Archive for the 'Adventure' Category

27
Sep
15

The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak (1984)

Right before I start writing a blog post, I always go through my list of tags to make sure I don’t miss anything. I always pass over Tawny Kitaen’s name, wishing and hoping that one day I’ll be able to tag her in something other than Witchboard. Well, who would’ve known, this would be my lucky day! Q read something recently about The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak and it reminded him hey, I’ve been wanting to see that movie for awhile! He showed me the back cover and I was sold.

Unfortunately, the old adage “don’t judge a film by the stills on the back cover of the DVD” holds true. No amount of highly-stylized, half-naked, leather-bound, sex-starved gladiatrices can save this movie. There were so many moments throughout this stupid thing that I really, truly wanted to like, but every single time it failed to deliver. But I suppose I’ve put the cart before the horse; what is this stupid piece of crap movie about, anyway?

Tawny Kitaen as the innocent, naive and virginal Gwendoline.

Tawny Kitaen as the innocent, naive and virginal Gwendoline.

Gwendoline has traveled from France to China in a large, wooden box to find her long, lost lepidopterist father. She and her maid Beth quickly find themselves at the mercy of wacky Chinese thieves, who sell Gwendoline into servitude for a quick buck. Luckily Gwendoline’s new owner owes a muscle-bound asshat named Willard a bunch of cash, and when he can’t pay up Willard goes apeshit and tears the place apart, inadvertently saving Gwendoline and Beth.

The charmless Willard

The charmless Willard

Unfortunately for Willard, this means he’s inherited the two ladies for the foreseeable future, and they want to go to the Land of the Yik-Yak. Through a series of whatevers and blah blahs they discover Gwendoline’s father is dead. Willard thinks his time with the girls is over, but oh no, Gwendoline’s journey has just begun! She is now adamant that she will find the elusive butterfly her father died searching for, so his death might not be in vain.

On the way to Yik-Yak, the trio are confronted by a band of cannibals and a hidden society of women who mine some kind of diamond or some shit and only get to fuck when the leader tells them it’s okay, and even when that happens they have to fight over the guy and then after they fuck him they kill him. So that’s a great story line, right? Oh yeah, and along the way Gwendoline has of course fallen in love with Willard, despite the fact that he’s a complete piece of shit utterly lacking in charisma, and I guess he’s fallen in love with her too, even though he bounces from being a complete asshole to being silly putty in her hands. Whatever.

Gwendoline and Willard in those outfits, on that chariot, still don't make this movie worth watching.

Gwendoline and Willard in those outfits, on that chariot, still don’t make this movie worth watching.

This movie can’t decide what it wants to be. Is it campy? Is it a comedy? Is it an adventure flick? A soft-core porno? I guess it wanted to be all of these things, but since it couldn’t do any one thing well enough it ends up being none of these things. Continuing the theme of what-the-fuck-is-this-movie-going-for, the characters also have no grounding; they bounce from having one personality to another within the same scene so many times there is no point in trying to distinguish what their actual motivations are.

But damn, it does look cool doesn't it?

But damn, it does look cool doesn’t it?

So you might be saying why does it matter? This is obviously a stupid movie, why would I expect so much out of it? Well, even stupid movies have to work on some level to be enjoyable and watchable, and I’m telling you even if you’re only watching this movie for the tits you’re going to be dissatisfied. Halfway through I suggested perhaps it might be better to watch the movie in a different language, at least then we could feast our eyes upon the costumes without being distracted by the awful, terrible acting and dialog. Too bad there are no other audio tracks on this disc. This movie did teach me a valuable lesson, though: I used to think that as long as a movie looked cool, it didn’t matter what the plot was, or even if there was one. Alas, Gwendoline has proven me woefully wrong. Sorry, Tawny. Maybe we’ll have better luck next time.

13
Apr
15

Deathstalker II (1987)

I’ve never been too interested in fantasy movies. Not that I dislike the few that I’ve seen, it just hasn’t been a genre I’ve sought out. The first time I saw the Conan movies I was nearly thirty, and I definitely enjoyed them quite a bit. And just recently, I watched Krull for the first time – another fun movie! But there was something missing from these movies that kept them firmly in three-star territory, and that is self-awareness, something Deathstalker II has in spades!

Meet Deathstalker: negotiator extraordinaire, incorrigible playboy, King of thieves.

Meet Deathstalker: negotiator extraordinaire, incorrigible playboy, King of thieves.

Deathstalker (John Terlesky) is the king of thieves, scouring the medieval landscape for fortune and fame. Though he likes to come off as a selfish dude, it’s clear he can’t leave a damsel in distress behind, no matter how dim-witted she might be! When Deathstalker sees a peasant girl (Monique Gabrielle) beaten by the King’s guards, he fights back in her honor. After handily beating the oafish guards, Deathstalker decides it’s time for a little menage-a-trois, and hits up the local tavern for some sweet titties and a few brews. But it looks like our peasant girl is in some serious trouble, and desperately needs Deathstalker’s help! He really has no choice but to go along with her and her crazy story about how she is actually a princess, but Jarek the Sorcerer (John Lazar) cloned her and usurped the throne! She claims to be a seer, and promises Deathstalker that if he succeeds in helping her reclaim her throne, he will become a legend!

I never really thought of bananas as part of the sword-and-sorcery landscape, but Monique Gabrielle makes it look good!

I never really thought of bananas as part of the sword-and-sorcery landscape, but Monique Gabrielle makes it look good!

As the duo travel to the Princess’s castle, they encounter many strange things, like exploding dwarves, zombies, and a village of Amazon women! Each time, Deathstalker and the Princess make it out by the skin of their teeth, thanks mostly to Deathstalker’s unfailing charm and, of course, flawless physique! The Princess claims Jarek’s sword skills are superior to Deathstalker’s; what will happen when they make it to the castle? Can Deathstalker come through in the end?!

Sure there's plenty of boobs in Deathstalker II, but they throw the ladies a bone every once in a while!

Sure there’s plenty of boobs in Deathstalker II, but they throw the ladies a bone every once in a while!

Deathstalker II is 85 minutes of pure, idiotic enjoyment. I honestly can’t remember the last time I enjoyed watching a film as much as I enjoyed watching this one. The first time I saw it on VHS, I knew we needed to have a copy on DVD. After the second time I watched it, I had to watch it a third time the next day because it is so much FUN! This movie doesn’t take itself seriously for a single second, and that is the biggest reason for its success. The second-biggest reason is definitely Terlesky’s performance as Deathstalker. He is constantly winking, incorrigible to the max, and let’s admit it ladies, he’s pretty easy on the eyes. Next up is John Lazar’s Jarek, chewing up every bit of scenery he’s given, obviously having a blast.

John Lazar, hamming it up with the best of them!

John Lazar, hamming it up with the best of them!

Of course, for every good performance there are some equally bad ones: Monique Gabrielle’s acting is cringeworthy at best, and we get to see her in two different roles! That being said, as bad an actress as she proves to be in this film I thoroughly enjoy her performance here. I think it actually enhances the silliness of the movie in a positive way; unfortunately, Q does not agree! Then there’s Toni Naples who plays the evil Sultana, Jarek’s right-hand woman. She’s pretty awful too; she just isn’t in it as much as Gabrielle. But let’s get real here: we aren’t watching Deathstalker II for great acting, amirite? Both Gabrielle and Naples deliver just about as much as you should expect with lines like these! This movie delivers on everything it should: boobs, swords and sex. What more could anyone ask for?

29
Oct
14

House II: The Second Story (1987)

Note: Hi! This is Mike Q, and I’m not the one who usually writes here. I got this guest-spot because Katy’s fallen behind in writing up movies of late, so I’ve been called in to do some of the titles she doesn’t especially want to deal with.

Perhaps ten years ago, I got into a conversation with a co-worker about Weekend at Bernie’s II (1993). I listened incredulously to his description of the plot: a voodoo witch puts a curse on Bernie’s corpse, such that it dances towards a buried treasure whenever music plays near it. The hapless friends tasked in the first movie with pretending their friend is still alive now are tasked with keeping the world from finding out that their friend is a boogieing zombie. It seemed hard to believe that there was a movie out there that would live up to the promise that description offered for over-the-top hijinx. When a while later I got my hands on a copy, I found out that, indeed, Weekend at Bernie’s II didn’t. A while later, though, I found myself in a situation where I was watching through a healthy backlog of movies at a clip, and made a double feature of the Sean Cunningham-produced House (1986) and House II: The Second Story. While House didn’t do a lot for me (it couldn’t settle on a tone, and seemed like its best bits were done better in Evil Dead II — sorry, Fred Dekker!), House II was a revelation: THIS was the zombie buddy-comedy that I’d been hoping for all this time… the Weekend at Bernie’s II  that delivered on its promise. We watched it again for Katy’s first time as the 25th movie in the 31 Days of Horror.

house 2 thai

A Thai poster. Not as cool as the disembodied hand ringing the doorbellon the VHS jacket, but more in line with what this flick holds in store…

In the 1950s, a couple that lives in a creepy house give their baby away for safekeeping just minutes before a nightmarish figure (voiced by Fred Welker, using the same voice he used for Darkseid on Super Friends) kills them both. In October of 1986, that baby, now grown, comes back to claim his birthright. He is Jesse McLaughlin, an up-and-coming artist, and he and his music-biz girlfriend Kate have come to make the family mansion into their new home away from the city. Before too long, they’re joined by Jesse’s meathead “entrepreneur” best friend Charlie (Fright Night‘s jonathan Stark) and his aspirant rockstar girlfriend. After only a few minutes have passed in screentime, Jesse explains that he’s named for his great-great grandfather, who was a bandit in the old west, and who built the house they now live in. Seems the elder Jesse had found one of the legendary Mayan crystal skulls along with his partner,  the ominously-named Slim Razor. When great-great Jesse absconded with the skull, Slim felt he’d been cheated. The younger Jesse and Charlie figure that there are big bucks in it for them if they can find the skull, and rashly decide it must have been buried with the elder Jesse. Why not dig him up? So they do, the night before Halloween… and that’s when the REAL fun begins.

Look! It´s a prehistoric bird...

Jesse, Charlie, and a prehistroric bird

I won’t say too much more, but it should come as no surprise that the elder Jesse isn’t dead at all — he’s been kept alive by the mystic powers of the skull, and is played delightfully by Royal Dano. Grandpa Jesse explains that the house has been designed as a temple for the skull, and that it acts as a gateway to alternate universes. They all have to work to keep it out of the wrong hands… This state of affairs — zombie grandfather, dimensional gateways — is something the fellows decide is best kept from an increasingly incensed Kate (who’s being egged on by her lecherous asshole boss, played by a young Bill Mahr), and leads to all sorts of wacky cross-time adventures. This movie at times feels like the pilot for an especially zany Sunday-afternoon adventure show of the sort produced by Sam Raimi in the ’90s, by way of a multiple-camera sitcom of the same period. It’s stupid, and even childish, but never really mean-spirited or cruel.  It gets away with its increasingly outrageous twists through charm and goodwill, and some moments that feel really heartfelt in the midst of the silliness. It’s no surprise, perhaps, that Slim continues to be a threat, but Cheers‘ John Ratzenberger’s guest appearance as an electrician with a helpful sideline comes as an unexpected delight. While, sure, it isn’t horror in the strictest sense, this seemed like a nice break from the gialli that we’d most recently consumed. Even Katy, who holds the ’86 House in high regard, was charmed by this one.

onset_house2

The whole House II gang… at least, all the regular humans

Don’t expect anything groundbreaking, scary, or intellectual here — it’s dumb laughs. But, like the Japanese House (1977) that I prefer to imagine this is the sequel to — this movie has nothing to do eith either other than its loose haunted house premise — this film is made all the better by virtue of its light spirit and easy demeanor.

08
May
14

Knightriders (1981)

Tom Savini on a bike.

Tom Savini on a bike.

And now from the head-curiously-cocked department comes George A. Romero’s Knightriders, a 146-minute long film about jousting bikers, or something. Seriously, there are so many weird elements thrown together in this movie, I’m still scratching my head over it.

Basically, there’s this group of medieval re-enactors who put on shows for folks, but I guess the gimmick is they do it on their hogs? The group is currently led by Billy (Ed Harris) who takes it pretty damn seriously, I guess that’s why he’s the king. But he’s got some pretty serious competition. For one, there’s this square-jawed kid named Alan, who’s totally BFFs with Billy, but still takes issue with some of his policies. Then there’s Morgan (Tom Savini), who doesn’t understand why they should continue to struggle financially and wants to sell out to a big agent who claims he can get the troupe shows in arenas and crap like that.

Ken Foree and Young Squarejaw are suspicious

Ken Foree and Young Squarejaw are suspicious

Billy and Morgan have it out, and Morgan decides to leave the troupe, but Billy’s sure he’ll be back. During the troupe’s existential crisis, some dude comes out as gay, and some woman contemplates her relationship with some dude, and some couple breaks up, and there’s a lot of drama.

I don’t know guys, why did this movie have to be 146 minutes long? And what compelled Romero to choose such a strange metaphorical vehicle (chuckle, snicker) for it? I’m sure I don’t know. I will say, I totally dig what the film is about; that community is valuable and important, and you shouldn’t compromise your ideals and sell out your friends for a little cash. Could it not be said with something other than medieval bikers? Perhaps it’s the inherent fringe nature of such a troupe that makes

Ed Harris will always be king in my book!

Ed Harris will always be king in my book!

them a useful palette for Romero’s picture, but even still I find the choice confounding.

Frankly, it’s not a bad film; it kind of has it all, if you think about it: a great sense of humor, romance, drama, Ken Foree, and, perhaps above all, sexy young Ed Harris. If Knightriders weren’t so terribly, frustratingly long, I might actually recommend it. But about halfway through, the novelty wears off and I found myself mentally pacing around the room. Some folks really seem to like this one, so it could just be my blasted impatience and short attention span that ruined this one for me.

15
Mar
14

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)

I’m going to start this one off on a slightly personal note. I’m a normal person who just happens to watch a lot of movies. The great thing about the internet is I need no qualifications whatsoever to write and “publish” whatever I think and feel about everything I watch. Potential audiences can choose to read it or not, and I owe nothing to anyone. This blog originally started as a place to log my impressions of everything I watch, because frankly I tend to forget details. It’s now turned into its own kind of monster, with actual, faithful readers (thank you, readers!) So, I guess I’ve decided to take it a little more seriously, especially when a particular film warrants a little more attention. Recently I’ve come across quite a few flicks that I feel deserve more than just a quick write-up, and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is definitely one of them.
In an interview with The Onion’s AV Club, Peter Weller, who plays the titular hero, said of the film: “I had no idea what that movie was about, I still don’t, but I had a ball making it.” That comes pretty close to my experience watching it; I had no idea what it was happening, but I loved every minute of it. The first time felt like such a whirlwind I had to sit down and watch it a second time just to make sure I had my bearings enough to write about it! Even so, I’m certain to get some of the finer plot points wrong; there is an awful lot going on. I will try to stick to the basics.

Buckaroo plays piano for Penny Priddy

Buckaroo plays piano for Penny Priddy

Within the first ten minutes or so, we are introduced to Buckaroo’s many talents: namely surgeon, physicist, and rock star, but let’s not forget he’s hobnobbing with the President of the United States on a regular basis, and happens to be a comic book hero as well. He’s long been part of a scientific experiment led by Professor Hikita to use a handy-dandy thingamajig called an oscillation overthruster which reorders the particles that make up solid matter in such a way that people should be able to pass right through them. The overthruster has been tested before by Hikita and his former colleague Dr. Emilio Lizardo (John Lithgow), but not with much luck (in fact, Lizardo ended up in the loony bin as a result), so the whole research team is biting their collective lip as Buckaroo gets behind the wheel of a mega-racecar and drives at extremely high speeds towards a giant mountain.

The perpetually suave and cool Buckaroo of course makes it, and he sees some pretty wacky shit in there too. He even brings back a strange creature from the 8th dimension, which he reveals to curious onlookers, particle physics enthusiasts, journalists, and undercover Red Lectroids at a press conference after the successful event. What’s an Red Lectroid? Well, that’s where it gets a little complicated…

A Black Lectroid

A Black Lectroid

Enter Planet 10, where years ago a civil war raged between the Red Lectroids and the Black Lectroids. The Black Lectroids won, and banished some of the most evil Red Lectroids to the 8th dimension, including their leader John Whorfin. When Dr. Lizardo failed to pass through the wall all those years ago, he was possessed by Whorfin; that’s why he’s so bonkers. Because of Lizardo, the Red Lectroids caught wind of the oscillation overthruster’s potential capabilities, and infested earth in hopes of gaining its technology and releasing their imprisoned comrades from the 8th dimension. Years of failed experiments seems to have paid off, now that Buckaroo has successfully proved the thing works. Now all the Red Lectroids have to do is steal it.

A transmission from the Black Lectroids helps get Buckaroo and his backup band The Hong Kong Cavaliers up to speed and tell him if they don’t succeed in destroying the Red Lectroids, they will simulate a nuclear missile headed for Smolensk; an act the Soviets will obviously see as an act of American aggression. It’s now up to Buckaroo and his crew to save the world from destroying itself!

The Electric Emilio Lizardo

The Electric Emilio Lizardo

Though no one in their right mind would call a four-paragraph plot synopsis “succinct” it might actually be the appropriate word to use here – there is still so much going on that I have left out! Either way, the plot is really just a vehicle for great performances and hilarious jokes. It’s no secret that I think Peter Weller is the man, and his role as Buckaroo Banzai is no exception – he is fantastic; totally cool the movie through. John Litghow as John Whorfin/Emilio Lizardo is exactly the opposite; a totally over the top villain, hamming it up every chance he gets (and that accent!). The Red Lectroid crew (Christopher Lloyd, Vincent Schiavelli and Dan Hedaya) are hilariously incompetent as they fumble towards the overthruster. Other notable performances include Ellen Barkin as Penny Priddy and Jeff Goldblum as “New Jersey”, but it’s not just the big names that make this movie – everyone plays their part to a tee.

For some terribly sad reason, I never watched this movie as a kid, and as a result have been left out of the culty joke for too many years. It’d been floating around as a possible viewing option for a year or so, but my husband had a hard time marketing it to me, just as, I have read, they had a hard time marketing it to kids in 1984. This is totally understandable: a movie as all-over-the-place as this one is pert-near unmarketable. No matter, over the years it has carved out a nice little following for itself, and deservedly so; it’s an extremely quotable film with plenty of in-jokes, the perfect recipe for an underground hit. I see evidence of its reach in some recent films: it’s quoted directly at the end of Beyond the Black Rainbow, and though I might be reaching, that Jamaican dude from John Dies at the End reminds me an awful lot of a Black Lectroid!

Forever dorky, New Jersey.

Forever dorky, New Jersey.

The good news is, even if you’re late to the game there’s still a spot for you on the team. Buckaroo Banzai is as much fun to watch as an adult as I imagine it might have been for me as a kid. My husband wrapped up the sentiment in a pretty neat package when he said: “you’d have to have a soul to not like this movie.”  I completely agree. I get the feeling that this is the kind of movie that only gets more charming the more you watch it, and it can undoubtedly withstand multiple viewings; I think husband noticed at least two or three little jokes that he never had before the second time we watched it together – and he’s no Banzai novice. And, let’s get real, any movie that ends like this has got to be irresistible.

13
Feb
14

Mr. Arkadin (1955)

Before I start on Orson Welles’ Mr. Arkadin, I have to admit three things. First: Orson Welles never really did it for me. And let’s be fair, I only gave him one chance, all those years ago, when I first watched Citizen Kane and thought to myself “what’s the big deal?” The only contact I’ve had with him since was his nasty portrayal in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly CreaturesSecond: Despite the few older movies I’ve recently watched, I don’t normally go for anything before 1963. Third: If my husband never suggested Mr. Arkadin, I never would have heard of it, let alone watched it.

It all starts with a name...

It all starts with a name…

All that being said, I surprisingly enjoyed Mr. Arkadin, a crime drama mystery thing with a hint of comedy here and there. The story starts when Guy Van Stratten, a good-for-nothing crook and his equally shady girlfriend Mily witness a murder. As the man, Bracco, dies, he whispers two names into Mily’s ear, one of which is Gregory Arkadin. Distracted by the police, Mily apparently forgets the second name.

This sets Van Stratten off on a chase for information: who is Arkadin, and what did he have to do with the dying man’s murder? Thorough research, tenacity and greed finally leads Van Stratten to Arkadin, a very rich man indeed, with just about everything within his reach. Van Stratten weasels his way into Arkadin’s latest shindig through Arkadin’s daughter, Sophie.

Van Stratten finally gets the opportunity to meet Arkadin, at which point Arkadin gives Van Stratten

Van Stratten, plotting as usual.

Van Stratten, plotting as usual.

a unique gift: a dossier detailing all of Van Stratten’s crimes. See, Arkadin is, apparently, very protective of his daughter. But Van Stratten isn’t easily scared off, and eventually Arkadin decides to hire Van Stratten for a very important job: find out who Gregory Arkadin really is.

See, Arkadin apparently woke up, years ago, with a bunch of money in his pocket, with which he grew his fortune. But he does not remember who he was before this happened, and needs Van Stratten to use his resourcefulness to figure it out for him. So Van Stratten trots his way around the globe finding out information about the mysterious man…

The thing about Mr. Arkadin that most impressed me was that, despite the fact that almost none of the characters are likable or relatable, it’s still an enjoyable movie. Perhaps that’s because I was curious to see exactly to what lengths Van Stratten was willing to go in order to hit the mother lode, or maybe it was just that I wanted to know what makes Arkadin tick?

Orson Welles was a seriously weird looking dude, right?

Orson Welles was a seriously weird looking dude, right?

And, about Arkadin… can I ask what exactly is the deal with Orson Welles? He’s a frightening looking man, and in this film it looks like he’s wearing 10 pounds of pancake make-up. He creepily looks just like the King from a deck of playing cards. Gives me the chills, and makes me understand the sentiments of our friends from Heavenly Creatures all the more! Despite this, or more likely because of, he’s a pretty convincing nasty rich guy.

With movies like this, I generally find myself getting lost, either because the globe-trotting mystery is boring to me or my walnut-sized brain can’t handle putting pieces together. But here, I was actually intrigued the whole time and really enjoyed watching the story unravel. I suppose now is the time to mention there are several different cuts of this film; we watched the “Comprehensive Version” from the Criterion Collection. Word around the campfire is the other versions are much more difficult to follow and convoluted, so if this sounds like your cup of tea, keep that in mind!

All in all, I think I actually really liked this movie. I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt while I was watching it, and immediately after I was pretty ambivalent. It seems as though Arkadin has grown on me now that some time has passed. Perhaps one day my curiosity will strike and I’ll pop in one of those other versions of the film, just to see how different it is. Either way, this version was pretty darn entertaining, and I’d recommend it to anyone with interest in such films.

27
Jul
13

Walker (1987)

A few lives lost in the name of manifest destiny is nothing, right?

A few lives lost in the name of manifest destiny is nothing, right?

The more Alex Cox I watch, the more I believe Straight to Hell was the anomaly; the one unbelievably crappy movie in a filmography of interesting, worthy stuff, rather than the other way around. I’ve long been a huge fan of Repo Man and Sid & Nancy, and just recently watched Death and the Compass, which, to this day, I’m still not sure how I feel about, but it’s certainly far from terrible.

My Alex Cox study continues with Walker, a biopic about a little-known American… um… “adventurer” who declared himself president of Nicaragua in 1856. A firm believer in Manifest Destiny, William

Walker meets Vanderbilt.

Walker meets Vanderbilt.

Walker (Ed Harris) believed it his God-given right, perhaps even duty, to spread the power of the United States as far as possible. So, after Cornelius Vanderbilt (Peter Boyle) approaches him to take some buddies down South to “stabilize” the country and make it more trade-friendly, Walker goes forth, taking this duty very seriously indeed.

Once there, Walker rides a serious power-trip, names himself president, and declares the answer to the upcoming economic crisis is slavery, and does a whole lot of other despicable Colonialist-type

things that you can read about on Wikipedia. The point is, he’s just another in a long line of nasty, power-hungry racists who think America should stick their nose in everyone else’s business. It’s no coincidence this film was shot in Nicaragua in 1987, amidst the civil war there and the scandal over America’s intervention.

Yes.

Yes.

The movie itself is riddled with anachronisms – men riding in carriages are reading Times and Newsweek; everyone’s smoking Marlboros, there are even scenes with cars and helicopters! When this film was released, I guess people were really turned off by that, but I think it’s absolutely brilliant. Walker isn’t really a film about Nicaragua in the 1850’s; instead it’s a film about America’s long, dirty history of influence and intervention in places where it really doesn’t belong. Cox manages to make this painfully clear, and Harris’s deadpan, wide-eyed optimism and faith in America the Beautiful heaps it on pretty thick, too.

Walker beholds as everything crumbles...

Walker beholds as everything crumbles…

You wouldn’t think a movie about such a heavy topic could pull off funny, but it really does. I wouldn’t say laugh-out-loud funny, though there were a few barks and chuckles at the Newsweek. Through Cox’s lens, the swaggering American, swooping in and “saving” the natives seems so absurdly ridiculous, one can’t help but think it’s a joke. But, then you realize not only that it’s not a joke, but a terrible truth that’s still rampant and rotten to this very day. And that’s what’s so gosh darn brilliant about this movie.

 

24
Jul
13

Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992)

Haven’t seen Waxwork? No big deal. The cast is all right – David Warner, Dana Ashbrook, Zach Galligan and some other faces you might recognize. It’s not bad; pretty standard horror flick about a guy whose wax exhibits draw unsuspecting teens into their world FOREVER! But, whatever, none of this matters – you don’t have to see the first to watch the second.

The compass thingie

The compass thingie

Waxwork II: Lost in Time starts right where the original film left off – the female lead, Sarah, is about to stand trial for burning down the waxwork and murdering all her friends. Will a jury believe her story that they’ve been absorbed into wax exhibits, never to return? Well, of course not, not unless they can find some very convincing evidence! Lucky for them, some old dead guy that we probably met in the first movie who I don’t remember gives them a compass of sorts that will send them into different worlds to defeat evil… or…. something. Sarah’s boyfriend Mark (Galligan) is convinced they can use the compass to bring back some piece of evidence from some distant past, they can prove to the jury that Sarah is innocent and she’ll be free.

Oh yeah, Bruce Campbell's in it.

Oh yeah, Bruce Campbell’s in it.

And so begins their travels through time. Each time period isn’t recognizable by some historical event, though – instead they end up in horror movies! Frankenstein, Alien and House on Haunted Hill all represent different time periods where the young folks get stuck, and where poor Zach Galligan has to wear every awful wig imaginable. By the end we’re in some Prince Valiant sort of world where, yes, Galligan is wearing his best banged ‘do.

Worst hair ever Galligan!

Worst hair ever Galligan!

Q is convinced this movie is interesting and worthwhile, but I’m not. It was okay enough, just like the first one (well, okay, maybe it was a little better than the first one) but I didn’t think it was an amazing must-see. No, not by any means! It is totally ridiculous and silly, and I definitely enjoy movies with a good sense of humor about themselves like this one, but would I ever show it to a roomful of people? Probably not. If it was on cable, would I watch it again? Eh, probably.

14
Jul
13

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Lawrence vs. the desert

Lawrence vs. the desert

Sweeping epics aren’t usually my favorite, seeing as how they’re a far cry from schlocky horror fare. Even so, who would turn down a chance to see a 70mm print of Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen? Certainly not me; it is, after all, considered one of the best films ever made, right? So, I saddled up and sat in a theater for four hours to earn my Lawrence merit badge.

T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) is strange compared to some of the other men in the British army. Stationed in Cairo during the first World War, he is considered the number one pick to trek through the desert in search of Prince Faisal, an Arab leading a revolt against the Turks – but he’s not chosen for his military prowess, and certainly not his tact; instead Lawrence is known for his extensive knowledge of the Arab people.

Anthony Quinn!

Anthony Quinn!

During his first journey through the desert, Lawrence is confronted with some details of the Arab tribes that perhaps he wasn’t so familiar with at first – namely, their differences which often result in violent conflict with one another. His first escort drinks freely from a rival tribe’s well, and as a result is killed by Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif). Much of Lawrence’s goal after this incident is concerned with helping the Arab tribes overcome their differences and uniting against the Ottoman Empire. At least, that’s the aspect of the film that I found most interesting.

Of course there’s a heck of a lot more than that going on – the Brits and the French are figuring out ways to carve out the empire amongst themselves and use Lawrence as a distraction to the Arab people to make it seem as if they’re interested in their fates. Well, perhaps that’s a bit strong – I’m no historian, but that’s the sense I got watching the film.

By golly, Mom was right - Omar Sharif *does* look like my Grandfather!

By golly, Mom was right – Omar Sharif *does* look like my Grandfather!

Lawrence spends an enormous amount of time in the desert (amounts to about 3 hours, I’d say) and his ego gets a pretty intense roller-coaster ride: he’s able to convince men to travel through one of the most dangerous deserts to claim a city in their name, and sort of ends up with a God-complex. Then he’s found out by some Turks and tortured (maybe worse?) to the point where he nearly gives up and asks for a cushy job in some government building with fans. So, despite the enormous scope the movie starts off with (World War I, Pan-Arabism, vast deserts, etc.) the movie ends up (as expected by the title, I suppose) being more about a man than a place or an event.

Am I glad I watched this? Absolutely. Did it knock my socks off? Not exactly, but it didn’t feel like a four-hour movie, which, of course, is a very good thing. If you can make deserts and politics interesting enough to entertain someone like me (you know, someone with the attention span of a gnat) then you’ve certainly done a pretty good job.

06
Jul
13

Time After Time (1979)

Jack the Ripper vs. H. G. Wells

Jack the Ripper vs. H. G. Wells

Picture it: London, 1893. Jack the Ripper (David Warner) is on the loose and about to hang out with one of his best friends, the author H. G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) who has just built a time machine. Wells’ intention is to travel into the future, where he believes man has advanced far beyond violence and capitalism and is living in complete harmony. When the cops knock on Wells’ door looking for Mr. Ripper, he bolts into the basement and jumps into the time machine – hoping Wells’

A trip to the future can be a little rough.

A trip to the future can be a little rough.

vision of the future is far from true.

Indeed, violence and greed is still a very integral part of 1979 San Francisco; a virtual playground for a man like Jack the Ripper! Once Wells discovers his “friend” has taken the time machine, he knows he has to go after him and bring him to justice. And so begins a jaunt into the future, where Wells is delightfully befuddled by all things, and somehow magically manages to get into a very pretty young woman’s good graces

Amy & H. G. - a very strange couple!

Amy & H. G. – a very strange couple!

(Mary Steenburgen).

This movie is one of the cutest I’ve ever seen, and not in some horrible, sickening way.  I’m used to seeing Malcolm McDowell play the bad guy; I never would have guessed he’d be such a damn charming good guy! And David Warner, as one might expect, is excellent to watch as Jack the Ripper. It’s thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish and I’d recommend this to just about anyone out there.




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Old Wave