to look forward to.

Shane Watches a Bad Movie on Facebook with Friends: Alien Predator

1987 science fiction horror comedy

Rating: 5/20 (Fred: 14/20; Libby: 4/20)

Plot: Three college kids vacation in Catalonia in a Winnebago and run into the some trouble from another world.

Dune buggy chase scenes, nose bleeds, the Spanish John Ritter, eviscerated bulls reminiscent of Taun-Tauns,  the dude from Breaking Away, alien harvesting, massive squelchiness, bulbous oozing goiters, a lack of aliens, a lack of predators, half-doll/half-chickens, dead old people, seventeen mentions of "Hollywood's number one driver," shooting up horse serum, bullfight music, rubber horror, windshield wiping, and a broken boobies streak. This movie, in case you want to look for it, is also known as The Falling, but if you're a 1987 movie that wants to call itself Alien Predators in an effort to capitalize on the success of two popular film franchises, I'm not going to argue. Fred enjoyed the bullfight music, but called this "very possibly the worst movie we've seen on bad movie club." He's wrong though.

I think I could probably make that poster up there using nothing but clip art and word art in PowerPoint, by the way. Not that I'm bragging or anything.

The Dark Backward

1991 black comedy

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Marty Malt, a garbageman and hopeful comedian, has exactly one fan--fellow garbageman and accordion-enthusiast named Gus. He stinks, but his career starts to go uphill when he grows a third arm out of the center of his back. The pair find themselves an agent and shoots for the stars.

This is a weird little movie, one that's the equivalent of a really great joke that is delivered so poorly that nobody really gets it. I like that it's rated R for "brief scenes of bizarre comic sensuality." I think that's the nice way of saying it's got naked fat people and Bill Paxton's rear end. Director Adam Rifkin wrote both the very good and very funny Mousehunt and the almost-criminal Underdog, the latter which I wrote should have cost people involved with the production their lives. I kind of feel bad about that now. The direction is uneven, but there's a definite charm to the proceedings. The setting is one of urban decay, and the set designers are absolutely committed to this filth, a lot of it shown with circus music in the background. The performers are terrific, almost all of them stepping out of what I'd imagine are their comfort zones. Judd Nelson is unrecognizable, and thinking about this slow turn he'd do after telling a joke in order to show the audience his third arm makes me laugh. Paxton straddles the line between offbeat and overly-crazed, and Wayne Newton almost reaches Slim Whitman-esque territories as a sleazy talent agent, and Rob Lowe, Lara Flynn Boyle, and James Caan are also in this for some reason. I have no idea what Rifkin might be saying about show business or fame or artistic endeavor or anything else. And the movie's plot not only doesn't really ever go anywhere but seems to take forever doing it. However, this surreally comic nearly post-apocalyptic little flick smells like enough of a cult classic that I'm sure a handful of people would really like it.

Best moment in the movie: Apples Yonahan, the man of a thousand faces. There's also a scene with gratuitous little people--five of them in sailor costumes played as a human xylophone. One of them is Tony Cox of Bad Santa fame. (Billy Bob Thornton is also supposed to be in this somewhere, unconfirmed. Of course, there's a Tony Cox and Bill Paxton's rear end connection there, so it seems possible.) And if you know this blog at all, you know I'm probably going to look up the other little people. Tonya Renee Banks isn't in a lot--Death to Smoochy and Bad Santa in which she's credited with stunts. Cindy Sorenson got to work with Adam Sandler in what I'm sure is a hilarious movie. Arturo Gil has been in quite a few things, including a Mary-Kate and Ashley Christmas special that has me imagining the hottest menage-a-trois I've ever imagined. And there's John Hayden who was only in this movie. That's a pretty disappointing diminutive quintet. 

Slap Shot

1977 hockey comedy

Rating: 16/20

Plot: The aging player/manager of a hockey team learns that it will be the team's last season because the mill that provides most of the jobs for the town is closing down. He starts spreading the news that a town in Florida is planning on purchasing the team while encouraging some goons to play a more violent form of the sport in order to drum up interest in the Chiefs.

I'm not sure how I watched this as a kid, but it was a movie I liked. Paul Newman makes cussing seem so cool, probably influencing my potty mouth. Unfortunately, his clothing repertoire in this also influenced my wardrobe which probably explains a lot about my formative years. I don't find this movie terribly funny. In fact, it's a little loud, kind of a busy movie. I also don't have any interest in hockey, but I do really enjoy the hockey scenes in this. I love how the camera moves low, right over the ice. The use of real-life hockey players with a Paul Newman who apparently could move smoothly on the ice himself, along with the colorful dialogue ("Frog pussy"), give this an authentic feel. The Hanson brothers, played by a Hanson and a pair of Carlsons, are fun character even when they're just sitting around doing nothing. You almost want to laugh at their antics before they happen because they're the type of characters who you just have to see to be reminded of antics you've previously seen. A goofy smile on a teammate's face when the Hansons first play as he says "These guys are a fucking disgrace" sums it all up beautifully. This has an interesting clash of realistic violence and hockey mayhem--little bits of blood on Newman's uniform after a first fight, for example--mixed with some goofy comedy slapstick hijinks that for whatever reason just works. Unlike a lot of sports comedies, I think this one grows with time. Newman--who should have won an Academy Award for this performance based solely on the way he says "retarded" in the movie--said that this was one of his favorite roles and that he had more fun filming this than any other movie. I think it shows. I'll always have a sweet spot for this movie.

Freaky Deaky

2012 crime comedy

Rating: 10/20

Plot: I don't really feel like writing a plot synopsis for this movie.

The parts don't come together for this one, a movie based on an Elmore Leonard story. Elmore Leonard's like a Hollywood goldmine. This has a semi-fun story, a bunch of semi-fun characters, and a semi-fun groovy 70's vibe. But it doesn't add up to anything that is much fun at all. When I found out that Crispin Glover and Andy Dick were playing siblings, I thought, "Uh oh. Brace yourself for the apocalypse, Shane." Glover, as expected, is the best thing about the movie. He's long-haired, sometimes plays Twister, and is perpetually stoned. The eccentric millionaire is a good role for Glover. Unfortunately, the movie's just as much about Billy Burke's character, a composite of every detective or hard-boiled copper from every other movie. Burke seems more tired than cool playing this walking cliché. Christian Slater plays a nutty bomb-maker and is exactly as good as you think he'd be. A funk soundtrack is cool, but a saxxy score is really dopey, and a few effects like page-turning transitions just seem like lazy attempts to make this whole thing cooler than it actually turned out. Chapter titles and a goofy made-up cereal won't trick anybody into thinking that "Charles Matthau" is a Tarantino pseudonym.

Oasis of the Zombies

1982 zombie movie

Rating: 4/20

Plot: Nazi zombies try to prevent treasure hunters from getting their riches.

Also known as The Treasure of the Living Dead, but you really could call it anything you want. It wouldn't magically transform the movie into anything that anybody would want to watch. The poster's way misleading. That's a movie you'd definitely want to watch. Leggy blonds in skimpy denim cut-offs being groped by Nazi zombies emerging from the sands? That would probably be something. To be completely honest, that might have happened in this movie. I was put in a daze early on and watched the majority of this in a boredom-induced trance. I did see zombies though. They were cheaply grotesque. The action's dopey, the plot's almost nonexistent, and the direction feels disinterested.

I probably should have picked a different Jesus Franco movie to end my trilogy tribute with.

Oprah Movie Club Pick for April: Wake in Fright

1971 movie

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A disgruntled teacher on Christmas break plans to travel to Sydney but gets stuck in Hell along the way. He drinks, makes some friends, kills a few kangaroos, drinks some more, and gets a little too friendly with a bald bearded man.

This movie is apparently also called Outback. I don't like that title or Wake in Fright actually, but I'm not sure what I'd call it.

This might have to be my go-to Christmas movie from now on. There's a great performance of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" by a dumpy, dispassionate middle-aged man. I'm sure there's a full version of the performance in the bonus features of the disc, but I didn't check because I didn't want to get too much in the Christmas spirit in May. I mean, April! The end of April!

The opening shots of this--a circular tour of the browns and different shades of brown in Tiboonda--set the stage. Australia is apparently a dilapidated place. All I know about Australia was learned watching Finding Nemo several times. Oh, and Crocodile Dundee. This paints Australia as a fairly bleak place, a good thing for me since all my favorite movie places are fairly bleak. Doc's dilapidated shack--dilapidated because he's probably shot it full of holes--the school house; both "hotels" he stays in, either one which could have contained its own urine couch; the front porch of the pub the quartet of hunters nearly destroys; the unlikely spaciousness of the gambling room; the dry, sizzling Outback. These are settings you can feel, atmospheres that make you feel like sweating right along with the characters. Add the sound--creaking, bored guitars, buzzing. Flies buzz around this movie like it's a carcass, probably of a kangaroo. Hell's a kangaroo carcass. Pleasance's character's first words are so appropriate: "All the little devils are proud of hell."

Was that a metronome I heard in that opening scene in the classroom? If so, we've got a streak of two in a row for Oprah Movie Club picks that have a metronome. As a public educator, I can tell you that that was an accurate portrayal of what happens in the typical classroom. It's a staring contest between students and a teacher, one that ends with the teacher getting a gift. Add a few standardized tests, and you've got an accurate look at public education. I did appreciate that all of the poor guy's problems seemed to evolve from his desire to not teach anymore. I know teaching can drive somebody to drink and gamble, but I've never met anybody who wanted to stab a kangaroo to death because of teaching.

Speaking of kangaroos, I might as well get that out of the way. That kangaroo hunt seemed really dangerous to everybody involved. It was a scene that was a little tough to watch, and I'm the type of person who really only likes kangaroos when they're boxing. It was also one of those "I can't believe this scene is in a movie" scenes, one that is so ruthless, so uncompromising. Those eerie trees illuminated by those spotlights, those red eyes of those doomed kangaroos, that close-up of the closing of that kangaroo's hand, that final shot of parts of four dead kangaroos. Those are the type of scenes you don't shake from your head for a while, artistically ugly and manic.

I like how much of this movie shows us things from the teacher's perspective. The slow pan over the faces of those bored students, the quick glance at the black dude on the train, the children running toward the train, the snippets during a scene where he's drunk, the stuff in that gambling room. The latter was electric, by the way. The circling camera around John, the shots of different funny-looking guys laughing (I love movie scenes that feature unnerving group laughter), the falling coins in slow motion followed by a freeze on the guy's face. This movie's got a filthy 1970's style--one that attracts flies apparently--and it helps us experience this guy's trip through hell through his eyes.

Gary Bond is good as the lead, a suitable everyman. I'm not sure he does a lot, but he works as an outsider who is swallowed up by circumstance until he's an insider. Chips Rafferty is great as Jock the cop. The woman who plays the front desk clerk (Maggie Dence) is aloof and sultry, popping in a pair of scenes to robotically give the main character directions. I also liked a guy with one top tooth. But Donald Pleasance steals the show with those wide eyes, giant nipples, and quick smile of his. He's so good in this as this character you know you can't trust but also don't know what else to do with.

So what the hell's this movie about? The protagonist's masculinity is questioned a few scenes before he mounts a woman and pukes. Later, of course, he gets to know--it seems--Donald Pleasance's character intimately. What's this trying to say about manning up in hell? Or Australia? Does one have to kill a kangaroo in order to become a man? Is it our obligation as males to lose all inhibitions, drink ourselves into stupors, lose our shirts, gamble and growl, smash up a joint, stroll around town with a rifle? Just what would Crocodile Dundee say about all this? What would the heroes of Australia--the ones remembered when everything stops in the middle of the night for an odd "Lest We Forget" tribute--say about it? What about John's girlfriend? What about the kangaroos?

This is a mysterious little movie, one that feels like a horror movie without being a horror movie. Throw it in the pile with movies like The Wicker Man or After Hours, stories that feature these unfortunate guys who are out of their element and in these situations where they seemingly have no control. John survives the experience like Paul in After Hours, ending up right where he started. His journey is a giant nightmarish circle, one that echoes that opening shot of the film that shows us Tiboonda.

Great pick, Matt from Canada! I'd actually never heard of this movie. Did anybody else watch it?

Shane Watches a Bad Movie with Friends on Facebook: The Slumber Party Massacre

1982 horror movie

Rating: 5/20 (Eric: 7/20; Libby: 6/20; Fred: 5/20; Bryan: did not finish)

Plot: A guy with a drill massacres guests at a slumber party. Come on. You couldn't get that from the title?

I want to know if there's a record for the most false scares in a single movie. You know what I mean by "false scare," don't you? The moment's intense, the music suggests something is going to happen, and then there's a cat or the completely harmless neighbor you met earlier in the movie. This movie has more false scares than real ones along with the gratuitous nudity and brassiere-free and sometimes pantsless "teenagers" you'd expect in a movie like this. I was surprised that this was both written and directed by women. I wonder what it means that they gave the killer such an obvious phallic symbol for a weapon. There's got to be some feminist subtext there. My pals enjoyed it slightly more than Bee Girls although it's derivative and has humor that just doesn't work at all. I was enamored by Jean Vargas who played a telephone repairwoman and victim. Unfortunately, this was her only movie. I'm not sure fans of the serial-killers-at-a-slumber-party genre would like this one very much.

The Hunger Games

2012 movie

Rating: 12/20

Plot: Katniss Everdeen volunteers for the annual and titular fight to the death between 24 teenagers selected from 12 districts in a dystopian future where tripods have been banned.

This one suffers more from the director or cinematographer falling too much in love with the current shaky-cam trend than any movie I can think of right now. If you want to wiggle the camara a bit to help the audience understand the characters' perspectives when they're in a confusing and frightening situation, that makes sense. There are times--when Peter and Katniss are getting off the train at the Capitol, when the games actually start--where the shaky-cam makes perfect sense. But using shaky-cam during every other second of the movie--when Katniss is singing a lullaby to her sister, backstage during an interview--is just distracting, and I can't imagine anybody staying vomit-free while watching this on the big screen. I read this book and didn't enjoy it much, mostly because the first-person point of view kind of ruins any chance for real tension and the strong female protagonist is never forced to make any difficult decisions. I did like Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, but other than her character, only Woody Harrelson's Haymitch is the least bit interesting. I think this movie's biggest sin is that it's a movie that is about kids killing each other--something that Battle Royale does a lot better--and somehow still manages to be boring. Being forced to keep it at a PG-13 to allow the target audience into the theater doesn't help anything. You either dumb everything down and keep the camera aloof as you show teenagers being slaughtered or you dive right in and show some blood and guts. You can't really stay in the center, and that's precisely what this does. The camera shakes over to a dead competitor, but without any character development or any lingering shots of the fallen, it just isn't going to matter all that much. Not much style to the storytelling either, just the aforementioned overused shaky-cam and what seemed to be a choice to go music free for large chunks of the movie. It made the whole thing feel a little flat.

I don't think the odds are in favor of the sequel of this being any better. I haven't read that book though.

The Peace Killers

1971 motorcycle gang vs. hippie movie

Rating: 8/20

Plot: When the leader of a biker gang hears that his ex-girlfriend is living in a nearby hippie commune, he and a few of his comrades bike off to go fetch her. The hippies fight back!

This is a fairly entertaining entry in those no-budget movies that attempted to make a buck after the success of more successful counterculture movies, some featuring both bikers and hippies. The trio of bikers at the beginning of the film--the floppy-hatted and lazy-eyed, a guy who can't quite get his words out, and a short guy--are almost comical until a flashback with a fairly nasty rape scene. You really only root for the hippies because the bad guys are so nasty. Otherwise, you wouldn't like the hippies much at all, especially their leader whose lines consist mostly of crying about how fighting isn't very nice. Jess Walton makes a great damsel-in-distress as the ex-girlfriend. The real star of the show might be the psych-rock soundtrack. The action scenes are fine for a movie like this--a lot of overhead shots of guys riding motorcycles. There's a scene where a pair of motorcycles carry the woman in a bag suspended between the two vehicles which is well done. The climactic fight scene with the hippies teaming up with a rival motorcycle gang including the afro'ed Lavelle Roby as Black Widow is so obviously not choreographed. One guy gets a great dying scene though where he says "Eeeeee!" And there's a scene where the titular killers of peace embarrass themselves by torturing a guy with a pencil, lamely.

Shane Watches a Bad Movie with Friends on Facebook: Invasion of the Bee Girls

1973 erotic sci-fi thriller

Rating: 6/20 (Carrie: 5/20; Fred: 3/20; Bryan: 2/20; Libby: 6/20; Ratboy: didn't finish)

Plot: Women are being turned into the titular insect women who lure men into the sack and kill them by sexing them to death. A boring guy investigates.

Anitra Ford is the queen bee girl, so the whole thing has that going for it. My Facebook pals didn't appreciate this one, not even as a good-bad movie, nearly as much as I did. The main gripe was the plot which was pretty straightforward, but the big clue that led the guy to cracking the case--a random mention of the idiom "dropping like flies"--was just about the most ridiculous deux ex machina you'll ever see. There's a fair share of nudity for the pervy crowd, an audience who would get a kick out of the lengthy bee-transformation process that involves melted marshmallow, boobs, and blinking lights. This is cheap and sleazy with a cute librarian and creepy insect-eye effects, and despite terrible pacing and a dopey story, I kind of liked it and would recommend it to bad movie fans. Or fans of The Price Is Right. 

The Dragon Lives Again

1977 kung-fusploitation shenanigans

Rating: 7/20

Plot: Bruce Lee has died and ends up in hell with James Bond, Zatoichi, Dracula, Clint Eastwood, a bunch of mummies, Popeye, the Exorcist, the Godfather, Emmanuelle, the one-armed swordsman, and Kain. Some of the above are attempting a coup, and Bruce Lee has to stop them. And the devil has an earthquake machine.

In order to fully appreciate the beauty of this Brucesploitation craziness, you have to keep in mind that the makers claim it was "dedicated to the millions who love Bruce Lee," as if the whole thing was done to honor the man's legacy. First, they put him in hell. Second, they team him up with Popeye and have him getting beat up by the Chinese Clint Eastwood. This stars Bruce Leong, one of the handful of Lee imposters who starred in these things. He looks nothing like Bruce but has some sweet moves. Of course, they logically explain why he doesn't look the same. They also give him a humongous erection as a corpse which is really a nice touch, especially considering this is a movie dedicated to the millions who love Bruce Lee. The other characters? Well, Popeye's first bit of screen time is almost more shocking than anything in Se7en, the one-armed swordsman is sans sword, Dracula is a Chinese guy in white face who wanders around in the daylight, James Bond gets the theme music but unfortunately only lasts approximately 14 seconds in his final fight, and Emmanuelle says things like "I'm such a silly little pussy; you can spank my body if you want to." There are some dudes in skeleton suits which are kind of cool, and they must be where the Cobra Kai guys got their Halloween costume inspiration. There's a real skeleton, too, in one of the more ridiculous effects you'll ever see. I was also fond of watching the fake Bruce Lee battling mummies. Yes, they looked silly, but it was a cool visual against a backdrop of stone. Not sure why they needed to add footstep sound effects since they're fighting on sand. Of course, this is a hell where the devil can shake a pillar and cause earthquakes and there are people with fuzzy animal heads, so footsteps in the sand are far from the silliest thing going on here. I also caught a likely-unsanctioned Pink Floyd sample with the echoing laughter repetition that happens at the end of "Bike" on Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

Greatest thing about this movie (or perhaps any movie): "The third leg of Bruce Lee"

In case you're having problems finding this, be aware that it is also known as Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. You're welcome.