Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Stuff I Watched 6/14/17

More stuff I watched...

I've watched a bunch of Rifftrax movies lately.  Why Rifftrax and not MST3K on Netflix?  As a practical matter, these are on Amazon Prime for only a limited time whereas a Netflix series will be on Netflix forever.  Also there's the nostalgia value as you have original MST3K Tom Servo Kevin Murphy and Mike Nelson who was a writer on the original MST3K before becoming the human on the ship and replacement Crow T Robot Bill Corbett.  So you have people who have been doing this for over 25 years.  Plus to be honest the intros and intermissions on MST3K are usually lame so not having those means you can have the full movie without interruptions.

Hillbillys in a Haunted House:  This cheesy "horror" movie features three "hillbillys" who are really two country singers and their goofy business manager.  After they run across a gunfight on their way to Nashville they decide to spend the night in an abandoned house.  (Because if there's no motel handy just break into a house.)  Little do they realize the house is occupied by a middle-aged Chinese woman, a cheap gorilla suit, and three horror legends in Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, and Lon Cheney Jr.  The bad guys have some kind of plan to steal some formula for some reason.  Let's not dig too deep into this.  It's one of those that barely needs Rifftrax to be hilariously bad. (1/5) (Fun Fact:  The spelling of Hillbillies is what's on the movie poster and such on IMDB.)

Fever Lake:  This was a "horror" movie lacking in horror or tension of any sort.  It features the moldy old stable of six college kids go up to the eponymous lake for a weekend.  This is the point where some masked killer or evil spirits would beset them but mostly they just hang out, getting up to nothing, until finally the thin excuse for a plot gets out of neutral and into first gear.  It's kind of funny this came out around the same time as Scream, making it even more pathetic by comparison.  Naturally it was a Rifftrax movie. (1/5)  (Fun Fact:  Scream starred big TV stars of the time Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox while this starred former child stars Cory Haim and Mario Lopez.  Just saying.)

Samurai Cop:  In this early 90s cheesefest, a buff guy with Fabio hair and his black partner who's not too old for this shit take on some kind of Asian Mafia.  The Fabio hair guy is called "Samurai Cop" though he doesn't do anything to make you think of a samurai until a brief sword fight at the end and he's not Asian either.  A lot of mumbling dialog, terrible fight choreography, and nonsensical plot turns.  Do I even need to say this was a Rifftrax movie?  Yeah.  (Fun Fact:  25 years later someone made a sequel to this.  Why?  It's probably destined to be on Rifftrax too.)

The Boy In the Plastic Bubble:  This is the movie that launched John Travolta's career...or not.  As indicated by the title, he's a teenage boy who lives in more of a plastic-wrapped roomed than an actual bubble.  The girl next door is goaded into inviting him to her 4th of July party and then on a whole $2 dare talks to him and holds his hand. ($2 was a lot of money in 1975, right?)  But eventually she starts to come around and treat him like a human being.  He finally gets a sort of spacesuit so he can go to school with the girl.  It's pretty corny, though probably better than Battlefield Earth.  Yes this was another Rifftrax movie too. (2/5) (Fun Fact:  Travolta's father in the movie is Mr. Brady from The Brady Bunch.

Yambao:  In 1850s Cuba the eponymous girl is a "witch" who makes the master of a sugar plantation fall in love with her, ostensibly to kill him for revenge for something that happened to her grandma, who lives in a cave.  There's a lot of lame chanting and singing and weird rituals.  And really when the master of the plantation is sick, why don't the slaves give him a little push?  There's apparently no overseer except another slave, so it would seem pretty easy to rebel at that point. (1/5)

Zindy the Swamp Boy:  You might think this is a monster movie but really it's about a boy and his grandpa who live in the Everglades because the grandpa killed someone or something.  Then the grandpa suffocates in quicksand and the boy is alone with his pet chimpanzee and tarantula, both creatures that are totally native of the swamps, right?  Yeah, not really. (1/5)

Guy From Harlem:  This is a blaxploitation movie from the early 70s that would have been better with editing, multiple takes, and better actors.  The first part of the story has a detective from Harlem (who works in Miami now) protect an "African" princess who speaks with an American accent, which he does by screwing her in a friend's apartment.  This really has nothing to do with the rest of the movie, where he has to rescue some reverend's daughter from...bad people who took her for...reasons. (1/5)

Manos the Hands of Fate:  This was previously on MST3K (I own a copy) but in a live version the Rifftrax crew did their take on it.  I'm not sure how many of the jokes were the same, but maybe some.  Anyway, this horrendous movie is about a couple who get lost in Texas and end up at a weird house run by an even weirder guy named Torgo who in the back of the house has his "master" waiting on a slab with his "wives" chained to pillars around him.  Instead of just leaving the creepy house, the idiots stick around and get taken captive.  The plot makes little sense.  I guess the star wrote, directed, produced, and financed it, though it ended up having a lot in common with his previous line of work in selling fertilizer. (1/5)

The Hideous Sun Demon:  In one of the most boring "horror" movies ever made a guy gets exposed to radiation and when the sun shines on him he turns into a lizard creature.  Half the movie is just the guy driving up and down the southern California coast at night and hanging out with some female lounge singer.  Honestly, I fell asleep for the end of it. (1/5)

Cat-Women From the Moon:  In this lame 50s sci-fi movie a crew takes a rocket to the moon and find "cat women" there.  The women don't have whiskers or tails or anything so they're really not all that cat-like.  The climax isn't even shown on screen; one of the astronauts just basically yells to the other, "Hey, we killed them."  The End.  A hilarious thing noted by the Rifftrax team was when the crew buckles up on the rocket they're sitting on wheeled office chairs.  So unless those have magnets aren't they going to go rolling all over the ship?  Duh. (1/5)  (Fun Fact:  This featured guest Riffers Bridget Nelson and Mary Jo Piehl who I think were both on MST3K at one point or another.  Maybe with a movie about women they wanted a woman's perspective?)

Jack the Giant Killer:  This 60s movie is like a forerunner to Clash of the Titans with its heroes, wizards, and terrible claymation.  An evil wizard tries to abduct a princess but a villager named Jack inadvertently kills the giant and then like Star Wars Episode II he and the princess go off on a boat to hide and fall in love--at least until she's kidnapped and turned into a witch.  Oh and there's a leprechaun in a bottle.  You know, instead of a genie.  Makes as much sense as the rest of the movie.  Still probably better than that Bryan Singer version from about 2 years ago. (1/5)

Ghosthouse:  Like Hillbillys in a Haunted House, much of the plot revolves around idiots who decide to break into a vacated house when they stop for the night to rest.  In this case one of the idiots sets up a HAM radio in the attic and it somehow sends a spooky message that a dork in Boston tracks down with his Apple IIe computer to the house.  At this point all the people have to do is leave, but nah they'll just stick around and get killed by a little girl and her creepy clown doll.  Pro Tip:  Never buy your kid a creepy clown doll.  Also, don't break into abandoned houses and set up HAM radios.  Oh and if a really slow creep is chasing you through a graveyard, just keep running instead of slowly backing up and then locking yourself into a crypt.  Honestly this 80s horror movie features so many WTF moments even the Rifftrax team has their work cut out for them. (1/5)

Night of the Living Dead:  This was a live Halloween special featuring the original zombie movie.  At least the modern version of zombies.  This is a classic and yet it was pretty low budget so there's still plenty to mock. (3/5)

Laserblast:  This was actually an MST3K episode with two of the Rifftrax people, Kevin Murphy, and Mike Nelson.  This cheesy late 70s sci-fi movie is about a kid who finds an alien weapon.  When he tries it out it starts to take over his mind and make him kill people--or something.  It's pretty boring, focusing more on the kid's dull small town life than the alien weapon.  The claymation aliens were even cheesier than the monsters in Jack the Giant Killer that predated it by probably 15 years or more.  At one point the kid shoots a sign that says "Star Wars."  Ooh, take that!  Yeah, I'm sure George Lucas was real worried. (1/5) (Fun Fact:  Noted film critic Leonard Maltin gave this 2 1/2 stars; during the end credits Mike and the robots go through all the movies Maltin rating as high or or lower than this, including movies like Unforgiven and My Dinner With Andre.)

Space Mutiny:  This is another MST3K episode but it has all three of the Rifftrax people so except for the intermissions it's pretty much the same thing.  The movie is an extremely cheesy 80s sci-fi movie about a ship that is a refuge for people from an overpopulated Earth.  Some of the people on board want to take over and go to another system.  Or I think that's what it's about; it's hard to tell with the actual lame movie.  The bridge uses computers that look like Commodore 64s and Tandys--and the graphics on the monitors are equal to that.  The engine room where a lot of the "action" takes place looks like one of those old factories in Detroit and inside people drive around things that look like bumper cars.  The space battles literally use footage from Battlestar Galactica--the 70s version of course.  There are literally no redeeming qualities. (1/5)

Future War:  A would-be nun, a human slave from another planet, and a couple of chubby guys do battle with dinosaur puppets and one guy who looks like he's part of KISS Army and a couple more who look like lame Borg cosplayers.  The plot is supposed to be kinda like Planet of the Apes in that humans are enslaved by dinosaurs on another planet.  One guy escapes and dinosaurs and weirdos pursue him to Earth where really cheesy mayhem ensues.  You'd think even in the late 80s they could do a little better with the dinosaur puppets; Jim Henson would be rolling in his grave.  Also, this doesn't take place in the future and there's not really a war, so the title makes no sense. (1/5)

Time Chasers:  There have been a lot of time travel movies with lots of different modes of travel, but probably none as stupid as a Cessna using a Commodore computer with 5 1/4" disks.  And this was filmed in 1991!  Even by 1991 standards that tech was horribly outdated.  How the hell do you manage time travel with that?  Anyway, a dorky college professor with a mullet uses his stupid time machine to impress a local reporter and then sells it to a big corporation whose CEO has his office at the top of a stairwell and then the CEO somehow destroys the future--maybe he suggested Trump run for president.  Anyway, some really stupid, cheesy mayhem ensues in Vermont.  Bet Einstein wishes he'd thought of using a Commodore on a crummy prop plane to achieve time travel. (1/5)

OK, I watched other stuff too.

Keeping Up With the Joneses:  In a suburban cul-du-sac, a new couple (Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot) moves in.  They start to make friends with another couple, Zach Galifinakis and Isla Fisher.  The former is an HR guy at a defense firm and soon it becomes apparent that the new couple are very interested in his work.  Eventually it comes out the new couple are spies and they reluctantly have to recruit their neighbors to help find an arms dealer played by Patton Oswalt.  There were some pretty fun parts; it was like a less serious, more tongue-in-cheek True Lies and Mr. & Mrs. Smith.  (3/5)

Sleepless:  This is like a combination of The Departed and Taken, though much worse than either.  Jamie Foxx is a supposedly bad cop who with his partner rip off a drug deal.  The drug dealer then kidnaps Foxx's son and he has to run around a fictitious Las Vegas casino called the "Luxus" trying to get the drugs back from two IA cops, the one played by the sheriff in Stranger Things you just know from the start is dirty, and rescue his son.  And then it turns out he's not really a dirty cop, he's just been undercover all this time like Leo DiCaprio in The Departed, which at least helps it make sense why the hell I'd want to root for a dirty cop even if his kid was kidnapped.  Overall a pretty blah action movie that probably should have gone straight to Redbox.  (2/5) (Fun Fact:  Jamie Foxx won an Oscar.  Remember that?)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows:  The first Michael Bay-produced Turtles movie was surprisingly competent and watchable.  Sadly the sequel decided to turn the campiness up to 11 and break off the knob.  They also try to jam in the entire Turtles mythos into the film by adding Baxter Stockman, Krang, Beepop, and Rocksteady to the mix.  The latter three are so painfully cheesy while the former is like an evil Neil deGraase Tyson.  Arrow star Stephen Amell is also included as Casey Jones, whose main accomplishment is terrorizing the Allstate Mayhem guy and hitting some Foot Clan goons with hockey pucks.  The Turtles are still OK, but the plot is just too bananas and the surrounding cast too lame to give them any help.  If you're under 12 it's probably still watchable, but otherwise it's pretty corny. (2/5) (Fun Fact:  It would have seemed obvious to have a cookie scene where Baxter Stockman turns into a fly creature, but nah.  Then again why bother since the movie flopped and is unlikely to have a sequel?)

Dog Eat Dog:  Three lowlife criminals take a job to kidnap a baby but inadvertently kill the guy they were supposed to get a ransom from.  And it just keeps unraveling from there.  BTW, this isn't a comedy.  It's more sad that they roped in Nic Cage and Willem Dafoe, who used to be respected actors and director Paul Schrader who once upon a time wrote Taxi Driver. (1/5)

The Samaritan:  Sam Jackson gets out of prison for murdering his former grifting partner but as he tries to stay out of trouble, the dead partner's kid tries to rope Sam Jackson into a new grift.  Meanwhile he saves a girl from being raped but it all takes a creepy Oldboy turn when he finds out that she's his daughter.  It was an otherwise serviceable thriller, but why'd they have to go and make it weird? (2/5)

Blood in the Water:  I thought from the title this was a shark movie or something but actually it's like a Bret Easton Ellis book.  A young couple is housesitting in the Hollywood Hills when a drug dealer they used to hang out with pays them a visit.  And then mayhem ensues, albeit very slowly.  I didn't really follow it all that much.  At the end it goes into The Usual Suspects, trying to make you think the couple were unreliable narrators to the guy they were telling their story to. (2/5) (Fun Fact:  The female half of the couple is played by Willa Holland of Arrow, who probably could have used her bow and martial arts training in this.)

War Machine:  Brad Pitt, looking like Hannibal from the A-Team, is the latest general to take over in Afghanistan in 2009.  After having some success in Iraq, he figures he can bring Afghanistan under his control.  But of course it doesn't work.  He's pretty out of touch with the Afghan theater, trying to win the hearts and minds of people who are far more concerned about the Taliban coming back than they are about the Americans.  And the Afghan leader (played by Sir Ben Kingsley) is far more concerned about enjoying the fruits of the Western world--like DVDs--than trying to unite his people.  When the general tries to go on the offensive, it fails miserably and he gets fired only for the next swaggering general (uncredited Russell Crowe) to stomp in and fail.  Pitt's tough guy voice is kind of annoying after about 2 hours, but otherwise it's a decent movie to remind you why Trump isn't going to do any better than Obama or W.  Honestly we went through Vietnam and we still seem to have no clue what we're doing.  Those who don't learn from history and all that. (3/5)

War on Everyone:  This is basically like Lethal Weapon if the two cops were super-duper corrupt and it took place in Albuquerque instead of LA.  It's a buddy cop action-comedy where Michael Pena (Ant-Man) and Alexander Skarsgaard (Legend of Tarzan) are partners who rampage around hitting a mime with their car, driving drunk, ripping off drug dealers, and beating up lots of people.  They take on an English lord who's running drugs (or something) to steal $800,000 from him and avenge a boy who was forced into doing some gross stuff.  For the most part it's a fun ride that parodies the buddy cop genre. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  Paul Reiser is almost unrecognizable as their lieutenant.  Makes me feel old to see how old he is now.)

Betting on Zero:  Typically we think of Wall Street people as greedy assholes, but in this one case there was someone trying to do good--and make money.  A hedge fund manager with deep pockets decided to "short" a company, which means to bet on the company failing.  The company?  Herbalife.  Maybe you've heard of them?  They're a company that recruits people to sell nutritional supplements.  The company is widely believed to be a pyramid scheme because it mostly relies on recruiting other people to make money rather than through actual sales.  The Wall Street guy promised that if Herbalife went out of business, the money he made from the "short" would go to charity.  The problem is of course Herbalife when they found out about this started fighting it tooth and nail.  The documentary provides a lot of info on Herbalife with some shocking facts, like they basically lose 80% of their workers per year.  Latino communities have been the hardest hit as the poor people there get suckered into thinking Herbalife will make them rich, but about 75% of their reps will make less than $1000 a year.  The "clubs" Herbalife started having its members create were pretty ludicrous:  the owners couldn't advertise or sell directly to people; they were only supposed to sign people up for memberships.  Needless to say a lot of the clubs failed; one guy in Oklahoma managed to turn his into a vapor lounge in order to recoup his money.  The problem with this film is that there's no resolution.  Herbalife was investigated by the FTC but only got a slap on the wrist.  Herbalife also settled a class action suit where the recipients got a measly $10 apiece.  At this point Herbalife stock is still at $69/share, so it's pretty far from $0.  I'd love all these pyramid schemes to get put out of business, but it ain't going to happen.  (3/5)  (Fun Fact:  Carl Ichan, a billionaire backer of Herbalife is an advisor to Trump, so I wouldn't expect Herbalife to go under anytime soon.)

Arlington Road:  This movie from about 2000 concerns terrorism--domestic terrorism.  Jeff Bridges is a widower whose FBI agent wife died in a Ruby Ridge-type event.  Since then he's started teaching a class on domestic terrorists at George Washington University in the DC area.  Then one day he sees a kid walking down his street, bleeding from a fireworks injury though it's March.  He finds out the kid actually lives next door with Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack.  Soon he starts to worry that his neighbors might be plotting a terrorist attack.  The movie isn't all that subtle about this either so you really never doubt that these seemingly normal people are terrorists.  But there is a good twist at the end that helps to redeem the movie. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  Hey remember when those Oklahoma City bombers blew up that building and we didn't go to war, strip personal liberties, or try to enact "travel bans?"  Maybe because they were white Christians?  Hurm...)

In Like Flint:  This is a campy, anti-feminist secret agent-type spoof.  I was expecting something funny like Austin Powers but instead it was just lame and sad like Goldmember.  James Coburn is Derek Flint, a guy who knows how to talk to dolphins...and ladies.  He has to thwart a plot by a group of scantily-clad women to replace the president and take over the world.  The moral of the story was that women would always be outsmarted by men and are really good for nothing but using their feminine wiles to distract horny guys.  It's probably Mike Pence's favorite movie.  This really should be on Rifftrax. (1/5) (Fun Fact:  Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl in the campy Batman TV show, plays a Russian ballerina/spy.)

Deja Vu:  Denzel Washington is an ATF agent in New Orleans tasked with solving a ferry bombing.  He gets some help from Val Kilmer, Adam Goldberg, and a time machine.  The time machine only lets them see back about 100 hours and once a moment is past, they can't go back to it.  Denzel sees a woman in the past who washed up on shore and starts to fall in love with her in the past, enough that he goes back to try to save her.  As far as time travel movies it reminds me of a show on UPN about 20 years ago called 7 Days where they could only send the guy back in time a week and he had to try to stop whatever.  But obviously this has a lot better effects and actors. (3/5) (Fun Fact:  This was one of Tony Scott's last pictures before he died.)

Trust Me:  Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson from the Marvel Cinematic Universe) wrote, produced, directed, and stars in this as a former child star turned low-rent agent.  When he finally gets a decent client, a 14-year-old girl up for a Twilight-ish role, he sees it as his chance to finally get out of the shadow of bigger agents like the one played by Sam Rockwell.  Then he starts to think the girl's father (Paul Sparks, lately of House of Cards) is abusing her.  The father claims it was the girl's former manager, but when the girl threatens to testify against him in court, he slinks away to let her be emancipated.  But all is not as it seems.  I thought this would be more of a comedy, but it really takes some dark turns in the end there.  Still, it was pretty decent. (3/5)  (Fun Fact:  Besides this movie, Gregg and Rockwell have also appeared together on Iron Man 2 and Choke, another movie Gregg wrote and directed--and you thought he was just that dorky SHIELD guy, right?)

Watching the Detectives:  A video store owner with a thing for noir movies (Cillian Murphy of Batman Begins/Inception) meets a quirky woman (Lucy Liu of Charlie's Angels) and she leads him into vandalizing a rival video store, swimming in a stranger's pool, and unwittingly robbing the casino where she works.  At first he thinks it's great, then he gets fed up, and then he decides to go with her and terrorize the rest of the country.  It's a quirky, frothy romantic comedy. (2.5/5) (Fun Fact:  The Elvis Costello song used for the title is never used in the film.)

2 comments:

  1. I admire you're ability to watch all those B movies.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You lost me at Cory Haim and Mario Lopez. You surprised me about Clark Gregg, but when I think of him doing anything I'm surprised. Like when I see him on "The New Adventures of Old Christine".

    Arlington Road is one of the most underrated movies of all time simply because of the twist ending. You're right that it's not a classic but a great twist.

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