Archive for the 'Fantasy' Category

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?

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.

30
Nov
13

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983)

SomethingWickedPosterI can’t help but think Something Wicked This Way Comes would have been more appealing to me if folks would have kept their dirty mitts off of Ray Bradbury’s original screenplay. Unfortunately, they didn’t, and in a move to make the film more “family-friendly” probably removed all of its truly terrifying teeth.

I might as well just say, right off the bat, I didn’t really care for this. I wasn’t going to even write a post about it. But skipping flicks is a slippery slope, and seeing as how I’m about fifteen movies behind right now, I know if I skipped this one, I’d skip three, four, ten? So, forgive me if this isn’t the most interesting, insightful or, errrrr, worthwhile post you’ve ever read.

Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade are the best of friends (well, supposedly, but personally I think Nightshade’s kind of a jerky brat) and they’re super pumped when they find out a carnival is coming to town. Unfortunately for them, and for all of Greentown, IL, Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival isn’t your average circus. While Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce) and his cohorts’ offers are pretty tempting, they are, of course, too good to be true. Seems Mr. Dark and the Dust Witch (Pam Grier) will grant your wish allright, but at the cost of your soul.

There are some spooky moments, but I just couldn’t get into this one. I was pretty bored to start, and I gotta say the score was pretty irritating. All the men I’ve talked to who were kids when this came out seem to love this movie. I must conclude that this is a movie for young boys!

29
Oct
13

Xanadu (1980)

Believe it or not, I hadn’t seen Xanadu until very, very recently. Call me crazy, but a roller-skating musical staring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly wasn’t actually too high up on my list of stuff to watch. What’s amazing is that I made it through my entire childhood without seeing it. Maybe it’s because my parents hated Mary Poppins so much, they knew to stay away from this one?

They're alive.

They’re alive.

Anyway, ONJ plays a muse. She and her sisters are brought to life from graffiti in an alleyway and she stumbles into a love affair with the guy that stars in The Warriors. He’s a compromised artist who is tired of painting someone else’s vision. ONJ convinces him to start a roller-rink with Gene Kelly, a guy he just met like, yesterday, and everything is awesome, except she has to get back home because Zeus isn’t the most understanding father.

Everyone twinkles.

Everyone twinkles.

I thought there’d be more sparkles; Xanadu offers more of a twinkle-factor. I wanted more ELO. I firmly believe All Over the World is one of the greatest songs ever composed. Xanadu just isn’t as good as the song had me hope! I can only imagine my thoughts would be different if I’d seen this when I was a kid.

06
Oct
13

No Such Thing (2001)

The lone survivor of a terrible plane crash: lucky us!

The lone survivor of a terrible plane crash: lucky us!

I don’t know what it is, but I absolutely cannot stand Sarah Polley. So, No Such Thing really didn’t have a prayer in my book. Things got worse when the movie actually started…

Polley plays Beatrice, a quirky little gal who works for a news channel. Her boss (Helen Mirren) is ruthless, and wants nothing but bad news to feed her viewers 24/7, even if it means having to create it herself. A few months back, she sent a few unfortunate souls to Iceland in search of a mythological beast. They never returned, but the station did receive a video that may have confirmed that the beast actually exists.

Beatrice in all her meekness declares that she must be the one to go to Iceland in search of the missing crew; her fiance was one of those who’s gone missing, after all. Doesn’t she deserve the chance to find out what happened to him?

Poor old monster just wants to die.

Poor old monster just wants to die.

On the way there, her plane crashes, and she is, irritatingly, the only survivor. She has to go through some majorly intense and painful surgery in hopes of gaining feeling and motion back, and she does so with grace and strength. When she is fully recovered, she continues on to search for the monster.

The locals liquor her up and bring her right to the monster’s front door, but only to try and offer her up as a sacrifice. Unfortunately for us, the monster, who is loaded with self-loathing and anger at his immortality, takes a shine to Beatrice. She makes it her purpose in life to help the monster find the one man who can put an end to his existence. The only way Beatrice knows how to do this is to go through her place of work, and of course her boss is going to squeeze every bit of revenue out of the monster’s pain and suffering.

Not sure how Julie Christie ended up in this movie...

Not sure how Julie Christie ended up in this movie…

There are many aspects about this film that irritated me to no end, the first of which is just the fact that Sarah Polley is in it at all. It doesn’t help that her character is part meek little girl, part strong woman, rolled up into an awkward package that I just wanted the monster to gobble up. Her bright-eyed innocence drives me absolutely insane! Then there’s the monster, who is supposed to be “edgy” or something, but also just ended up being irritating. A little tiny part of me did feel sorry for him, but for the most part, this movie made me feel nothing but confusion. I’m not sure really what it was trying to tell us: that monsters are meaningless unless they scare us? That they can only scare us if we allow them to? That when we stop believing in them, they cease to exist?

Don’t know, don’t care, hated it.

 

19
Sep
13

Faust (1994)

So you get stuff like this weird claymation baby... that's cool, right?

So you get stuff like this weird claymation baby… that’s cool, right?

Writing this movie blog has really exposed my literary shortcomings. Imagine, a grown woman who’s never read Faust! The closest I’ve come is Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, which I understand draws heavily from Goethe’s Faust (and is amazing, in case you’ve never read it – go out and get a copy right now). Even so, I’ve never read the actual Faust, but I must have seen a bazillion film adaptations of the thing. And, out of all of those adaptations, Jan Švankmajer’s has to be the most entertaining, creative, and hilarious of them all.

The story starts off with a rather miserable-

Our hero,  but who's pulling the strings?

Our hero, but who’s pulling the strings?

looking fellow is on his way home from work. A man on the street shoves a map into his hands. Uninterested, our hero crumples it up and throws it out, but the thing mysteriously appears again in his apartment. Naturally, the man is curious, and so follows the map to a warehouse where, suddenly, the man is put on stage and is unexpectedly cast as Faust. Whether he likes it or not, he’s about to make a deal with the devil.

Here’s where watching films with an English faustfinalpuppetPhD Candidate is helpful: the film flips between different literary versions of Faust, at times quoting directly from Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Goethe’s Faust among other versions – obviously subtleties that were lost on me. This did not affect my overall enjoyment of the film, however. It’s so visually exciting, almost everything else is secondary.

For the Švankmajer-uninitiated, let me explain: Švankmajer’s a stop-motion animation genius, so we aren’t just watching actors at work, we’re watching his art, too. And his art is so gloriously weird! Personally, I think this is a great way to watch a classic story unfold: with ultimate weirdness and coolness.

01
Sep
13

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)

Fifteen years after the Tall Man stole the bodies of Mike and Jody’s loved ones in Phantasm, cars are still exploding, glass is still busting, balls are still flying and Reggie is still horny in Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead; my favorite of the Phantasm franchise!

The Tall Man has got his eyes on you.

The Tall Man has got his eyes on you.

Like your typical horror-movie villain, the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) seems virtually immortal. If you kill him in one dimension, he’ll just come back emerging from another! We aren’t sure what he really wants from Mike, but he is always hot on Mike’s trail, and Reggie, the faithful friend that he is, isn’t about to leave Mike alone in the dust. After the Tall Man returns and draws Mike into another world, a silver ball that holds Jody’s consciousness directs Reggie on a journey through many ghost towns; it seems the Tall Man and his dwarves have been busy! The whole country is slowly being swallowed up by a seeming apocalypse, but Reggie and Mike know the score, and Mike’s about to learn a hell of a lot more than he ever wanted to about the Tall Man’s mission.

I don't think this is what Reg had in mind when he thought about the women being on top...

I don’t think this is what Reg had in mind when he thought about the women being on top…

Phantasm III has enough flying silver balls to keep anyone happy for 91 minutes. And what a glorious 91 minutes it is! I think all the Phantasm movies, to a certain extent, have a good sense of humor about them, but Lord of the Dead seems to embrace it more than the rest. Poor Reggie’s inability to get laid is a constant source of amusement for the audience, and his incorrigibility is always getting the group into trouble!

GET THIS BALL OFF MY FACE!

GET THIS BALL OFF MY FACE!

But maybe the most exciting part about Phantasm III is that we start to get some real answers about the Tall Man and his minions; about what he wants and how he gets it, and about what makes all those silver balls tick! Still no explanation on how all those cars explode so easily, though.

25
Aug
13

Strangers in Paradise (1984)

Hitler demands Sage's aide in controlling the masses.

Hitler demands Sage’s aide in controlling the masses.

Several years ago during a last-minute purge before moving for the 3rd time in as many years, I threw out about 75 videocassettes. No discretion, all of them right in the trash. At the time, it felt wonderful; I wouldn’t have to haul these relics anywhere ever again! Looking back though, I definitely regret this decision. Who knows what treasures I trashed that day? The feeling stings all the more after watching Strangers in Paradise, a musical gem from the 1980’s that has neither dvd release nor Wikipedia entry.

The mastermind behind this opus is Ulli Lommel, a German dude who worked with both Andy Warhol and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. With credentials like that, I’m sure you can imagine this

The punk rockers are taking over the neighborhood!

The punk rockers are taking over the neighborhood!

thing is pretty batshit. Lommel stars as Jonathan Sage, a psychic-like guy who can not only read your thoughts, but control and change them. Knowing he could be used as a powerful tool used for mind control of the masses, none other than Adolf Hitler demands Sage work for him. Sage is disgusted by Hitler’s rule and backs out the only way he knows how: cryogenic freezing. Sage goes into the deep, cold sleep hoping the world in which he wakes will be enlightened, happy and free.

Unfortunately for Sage, he’s thawed out to a different kind of fascism: small-town America, where the plot of suburban parents to eradicate sexual deviance and punk rock from their

Sage's eyes will mesmerize...

Sage’s eyes will mesmerize…

children’s lives has thus far failed. The American parents are betting their last buck that Sage can use his mind control to save their children from radicalism and debauchery.

Sure, the plot is wacky, but the musical numbers are even wackier. They’re prevalent throughout the whole film and they are a sight to behold; I spent most of this movie staring wide-eyed at the screen in disbelief and excitement. I’ve never seen anything quite like this, and while I can’t exactly say it’s capital-‘G’ good, I can definitely say it’s worth your time! I’m really glad I watched it and I’ll happily watch it again.

03
Aug
13

Death Wish 3 (1985)

Watching Death Wish 3 today, it almost seems like it’s meant to be set in some impossible, Snake Plisskenesque New York City of the future; a city overrun with gangs, where thugs plunder and rape their way through the neighborhoods. Of course it is not, it is in fact set in the New York City of the 1980’s, where crime rates were through the roof and Bernie Goetz took the law into his own hands and shot a bunch of kids on the Subway.

Marina Sirtis as Maria, who tragically dies due to complications from... her broken arm.

Marina Sirtis as Maria, who tragically dies due to complications from… her broken arm.

The citizens of Death Wish 3‘s New York City are fed up. The cops can’t do anything to curb the violence; and good families like you and me can’t have dinner with the window open without wondering when a thug will jump in and steal our precious valuables. That is, of course, until Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) comes along. He rolls into the city just in time to find his good friend gasping for his last breath after suffering a merciless beating by thugs. The cops take Kersey in, and finally the Chief of Police gives him an ultimatum: help me clean up these streets, or take the fall for your friend’s death.

Kersey: proud to fight the hoodlums! Power to the people!

Kersey: proud to fight the hoodlums! Power to the people!

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Kersey, a well-known vigilante by the third installment of the Death Wish franchise, takes the cop’s offer, orders a gigantic gun and starts mowing down thugs left and right – all to the delight of the neighborhood’s “good” tenants.

Can't a man enjoy an ice cream without being robbed by "The Giggler"?

Can’t a man enjoy an ice cream without being robbed by “The Giggler”?

This is an unveiled advertisement for gun rights. It’s a film-version of Walker: Texas Ranger: the good guys can do no wrong, and the bad are so unbelievably, horribly, unforgivably bad we’re supposed to cheer when Kersey blows a hole right through their torsos. It’s a clumsy call to the citizens of New York to take their fates into their own hands, buy guns and clean house.

ROCKET LAUNCHER FACE!

ROCKET LAUNCHER FACE!

Needless to say, this movie left a pretty nasty taste in my mouth. In the age of “Stand your ground” laws gone wild and mass-shootings every three months or so, this kind of stuff turns me off. That being said, it’s so gloriously absurd I couldn’t help but enjoy myself while watching it. Its complete disregard for gray areas makes it absolutely hilarious to watch.

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.




Categories

Old Wave