Day: March 21, 2019

HANDS OF STEEL

by Dionisio Traverso Jr.

Weird, Italian made hybrid of The Terminator and Over The Top. A cyborg is programmed to assassinate a blind environmentalist, but at the last moment his programming breaks and he pulls his death punch, only wounding the old man. He goes on the run to Arizona, where he originally came from, and hides out at a no-tell motel owned by a young woman. The place turns out to be a mecca for arm wrestlers, with the pictures of the past and present champions hanging on the walls. Paco the Terminator runs afoul of the second place arm wrestler (George Eastman! He came from the east to…wait, that’s a different movie), and ends up a major contender for the championship! Meanwhile, he’s being pursued by the FBI and the evil industrialist (John Saxon!) who had programmed and sent him on the mission in the first place. Think that was weird to write? Just imagine watching it. So much cheesy craziness. I loved it. Catch it on Amazon Prime if you dare.

Blair Witch (2016)

by Adam M. Wilcox

In the 1995 film Mallrats, Ethan Suplee plays a character named William, an overweight person who spends most of his day at the mall staring at magic eye poster trying to see the image. The joke is that everyone in the film can see that there is a sailboat in the image, but William never sees it. The aggravation of it all drives him slowly insane. That is essentially The Blair Witch Project phenomenon for me. There are several of my good friends that maintains that this movie is piss your pant’s scary, however I never bought it. Not even once. Essentially I am William in Mallrats.

When I tell people that I hate The Blair Witch Project, I mean it. To this day I use it as a litmus test to judge how bad a movie is. See The Blair Witch Project is not a so bad its fun to watch movie. It is just bad. It is downright painful. In spite of the movie tripping on it’s own established facts, its single biggest sin, is that it showed so much potential, but instead is a proving ground about generating enough hype surrounding your film can make it actually seem good in the eyes a general audience. In 1999, it was all the talk as to just how real this horror film was supposed to be. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist. For two filmmakers in 1999 they pulled that off like gangbusters. The legendary viral marketing, and old fashioned word of mouth, is a significant land mark in pop culture. The film itself however, is divisive as to how good it really is. I decided to do some further research on this movie, because now I have unlimited access to internet, which was not readily available to me in 1999. I discovered that this year marks the 20th anniversary so I decided to watch the movie again, and give it the fairest review I can, that you are more than welcome to read on this website. I spent a great deal of time arguing with friends of mine last week about the points that didn’t work for me in the original film. One of the things that kept coming up outside of Wikipedia or any of the outside resources was this 2016 film that allegedly explains some of the ambiguity of the original source material. Out of respect for those people and they’re passion about this movie, I reluctantly decided to give this a go.

I actually enjoy some of the films in this genre that we now called “found footage”; I think it can be clever when done properly. My favorites would probably be some of the Paranormal Activity movies, Cloverfield, Troll Hunter, and the V/H/S series. It’s just another form of storytelling now. Back in 1999, it was not a genre, and The Blair Witch Project influenced enough film makers to pursue this genre to the point where it has become a rather saturated market that is now showing signs of stagnation among film goers. The point of the original Blair Witch Project was to present itself as a historic event, rather than just a simple movie. Twenty years later, unless you have been in a coma, everyone knows that it was mostly a publicity stunt designed for entertainment. So it seems rather curious to me now that we would do a sequel or soft reboot of the original now. It is kind of like trying to open a hamburger stand between a Burger King, and a McDonald’s. Sure there is a market there, but you better make sure you bring something extremely new to separate your brand from the others right?

Set in modern 2016, we are given the same opening credits where we are told this footage has been found, and all of these people went missing. So we know shenanigans will inevitably occur. We open up with James looking at YouTube footage that appears to be taken in the same house as found in the original movie. He pauses on an image that appears to be his sister, Heather who went missing from the original documentary. So this takes place in the universe where the assumption is that the movie was real, and that none of those people were ever found. And I am ok with this. James is a paramedic, so I guess he has a pretty disposable income, because now he enlists the aid of his friends Peter, Ashley, and Lisa who all have high tech cameras that are attached to a Blu-Tooth headphone. They also have a surveillance drone which appears to be a plot point, but we will get into that later. His contact is the YouTuber Darkwebb666 who happens to live just outside Burkettsville MD, the location of the woods where the original 3 people went missing. Once they meet, the film gets somewhat interesting, and the Darkweb aka Lane, and his girlfriend Talia insist on going into the woods with them to show where they found the film they used in the YouTube video.

As you can see, despite the twist of having some strangers join the crew at the last minute the set up here is pretty much identical to the first movie. Where it goes completely different though, is that THIS particular movie wastes no time telling you that there is a definite supernatural element. The original film left most of this ambiguous and open to interpretation. Where this one falls apart however is very early on. James is watching the ending of The Original Blair Witch project which SPOILERS reveals Mike standing in a corner just before the camera hits the ground. In THIS movie, even though he is supposed to be watching the same video, a loud supernatural howl is added, which you have to admit, feels kind of cheap. And that brings me to my next point. Every time the movie is trying to build tension, there is a loud audible hum that signals that something supernatural is about to occur. It’s almost an assault on my intelligence. The best scares are when you least expect it. This film goes a bit too out of its way to set them up. The other problem I have is that overuse of jump scares ruin this movie right off the opening credits. There are so many jump scares even in scenes where jump scares are not even necessary, and they are so frequent, that by the time they matter, you can see them coming a mile away. My third problem is that this movie is using conventional special affects to show you that there IS something supernatural going on, and that is where this movie goes way off the rails. In this universe the Blair Witch can manipulate time. Some of our gang wakes up late in the afternoon, thinking it is morning. Some wake up in the morning and there is no sunlight. At one point the two YouTubers separate from the group, and when we see them again, Lane has a beard and says it’s been weeks since he saw them the last time. I liked this idea actually. In fact this might be the only aspect I liked. However, there is another factor that is briefly introduced, but seems to go absolutely nowhere. Early in the film, these kids foolishly cross a stream BAREFOOT, and Ashley apparently scrapes her ankle. It slowly gets more infected and starts moving by it self. Eventually some creature is pulled out of her ankle. Thought they were going to pick up that part of the plot and go somewhere with it. Never happens. A lot of things never happen. The drone goes up enough just to show us, that the highway cannot be seen, and conveniently crashes. The drone is found later in a tree. When Ashley tries to climb the tree with an infected ankle, she falls out of the tree, and is apparently dragged away.

As you might expect, things go from bad to worse for these kids, until they finally wind up the mysterious house from the first film that literally appears out of nowhere. Once they get into the house there is an interesting sequence that takes place, but like many of the events in the film, not all of them pay off. They even show us The Blair Witch herself/itself, who may or may not be a witch at all. The house might even be a spaceship. Yes I typed that. Also, the movie tries to be clever by telling you that if you look at the witch or whatever it is, it will get you, so they use the view screen of Lane’s original camera to watch for the witch. Ultimately though, it ends pretty much the way you think it would.

This movie had a couple of good ideas that work, but when framed around the Blair Witch lore, it kind of just doesn’t work at all. The over use of sound cues, jump scares, and visuals diffuses the tension and removes the believability of it being found footage. I think the director tried here. He was obviously a fan of the original, and wanted to present his version of that movie, but it just comes off as a cynical reboot of a movie style that has long been lost in a sea of white noise. Ultimately I found that if you are fan of the original, you will most likely love this one too…I think it respects those fans. If you were not a film of the original, unfortunately this one will not win you over, or convince you the original was better than it is. Unfortunately I am biased, so take my score with a grain of salt. I give it 1 out of 5 cheese curds, 1 cheese curd for the awesome chase sequence at the end.

The Grim And Grimy Streets of Dayton, Ohio in 1988

Deadbeat At Dawn (1988), directed by Jim Van Bebber, reviewed by Dionisio “Don” Traverso Jr.

While everyone’s talking a cat named Goose in Captain Marvel, I’m going to talk about another Goose. He is the main character of Deadbeat At Dawn, played by the writer/director Jim Van Bebber. Goose is the leader of The Ravens, a gang on the mean streets of Dayton, Ohio. The Ravens are in a street war with The Spiders, led by a misogynist psycho named Danny, played with scenery chewing intensity by Paul Harper. Goose revels at being a badass, something his witchy, somewhat pagan girlfriend Christie, played by Megan Murphy, is unhappy with, wanting him to leave the gang before all her rituals stop keeping him safe.

After a rumble at a cemetery where he messed up Danny and a few of his Spiders, Goose has an argument with Christie, who threatens to leave him. Goose, deciding he loves her more than being a Kung Fu fighting, nunchuck twirling, knife throwing badass, quits The Ravens, leaving the gang under the leadership of Keith, his second-in-command, who promptly forms a partnership with The Spiders.

Goose then goes on one last drug deal to get some money to start his new life with his girl. Too bad Danny and his two Spider henchmen Stubby and Bonecrusher are having none of that. Stubby and Bonecrusher go out on Danny’s orders to find and kill Goose. Unfortunately, they find Christie instead.

An underground low-budget classic, this film is as grimy as it gets. Goose is only marginally more likable than his gang counterparts, and they are fucking awful, evil people. You feel sorry for him because Christie was his path to being a better person and having a better life, even though it’s apparent that he’s in too deep to ever take it. When he discovers Christie’s body, instead of calling the cops or taking her to a hospital or even just leaving her corpse in their apartment, he drops it in a trash compactor and pushes the button. We follow him down his drug and alcohol fueled spiral, as he reunites with his Vietnam vet junkie dad (played hilariously by Charlie Goetz), leaves him when Dad has a heroin-driven PTSD freakout, gets drunk and high, beats up homeless people for booze, and contemplates suicide. Then Keith reappears with a proposition: Goose helps the united Ravens and Spiders in an armored car robbery. Of course, you know, there must be bloody vengeance.

Meanwhile, Danny manhandles his pregnant girlfriend and Bonecrusher (portrayed manically by Marc Pittman), while in a drug haze, reminisces about how Christie’s intestines looked like snakes that he had to help out of her belly. Yep, Dayton, Ohio was a sick, ugly town in the late ‘80s. At least, that’s how Van Bebber envisioned it for this twisted feature.

For a movie that was reportedly made for $10,000 and took four years to finish, it looks pretty good. The acting is all over the place, but not distractingly so, and the straightforward plot holds the interest through the bloody denouement, with Van Bebber displaying martial arts chops as good as David Carradine (maybe better).

A grimy and grim underground masterpiece.

5 out of 5 cheese curds. See it.

I Am Batman!

by Adam M. Wilcox

Seems like every day I wake up now, there are some new phoney rumors about Batman. After the recent departure of Ben Affleck as Batman, every day it is who is Batman? What will be the new Batman? Who will direct the new Batman? Batman Batman Batman. The real question is who freaking cares?

Affleck’s departure was somber, and I don’t want to kick a guy when he was down. He had problems, and needed to take care of those, but to be honest, I was never too crazy about Batfleck to begin with. I mean the internet roasted his announcement as the caped crusader, and rather than give him his own movie, the ding bats at Warner Bros decided to make one superhero film into a franchise. It is the cinematic equivalent of trying to mail an elephant in one business envelope. It is also the most boring thing I have ever seen. I mean boring. Batman fighting Superman should have NEVER been even associated with the word boring. Yet I swear, it took me 3 attempts to watch, because I literally kept passing out half way through the damn thing. It is an absolute slog to get through. A lot was riding on this movie, and Warner Brothers were just certain that there was no way this movie could fail. So they also decided to set up a high school year book’s worth of characters that we are supposed to somehow care about, even if they show up as a .gif file on Wonder Woman’s computer.

Ben probably should have got his own movie, but many comic bookians will still white knight the dark knight anyways. Some even think he was the best Batman ever. I disagree. For one, I hated his costume. Seriously HATED that costume. It looked like somebody stole Adam West’s TV costume and sprayed it with about 300 lbs of magic shell ice cream topping. The voice, made sense, the Batcave was kind of cool, but yeah Batfleck just didn’t impress me much. I DID however like Alfred played by Jeremy Irons, but he was probably wondering what happened to his career by winding up in a boring comic book movie, where the best we will get from Irons is feeding exposition to Batfleck. But enough of about that farse of a movie. Let’s talk about how we got to this point.

Batman was a famous Detective Comics strip written by Bob Kane. I don’t collect a lot of comics, but I did have sort of a Best of Batman book, and those earlier comics were pretty great to say the least. There was a black and white set of serials. There was the famous, or infamous TV series from the 60s starting Adam West, and Burt Ward, depending how you look at it. Then there was Tim Burton. When Tim Burton was still making cool edgy movies, he took on a famous franchise and made it in his dark and sinister style with just a dash of tongue in cheek humor that worked well enough. Michael Keaton proved us all idiots by showing us that Mr. Mom could look cool wearing a cape and cowl. Then you had Jack Nicholson being Jack Nicholson, while doing one of the best cosplay performances you will ever see. Then there was Batman Returns, which while I liked it at the time…well let’s just say it’s pretty fucking weird.

After they through Tim Burton out of the lot for not selling enough toys, Joel Schumacher literally turned the Batman franchise into the ice capades, and super hero movies were doomed to rot in hell for what seemed like an eternity. For nerds, just a few years shy of ten may as well be a millenia. Then Christopher Nolan showed up, and took a stab at the franchise, by rebooting it as a cerebral thriller that could realize all of the characters as gritty and realistic as possible. Say what you want, dude saved the franchise, and Christian Bale has been the only Batman that managed to star in more than two movies. (Batfleck in Suicide Squad doesn’t count, GTFO with that trash.

Then Zack Snyder, who most of us thought would be amazing, because deep down everyone loves The Watchman even if you publicly shit on it, because it WAS pretty faithful to the comics. What could go wrong? Man of Steel? Hey it had it’s moments, even if the third act gives me a headache. And then Batman V Superman. Warner Bros chose that title because it was cheaper than writing VERSUS or VS on a damn movie poster. Then they gave Snyder the unthinkable task of setting up an entire universe worth of shit in one two and a half hour movie. Oh and Batfleck? He somehow has to have another origin story….again. If you don’t know the origin story of Batman by now, please close this window, and leave this site.

It says it won’t show me The Joker’s Facebook page until I install Flash Player. Holy fucking windows 10 Batman!

Now, I have not been able to force myself to watch the director’s cut, because I just don’t hate myself enough. There are not enough drugs on the planet that could make me sit through that travisty again. Warner Bros tinkering and dickering would continue with Justice League, which SHOULD have had the same impact as The Avengers, but it was another hack job. Different directors due to the sad departure of Zack Snyder, and something about a CG mouth that makes Henry Cavil look more like an episode of Clutch Cargo, than the man of steel. Seriously, why didn’t they just let him keep the damn mustache? Would anyone have complained that much?

I get into these arguments among the nerd circles I frequent quite often. My complaint, is that they make Batman silly, then make him Dark, then silly again, then gritty and realistic. Why would you try to steer away from the Nolan classics, by having Batfleck fight winged demons, and trollish abominations? Every fight seen looks like a Megadeth video. It hurts my eyes, and it kills my spirits. So what do we want to do? Reboot this again? Seriously? Yes Matt Miller, who I genuinely like, because he did an incredible job making three wonderful Planet of the Apes movies that don’t suck. But just please don’t give me another Batman origin again? Please?

This is how Ben Affleck’s costume for BvS was made.

So that brings us to where we are today. Who will play the damn Batman. Every site I read, every day. I see a name, a face, and a cowl lined up next to it. I know this is the shill media fishing for a face. None of them excite me. Seriously, they just don’t! Batman has been played by more people than the entire James Bond Franchise in less movie. My Batman is Bale, because that was the one damn Batman that I believed in! Oh and yes, I believed in Harvey Dent Too! Dammit!

“Yes, can I get the deluxe, with large fries, large drink, and get the kid here a happy meal? “

You want to know MY BATMAN MOVIE? Simple. It is a comedy. Written by me, and directed by famous Shillionaire, Kevin Smith. And even though Smith is the Lord of the Shills, especially with DC, I still respect the guy, and he’s about my age, and get’s humor from the 90s. My Batman movie is a comedy that takes place in a convention center. It is a big Batman celebration where anyone who has ever played Batman in a TV show, or a movie that is still alive has been paid tons of money to show up at this convention. The thing is, all these actors have played different versions of the damn Batman in different times, and different eras. Some are gritty and dark, some are dark humor, some are campy and cartoonish. All of these dudes hate each other, and throw shade at each other constantly because each one of these idiots thinks they are THE BATMAN, and anyone before or after their performance is inferior. Then something bad happens, and the convention is taken over by terrorists. All of these idiots trapped in the waiting room have to decide if they want to continue arguing about costumes and motivations, or somehow work together and use they’re not so bat skills to get out of this situation alive. Sounds kind of like Galaxy Quest, but honestly, I feel what Batman needs right now, is a long break, or at the very least a joke about how ridiculous this franchise has become at this point. Mat Miller wants to call his movie THE Batman, but I am naming my bat comedy:

“I AM BATMAN!

Kentucky Fried Movie

by Adam M. Wilcox

“The popcorn your eating has been pissed in. Film at 11.”

When you open up with a line like that, you can sit back in your seat stare at your popcorn funny, and KNOW you are in for a treat!

Kentucky Fried Movie poster 1977, DFM Films.

Do you want to laugh? Hard? I mean REALLY laugh?! If so you might want to take your shoes off and get ready to roll around in the mud for a while because this movie is as dirty as junior’s socks at 4pm on summer’s day. You might want to close your blinds, and check your inhibitions at the door. Do race jokes offend you? Does nudity offend you? Does racist sex jokes about nudity offend you? Might want to check all that stuff at the door too. Kentucky Fried Movie has not aged well at all, and that is in fact part of it’s charm. It has a strange title, but I assure you that Colonel Sanders, and KFC have zero to do with this movie.

It is hard to believe that there was a time where if anything was funny enough, it went in the script. The most recent thing that comes to mind is Family Guy which is always in hot water over something. Kentucky Fried movie is a series of sketches. The way it shows on the screen is basically the equivalent of being stoned, sick, or just too freaking lazy to change the channel on a Sunday afternoon. The sketches make fun of TV, News, Movies, Commercials, anything. Think of a more American version of Monty Python’s And Now For Something Completely Different. In other words, it is a comedy anthology film. There is not really any overall plot or narrative, or really anything that links any of these sketches together. Just a very cynical, and hilariously insane parody of having your TV stuck on one channel all day.

Jokes are always best when played straight by non comedians.

And that is what makes comedy work. When you take something, and exaggerate the hell out of it. This lost classic was written by David Zucker, Jerry Zucker, and Jim Abrahams, the same comedic geniuses behind Airplane! (IMO the funniest movie ever made), The Naked Gun, Police Squad, and Top Secret!, and directed by Jon Landis, the famous director of The Blues Brothers, Animal House, and An American Werewolf In London. This movie is filmed on the budget of one high school field trip. Various cameras were used. Many different actors. There are some surprise actor cameos in the mix, but I don’t want to spoil all of the fun. Just know that this movie makes fun of anyone and anything you might have heard of. Nothing is sacred here, and nothing is hidden. You want boobs? There are more boobs here than most slasher horror movies. All played for laughs, but totally worth it.

Raise your hand if you would go to a Samuel L. Bronkowitz film festival.

At one point as we go from movie ads, to commercials, to gameshows, the movie takes a huge left turn, and shows a large chunk of an impressive parody of Bruce Lee’s: Enter The Dragon. I think this might be where most of the budget of this movie went, but it shows. Evan C. Kim is fantastic! What makes the Zucker brothers’ movies work so well, is that real actors play these goofy parts as if they were in a real movie, and that is what makes it so damn funny. I mean funny where you laugh every time you think about it. There is just not enough good comedy like this now days. Most of the time, you are going to see Kevin Hart, Adam Sandler, or Will Farrell do the same bits over and over, mostly droll adlib humor with product placement, and then pause silently and look awkward so that the audience knows to laugh. Movies like this, are paced very quickly, jokes are hidden within jokes, and even the products featured in the movie are jokes within jokes themselves. They don’t even care, if the jokes land or not. You are either there, or you showed up to the wrong movie.

This is the best spoof of Enter The Dragon I have ever seen.

This movie does not make any apologies for being an adult comedy. This is Kentucky Fried Movie! Full of nudity. Full of racist, sexist dirty jokes. Full of puns. It may not have aged well, but it exists. It is a reminder that in less hypersensitive times, comedy movies used to be made for one reason, just to make people laugh. And sometimes the more extreme the material, the bigger the laugh. If you stay until the credits roll, and you check your sensitivity at the door, I can at least guarantee a good time. I give this lost comic gem a 4 out of 5 cheese curds. Some of this material might be dated. I mean if it was that offensive you would have changed the channel by now, but you are probably too stoned to even bother switching it off you lazy degenerates!

Movie at 11!