Imagine a world where undercover cops attend record swaps and concerts — and arrest people for crimes against the government.
In Czechoslovakia, it was a reality.
In our recent “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” review of the Sex Pistols The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle and The Filth and the Fury, we discussed punk — the music, the fashion, and attitude — was an artistic expression of the frustrations of the British working class and unemployed against the stodgy and greedy British class system. In America, with the advent of the Ramones in New York and X in Los Angeles — while it was admittedly less street and more Tribeca and Sherman Oaks — an antithesis subculture to mainstream music arose; a coterie network of fanzines, stores, and club venues to promote the music and the (commercialized, new-waved in America) message.
And those same frustrations — with even greater political and cultural consequences — flourished in the Czechoslovakia.
In this 2016 Czech import, Vinyl Generation chronicles the generation that came of age during Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution — a non-violent transition of power that lasted from November 17 to December 29, 1989 — which signaled the end of communist totalitarianism in Eastern Europe.
As with their late ‘70s British brethren, late ’80s Czech teens used the West’s punk and burgeoning alternative-grunge music to initiate a cultural shift — even if it meant breaking federal laws, as it was illegal to buy or sell Western records and magazines (at swaps held in city parks) or attend underground, unauthorized concerts. Some of those illegal concerts featured Lou Reed, Frank Zappa, Mudhoney*, and Lydia Lunch (Cha Cha), whose never-before-seen concert footage is seen here — at least by U.S. audiences — for the first time.
You can learn more about this Dark Star Pictures release at the film’s official website vinylgeneration.net and official Facebook page. You can begin streaming the film on Amazon Prime and Vudu and on Tubi (as a free-with-ads-stream) on November 26, 2020.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.
Disclaimer: This was sent to us by the film’s PR company. That has no bearing on our review.
“Don’t make the mistake of judging me based on my appearance. Ignorance can be a real bitch.” — Alexandra Svoboda, the world’s leading punk rock metallurgist and geochemist
This movie has two things going for it: Eric Roberts and no IMDb reviews (at least not at the time of this writing). That means when PPV surfers and VOD streamers discover it on their cable menus (like I did) or on Amazon Prime streams, they’ll hit the IMDb for some plot and production background, and B&S About Movies sees an uptick in traffic. It’s a win-win for everyone. Yes, even for the studio that made it: The Asylum.
Is this another Shark Encounters of the Third Kind? And are we finally launching a fleet of mechanized robo-space sharks to save the Earth, you know, like back in good ol’ Godzilla days, when the green guy became a friend of man? Are the space amoebas of Yog (1970) kaiju’in us a space octopus and only marine biologist Eric Roberts can save us?
But we do get an asteroid ready to hit the Earth in fifty days. And a bickering multinational summit more interested in their individual country’s ambitions that the world’s safety. And — once again — bad, bad Russians (see Airliner Sky Battle) who don’t listen and launches the nukes everyone told them not to launch — and makes the situation worse, natch. Luckily, we do get Eric Roberts (The Arrangement, Lone Star Deception) with a set of four stars on his shoulders — with his under 10-minutes of screen time spliced throughout the film — to keep us watching. And we get a hot, fuchsia-haired punk rock geochemist (Veronika Issa) to keep us watching . . . and is it just me, or she wearing Ron Keel’s demin vest?
And we get Alex’s cancer-stricken, metallurgist-expert billionaire father who dies before he finds the answer, you know, so we think we’re watching Carl Sagan’s Contact. And we’ve got a Russian shuttle — that look suspiciously like a decommissioned U.S. shuttle — launching rockets, because it makes us think about how the Russians stole our Skylab guidance system in Space Cowboys. And we’ve got a U.S. rocket meant for a Mars mission overhauled to carry a nuclear payload. And we get a CGI space plane, Copernicus, launching a CGI space probe, Aristotle, sporting a nifty rock-splitting laser known as a “Transducer” that punk rock girl built. And we’ve got the Divine Will, lead by one named Malachi (because all religious whack jobs must have a biblical first name), a merry band of mountain-based paramilitary religious nuts who — instead of praising God for giving man the intelligence to build techno-trinkets like a Transducer to stop asteroids — hacks the Tranducer weapons platform to thwart the mission because, well, destroying the asteroid defies “God’s Will.” And we get weapons that don’t work so — instead of being hit by one big ass rock — we’re bombarded by, as the title implies, an CGI asteroid-a-geddon that lays waste to Las Vegas and the Philippines. Oh, and Australia, but that’s okay; the “hits” are mostly in the unpopulated Outback, because, well, what’s a few dead aborigine natives down under when you’re covering up your f-ing up Armageddon.
And what we don’t get and desperately need: more past-their-prime celebrity actors that make these Asylum mockbuster disaster rips so much fun in the first place. Yeah, it’s cool to have Eric Roberts on board — even if he sits in a chair the whole time. But where’s Ian Zierling (as a hero astronaut), Tara Reid (as the Geo-scientist), and John Heard (as the religious nut) when we need them?
To that end: Most of the actors here are new the game, with our leading-lady Veronika Issa making her big screen debut in Fast and Fierce: Death Race, released by The Asylum earlier this year. The real standout of the cast is the most experienced actor of the cast — sans Eric Roberts — Craig Gellis, as Malachi. His 70-plus resume features support roles in TV series across the Big Three networks, including a leading role in the recently reviewed indie-horror Legend of the Muse. He’s really good here, so we’re looking forward to seeing more of him on screen — and in bigger, marquee-quality roles.
In the writing and directing chair we have reformed stunt man Geoff Meed˟*, who racked up 60-plus acting credits in TV series and indie films (and a role in Fast Five) before an on-set injury led him on a journey as a prolific screenwriter — with 14 credits since 2007. We reviewed Meed’s Final Draft and Canon Red debut in our quest to review all things Amityville* with 2011’s The Amityville Haunting. And if you’ve spent any time with the SyFy Channel or got swept up in the streaming-verse, you’ve watch his mockbuster-penned flicks Bermuda Tentacles, Independents’ Day, Operation Dunkirk, Atlantic Rim, San Andreas Mega Quake, and yes, his Eric Roberts-starring aerodynamic ode to all things Tom Cruise, 2020’s Top Gunner.
As you can see from the trailer, while the dueling asteroid odes of 1998 — Armageddon and Deep Impact — are clearly the mock-models here, what we’re actually left with is a mock of the Star Wars-inspired** asteroid ode of 1979, Meteor. In that film we also got a lot of Greek designations like Icarus, Orpheus, and Hercules for the rocks and weapons. But we also got James Bond as the rock-expert dude, the dude from the old American Express Card commercials who did a Dario Argento giallo*˟ (Cat o’ Nine Tails) as a boondoggling politician, and Brian Keith from Hardcastle and McCormick ranting with a bad Russian accent about the L.A Dodgers.
However, to Meed’s credit: he does his research and has a way with the techno-exposition, so everyone sounds like the experts they’re suppose to be. And the “science,” while not exactly grounded in reality, sounds convincing, never the less. But isn’t it all just a wee-bit too talky? Yes. Do we want more CGI-action? Yes. But for his second directing credit, Meed’s delivered us a serviceable retro B-flick — and for significantly less green than the $120 million spent on Warner Bros.’ Gerald Butler-starring boondoggle, Geostorm — which received across-the-board negative reviews criticizing it as a “lackluster” and “uninspired” work. And I still haven’t made it all the way through — in spite of its incessant cable airings — and never will. I have, however, since watched the Chinese-made The Wandering Earth three times.
And so it goes for film 600-or-something for good ‘ol Eric. And because of Mr. Roberts, I made it all the way though. And I had a good time. And the next time I see Meed’s name on a film (as with Eric Roberts) I’ll watch it, for Meed’s got the Brett Piper-cum-Mark Polonia to retro-touch I love (Queen Crab).
Now, let me go a eat fudge banana swirl with Dr. Alexandra Svoboda, for she is my punk rock girl.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook.He also writes for B&S About Moviesand publishes short stories and music reviews on Medium.
* Seriously, we really did watch ALL of the Amityville films, as our “Exploring: Amityville” featurette, proves.
** Our love for all things Amityville is only matched by our love for all things Star Wars, as our “Exploring: After Star Wars” featurette, proves.
*˟ Oh, boy! Do we love our Giallo round ‘ere. Check out our “Exploring: Giallo” featurette on the genre.
˟* Several of Meed’s films are available as free-with-ads streams on Tubi TV, so check ’em out:
Am I nuts paying a $7.99 PPV rental fee for a direct-to-video potboiler from The Asylum? Should I have waited until it appeared on the Syfy Channel for free or, better yet, as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi TV?
Ah, but this non-stop action potboiler stars the never disappointing, Chinese-American actress Bai Ling (Dumplings*) hoping back into the cockpit after the fun ride that was Exorcism at 60,000 Feet. And that was, if you haven’t guessed from the title, basically Evil Dead on an airliner. So, does this mean we’re getting a 747 going head-to-head with sharksodactyl?
Oops. Never assume anything when it comes to The Asylum.
This time out, The Asylum dispenses with their usual genre mash-ups and gets back into the mockbuster disaster movie business — under the skilled eye Asylum workhorse Rob Pallatina. You’ve seen his work as an editor and director for the studio with the likes of 2-Headed, 3-Headed, 5-Headed Shark Attack on the Syfy Channel and . . . if you’re a holiday dork like Samuel and I, you’ve watched Pallatina’s Christmas flick oeuvre of A Christmas Wedding Date, A Very Merry Toy Store, and A Very Nutty Christmas. Will we watch the upcoming Dear Christmas, Feliz NaviDAD, and Once Upon a Mainstreet?
With Pallatina’s name on it? Of course, we will! Remember, the B&S About Movies crew worships at the altar of Brett Piper (Queen Crab) and Mark Polonia (Shark Encounters of the Third Kind). Seriously, how can you not like a guy who does his part to bring us movies like Nazis at the Center of the Earth, and now, battling 747s?
So, yes. B&S About Movies is all in with Mr. Pallatina on this, his eight directing effort that, if you know your Pallatina oeuvres like we do, he’s familiar with the airline disasters milieu, courtesy of his third film, which was the 2018 Satan-on-a-plane romp Flight 666. The script comes courtesy of editor and casting director Alex Heerman (reality TV’s America Ninja Warrior and Masterchef) in his screenwriting debut — which we trust we be his first of many Final Draft ditties for The Asylum.
Yeah, I know. Everyone knocks The Asylum. But you know what? Pallatina and Heerman brewed one hell of an entertaining, non-stop over-the-top actioner . . . that’s lacking in realism, rife with strained acting encased in bad sets accentuated with obvious CGI-shots that fail to cover plot holes large enough to, well, fly a 747 through — with plenty of space to spare. But like a celluloid Energizer bunny, this movie just keeps on giving and giving, just like the low-budget Drive-In romps of yore. Just when you think it can’t get any more absurd . . . it does! And we love it!
So, in today’s in today’s sociopolitical climate, it’s all about bad rappin’ the Russians, as Middle Eastern baddies are now cinema passé. But we’re sure U.S. filmmakers will soon be serving up Chinese baddies to pinch-hit for the Reds. Or give us a Russian-China tag team dropping virus-filled bombs from a Goodyear Blimp on a football game in some Black Sunday-cum-Two-Minute Warning knockoff. Eh, so much for Sting’s commentary-out cry regarding Russia’s Cold War foreign policy and MAD doctrine. Obviously, these Reds of Airliner Sky Battle didn’t attend Sting’s October 2017 Russian concerts. Or appreciate Stallone’s big speech at the end of Rocky IV.
So, our cliched bad-Russian operatives are up to their usual international hijinks as they hijack a commercial American jet, which they’ll kamikaze into a nuclear power plant near Washington, D.C. — all for the love of Mother Russia — resulting in a fallout that will devastate the Eastern seaboard. And while the Russians (posing as airplane cleaners; so much for cogs n’ gears of The Patriot Act) go all kamikaze on our Yank asses, the U.S. Air Force — when we’re at Defcon 1 and need to flush the bombers — goes all Keystone Cops. Where’s General Jack Beringer to piss on a sparkplug when we need ’em? Not here! For this is the Asylum-verse, kiddies.
But how is this possible? We’re the world’s foremost superpower! Well, it seems a computer virus locked down the U.S. military mainframe, disabling our ability to launch a counteroffensive, because well, you know, the voting machines hacking-scam became boring.
And who will save us? Why, the marquee named Bai Ling, as Dr. Meili Liu, of course!
Meanwhile, up the air, the crew and passengers of another flight (the new-to-the-screen DeAngelo Davis, Xavi Isreal, and Alyson Gorske; each holding their own with aplomb in their first starring roles), which took off from the same airport, chase down the Russian terrorists. Of course, those passengers have just enough military and civilian-professional training to make it all work. And beware of the free-falling beverage carts!
Yeah, this is a big, dumb, stupid retro-sky where the rules of aerodynamics and physics do not apply . . . and so were the blinded-by-science ’90s actioners this Pallatina-Heerman brouhaha pinches from, such as Die Hard 2 (1990), Speed (1994), Executive Decision (1996), The Rock (1996), Air Force One (1997), and Con Air (1997), and Fast Five (2011). In fact, if you change out the airliner, here, for a skyscraper, and cast the Dwayne Johnson, and have Universal throw in a $120-plus million, you’d have, well Skyscraper. Okay, actually the cheaper-but-fun knockoff Crystal Inferno, aka Inferno: Skyscraper Escape, but you git what we’re gittin’ at, right, Cletus?
* And speaking of Dumplings: Bai Ling and Fruit Chan are back together — in a familiarly-themed film — in the 2019 Cantonese-Mardarin language drama The Abortionist. Nominated in the “Leading Actress” and “Best Director” categories for this year’s Golden Horse Awards held in Taiwan (in November), Ling stars as a Tai chi teacher with a secret life as a black-market abortionist. You’ll remember Ling won dual “Best Supporting Actress” awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards and Golden Horse Awards for Dumplings, Chan’s segment of the Three Extremes omnibus, in 2004.
Hopefully, Ling and Chan will win in their respective categories, which will encourage an American distributor to release The Abortionist in the Western-domestic marketplace. At the very lest, we’ll hopefully be able to see The Abortionist on the free-with-ads stream Tubi TV platform, which afforded us the opportunity to discover and enjoy the recent Asian-imports Daughter and 0.0 MHz.
Argh! Bai Ling lost her leading actress nod to Chen Shu-fang in Little Big Women, while Fruit Chan lost his director’s nod to Chen Yu-hsun for My Missing Valentine. But we still have our fingers crossed The Abortionist will make it to American streaming shores.
You can watch Airliner Sky Battle as a PPV across various cable systems and stream it as a VOD on Amazon Prime and Microsoft, and as a stream or DVD rental from Red Box.
Every November we tackle a Mill Creek box of fifty movies. We started with the Chilling Classics set in 2018 and also did the Pure Terror one last year. You can grab the Sci-Fi Invasion set for $11 on Amazon, which is a great price for a ton of strange films.
As a matter of fact, whenever a “theme week” gobsmacks us and we need a gaggle of films to review — such as our recent “Fast and Furious Week” — a Mill Creek 12-pack never lets us down, as is the case with the Savage Cinema set. And, back in March, we were so giddy with glee that we finally got our own copy of 9 Deaths of the Ninja courtesy of the Explosive Cinema 12-pack, we paid it forward to Mill Creek and reviewed all of the films in the pack.
“Oh, come on, robot girl, embrace the technology.” — Lanie Burroughs being schooled on the fine art of vibrators
In our review of the radio comedy Loqueesha, we discussed the creative art of filmmaking and, as result of those artistic frustrations, the passion projects, aka vanity projects, developed by unknown, burgeoning actors as their calling card to the industry.
And as with Brit Marlingand Another Earth (2011) and Fay Ann Lee with Falling for Grace (2006) — and the recently reviewed The App by Elisa Fuksas, Bethany Brooke Anderson’s Burning Kentucky, The Girls of Summer by Tori Titmas, and Mindy Bledsoe’s The In-Between — before her, North Carolina-to-Los Angeles actress Allison Powell has spent most of her adult life in the world of community theater, following the star-embossed sidewalks of her adopted hometown. As she consistently scored roles in indie shorts and features she, as all working actors do, toiled on the audition circuit and hoped for that “big break” on a major film or TV series. (Been there, done that. And it ain’t an easy life, trust me.)
So Allison decided the time had come to “make it happen” and show ol’ Tinseltown she had the chops to make it in la-la land. So, working as her own producer, screenwriter, and director* — and inspired by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg — she decided to make a female-centric version of their 2007 hit, Superbad, only with a twist.
Instead of crossing a “chick flick” with an Apatow-raunch and giving us just another flick with women out prove the “weaker sex” can equal men in the lust and vulgarity, and sexual frankness and insecurity departments (Bridesmaids, Trainwreck, Bachelorette), Allison Powell aspired for something higher. She knew should could do better than just churn out a female-driven version of The Hangover. No, she wasn’t going to Bechdel test audiences into submission to notice her work.
Streamers evoke Booksmart — the directorial debut of The O.C actress Olivia Wilde — in their feedback on Banging Lanie. And the comparison makes sense, as those same streamers liken Wilde’s debut as a female-empowered Superbad (which also makes sense, as Beanie Feldstein, the lead in Booksmart, is the sister of Jonah Hill, who starred in Superbad).
But why must we, when discussing gender portrayals in film, critique a female-made film against another female-created film? Is not that, in fact, going against the grains of the inequality issues raised by the Bechdel test?
Allison Powell has certainly crafted a tarty-written film that is nasty and funny, but with warmth substituted for over the top, bawdy humor. So, as I watched Powell’s overly logical and socially-disconnected Lanie Burroughs take an MIT-Amy Farrah Fowler approach to the “societal tropes” of sex and dating — and unintentionally coming off as abrasive and rude to everyone around her in the process — I’m reminded of the misguided exploits of Enid, the graphic novel creation of Daniel Clowes in the pages of Ghost World, which Terry Zwigoff (Bad Santa) brought to the screen two decades earlier.
“Oh, no, no. Are you taking notes?” “Mm-mm, I need specific tips, area, pressure, style.” — Lanie Burroughs, the girl who leaves nothing to chance, not even vibrator usage
As with Feldstein’s Molly (from Booksmart), Amy Farrah Fowler, and Enid, Lanie is a virgin. She’s never been in love. Or had a crush. Or been kissed. Or had an awkward dance with a guy. Then, a guy — an Adonis with a brain — transfers to her sex education class. And, as with Allison Powell’s real life motto of “making it happen,” Lanie decides to get her head out of the books — somewhat — and develops a theory to quickly cram four years of high school romance before she graduates and heads off to college. And in her relentless pursuit to be in control of everything, she catalogs everything in a notebook. And her new boyfriend finds the notebook. And while Lanie may not be ready to write a sequel to David Reuben’s 1969 best-seller Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), she’s finally learned the art of human connections — and that we are not just a bunch of lusting, biomechanical engines.
“When sexuality fails as a means of communication and provides only physical relief, then Eros is sick.” — Michelangelo Antonioni
From the “Film trivia that you won’t find on a Trivial Pursuit cardDepartment“: Lola Noh, Allison Powell’s producer on Banging Lanie, got her start in the business as an actress (as result of her gymnastics skills) portraying the lovable gorilla Amy in Congo. Hey, it’s all about the trivia and hyperlinks here at B&S About Movies.
* For other L.A.-transplanted actors working as their own producers, screenwriters and directors, please visit our recent reviews for the film-festival winners Cold Feet by Allen C. Gardner and Chris Levine’s No Way Out. For a couple of self-financed, indie writer-directors successfully taking on L.A. by way of the festival circuit, check out our reviews of The Invisible Mother and Shedding.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publish music reviews and short stories on Medium.
Disclaimer: We did not receive a review request from the film’s director, distributor, or P.R firm. We discovered the film on our own and truly enjoyed the movie.
“I’ll tell you man, people watch you like a hawk in this town.” “Really?” You think having a drunk sheriff daddy, a dead mama, and a junkie brother keeps my name out of people’s mouths?” — Wyatt West comes to grips with his reality
This effective indie-thriller by actress Bethany Brooke Anderson, in her feature film writing and directing debut, is now currently available as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi TV; it premiered on VOD platforms in February 2019.
Working with a cast of mostly Kentucky-based community theater actors, Anderson’s cast is lead by the familiar face of John Pyper-Ferguson, who we know from his leading roles on TV’s Suits, The Last Ship, and The 100, and his recurring guest roles on Burn Notice and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. You know his The Last Ship co-star Nathan Sutton from his recurring guest roles on TV’s Justified and Fear of the Walking Dead. Amid Andy Umberger’s 100-plus indie film and TV credits, you’ve seen him on 9-1-1, How to Get Away with Murder, NCIS: Los Angeles, and American Horror Story. And you’ve seen Nick McCallum on TV’s CSI: NY and Cold Case.
So, if you haven’t guessed: the acting here is top notch.
While on the film festival circuit, Burning Kentucky won “Best Feature” awards at the Chattanooga, Con Nooga, Garden State, and Mammoth Film Festivals, while cinematographer Matt Clegg won well-deserved nods for his exquisite cinematography. His extensive credits across 40-plus films are in the indie realms; hopefully, after his work here, we’ll see his resume expand into larger-budgeted features.
Yeah, if you haven’t guess: this film is a beauty to watch.
A solidly paced, unraveling film noir increasing its suspense as the screws turn deeper and deeper — with a heart and tone that reminds of Clint Eastwood’s 2003 masterpiece Mystic River — Burning Kentucky spins the tale of two families in the hills of Harlan County, Kentucky. The first family is an indigenous clan that still practices the craft of brewing moonshine and nourishing themselves off the land. The other’s patriarch (Pyper-Ferguson) is Harlan County’s alcoholic sheriff — and his sons (Nathan Sutton and Nick McCallum) are barely keeping it together themselves; his son Rule (Sutton) is a junkie and the town’s drug dealer. Rule’s girlfriend, Aria (Emilie Dhir, in her acting debut), is a drug-addicted, aspiring country singer.
As with most film noirs, the narrative here is non-linear, and with each flashback, we learn how the lives of these two resentful families are linked amid Aria’s insights and memories as she searches for the reasons behind her family’s death years earlier.
So what is more important? The love of family . . . or bloody revenge?
We’ve already taken a look at Double D’s best-promoted and best-known film — via the back of pulpy, ’80s monster mags — Dead Girls, and his latest, 30th film, Camp Blood 8 — each part of our respective “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II” and our October “All Slasher Month” tributes. And, the best part, Dennis is a D-Town brother: yep, the land of Jim Morrison’s doppelganger from 1974, that wizard of “the D,” The Phantom of the Divine Comedy fame (no pun intended). Devine was born and raised in Detroit and graduated from Eastern Michigan University before heading to Los Angeles, graduating from Loyola Marymount University’s film school, and forming DJD Productions.
So, for this Drive-In Friday, lets load the projector with four more of Dennis Devine films. And not all of them are the horror films you expect them to be.
Movie 1: Fatal Images (1989)
Next to Dear Girls, this debut feature — produced for $10,000 and shot-on-Beta with Dead Girls’ Steve Jarvis — is my favorite of the Devine cannons and the Cinematrix imprint.
Starring Kay Schaber, Angela Eads, and Brian Chin from the later Dead Girls, they’re three of several people victimized by a Satanist-worshipping photographer-cum-serial killer who — instead of sealing his body in a doll, ala Chucky in Child’s Play (1988; 2019), Devine’s writing cohort, Mike Bowler (Hell Spa, Things, Things II, Club Dead, Amazon Warrior, Chain of Souls, Haunted), who spins an inventive change-up to the spiritual hocus pocus — commits suicide before the police can catch him, and seals his body inside a camera.
Years later, Amy Stuart (Lane Coyle who, in typical Devine fashion, never appeared in another film), an aspiring photographer who works for the town’s newspaper, purchases the vintage camera from a pawn shop staffed with a creepy, ulterior motive shopkeep — and everyone she photographs is tracked down and murdered by the killer’s spirit.
You can watch Fatal Images as a free stream on You Tube. Do you need a more expansive, second look? Then check out Sam’s review of Fatal Images. It’s true! We love this film and Mr. Devine.
Movie 2: Things (1993)
“A horrific and sexy romp in the dark.” — Joe Bob Briggs
Now, if that tag from the guru of Drive-In fodder on the VHS “big-box” doesn’t make you want to mail order this third effort from Dennis Devine, then nothing will. And yes . . . multiple titles alert . . . here are two movies carrying the “Things” title: the first is the infamous Canuxploitation-North of the Border Horror, Things (1989). And the three sequels from 1998 and 2017 to Devine’s film have nothing to do with the Canux one — or with each other — for that matter.
This “Things” is an anthology-portmanteau film in three parts: “The Box” directed and written by Devine,” “Thing in a Jar” written by Steve Jarvis and directed by Jay Woelfel, and the wrap-around/linking segment written by Mike Bowler and directed by Eugene James. All are film school friends and DJD cohorts, natch.
The segments come together as a woman kidnaps her husband’s mistress and tells the mistress two horror stories involving “evil things” — that’s all converged in a related, twist ending. And unlike the classic Amicus and Hammer omnibus flicks it homages, Things dispenses with the atmospheric-gothic angle of its Brit forefathers and goes straight for — the bountiful — guts n’ gore. The first tale concerns hookers who meet their fate to a cursed creature kept in a box; the second is about a woman haunted by is-it-real-or-nightmares “things” concerning her abusive husband.
You can watch Things on TubiTV. There’s no online copies of 2 or 3 (aka Deadly Tales, aka, Old Things) currently streaming online, but you can watch Things 4 on TubiTV. And again, DO NOT confuse this with the “North of the Border Horror” Things from 1989 . . . as that is a whole other “thing” to watch.
INTERMISSION: Short Film Time!
The Things about Things Sidebar: Battlestar Galactica fans know Jay Woelfel as the director of Richard Hatch’s failed 1999 BSG theatrical reboot with the short “pitch film” Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming that Universal rejected in lieu of the eventual SyFy Channel series. You can watch Hatch and Woelfel’s vision on You Tube. As you’ll see the, concept of “evolved Cylons” and the new Raiders design for the series was pinched from this version — and the most popular characters and actors returned.
And back to the show . . .
Movie 3: Curse of Pirate Death (2006)
It’s more goofy, ne’er-do-well college kids of the Scooby Doo variety heading off — not into the Norwegian Slasher Wood (as in Camp Blood 8) — but the ocean, Pirate’s Point in particular, as they research the myth of a centuries old killer, Abraham LeVoy, aka Pirate Death. And if they find his legendary treasure along the way, all the better for Shaggy and the Mystery Machine gang.
You’ve got — even though some are cut-a-ways or off-camera (ugh, damn budget) — a high kill count and lots of zombie-ghost pirate fighting that reminds of the great Amando de Ossorio’s third entry in his “Blind Dead” series, The Ghost Galleon (1974; the one with the living corpses of the Satan-worshiping Knights Templar hunting for human victims trapped on a 16th century galleon), but it’s definitely not as good as a de Ossorio flick (and what film is). Yeah, this one’s suffering from its ultra-low-budget that lends to sketchy cinematography and strained acting in places, but this has the usual Devine heart n’ soul with a mix of dark humor and horror that lends to its fun, snappy pace. Bottom line: If you want to see porn-provocateur Ron Jeremy (Boondock Saints/Overnight; also of Devine’s Night of the Dead from 2012) get a (cut-a-way) sword in the gut, this is your movie. If you want to see girls dressed as a sexy cop and German Beer Wench (Get that Bud Light chick outta ‘ere, I want a St. Pauli Girl!) stranded on an island dispatched by a dead pirate with guacamole smeared on his face, this is you movie.
One of the few Devine movies available through the service, you can rental-stream Curse of Pirate Death for a $1.99 on Amazon Prime. The DVD has a director-actor commentary track, along with a making of, gag reel, and meet the cast vignettes. The Amazon Prime stream offers a clip sample and You Tube offers a trailer via the film’s distributor, Brain Damage Films.
Movie 4: Get the Girl (2009)
Dennis Devine makes the jump from the pulpy lands of back-of-a-monster magazine-mail order SOVs to the streaming world of Netflix in this pretty obvious Judd Apatow-influencer. It concerns a geek (Adam Salandra of Devine’s Don’t Look in the Cellar) who masters Guitar Master (aka a chintzy Guitar Hero knock-off) to impress a sexy-brainless co-worker, much to the chagrin of his dowdy, co-worker gal pal. Guess which girl he gets. (Yeah, I’d want to “get the girl” with the ponytail and eye glasses, too.)
You can watch Get the Girl as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV. Other films in the Devine comedy cannons include Kid Racer (2010; yep, go-carts), Dewitt & Maria (2010; a rom-com), Fat Planet (2013; aliens into food), and Baker & Dunn (2017; that also works as mystery thriller).
For you Devineites (Or is that Devineheads?) check out his TubiTV page to watch the horrors Don’t Look in the Cellar (2008), The Haunting of La Llorona (2019), and the comedy Fat Planet (2013).
We wanted to do Devine’s Vampires of Sorority Row (1999), Vampires on Sorority Row II (2000), and his campy-vamp comedy Vamps in the City (2010) for our recent “Vampire Week,” but were unable to locate online streaming copies for you to enjoy — free or otherwise. The same goes for the Reggie “Phantasm” Bannister-starring Sawblade (2010) for our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week II,” about an extreme-metal band a trapped-in-a-haunted house-for-a-video shoot tale (i.e., Blood Tracks and Monster Dog).
You need more Dennis Devine? Check out this Spotify podcast (that streams on all apps, and browser PCs and Laps) courtesy of Inside Movies Galore in promotion of Devine’s latest film, Camp Blood 8. You can also catch the podcast on streaming provider, Anchor.
From the Shameless Plugs Department: Yeah, I wrote a couple of books about the 1974 mystery of the ghost of Jim Morrison, The Phantom. If you follow up with the You Tube page, you’ll find lots of rare, live and studio tracks from the Phantom’s Detroit-based band Walpurgis and Pendragon.
Science Fiction is one of the hardest genres to accomplish — convincingly — on a budget, but it can be done: our recent reviews for Ares 11, Double Riddle, Space, and Space Trucker Bruce are proof of that point. And if you appreciated the recent, effective against-the-budget tales regarding the complex subject matter of time travel spun in Same Boat and Making Time (both rom-com oriented), then you’ll appreciate this tale (a thriller) regarding a group of scientists whose experiments with the human soul, in an effort to bend space and time, jeopardize the very fabric of the universe.
Every time I come to appreciate one of these inventive-style-on-a-budget sci-fi’ers, I can’t help but recall the intelligence of Shane Carruth’s low-budget time travel drama Primer from 2004. This time, we have Jim Agnew weaving an analogous thinking-man’s journey in the realms of theoretical physics.
For us giallo fans, ex-Film Threat Magazine scribe and rock video director Jim Agnew (The Mars Volta) is name we known from Giallo, his 2009 screenwriting debut directed by Dario Argento. His other Final Draft works include the Wesley Snipes-starring Game of Death (2011), Nicolas Cage’s Rage(2014), and the always enjoyable Wes Bentley in Broken Vows (2016). As a producer, Agnew also brought us the Cage in Between World (2018). In this, his fifth screenwriting effort, Agnew makes his feature film directing debut — one that won “Best Feature Film” at the 2017 Berlin Sci-Fi Filmfest.
Since we’re in the low-budget realms, don’t expect the flashy “body horror” romps of Ken Russel’s Altered States (1980), the Brat Packery of Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners (1990), or David Cronenberg’s The Fly (1986). And while Jim Agnew has brought some interesting metaphysical concepts to the table — spiritual theories that would have greatly benefited from the budget and set designs afforded those major studio productions — the fact that we’re inside a minimally set-dressed, dreary warehouse for most of the film, one equipped with lots of wires and laptops — with our test subjects lying on cots with attached electrodes — doesn’t detract from the story.
Louis (a very good Jordan Tisdale in his feature film and leading man debut; he had a support role in a 2020 episode of FOX-TV’s recently cancelled Deputy) is a theoretical physicist who believes he can break the First Law of Thermodynamics by channeling the human body’s energy and heat into the afterlife via the human soul: he believes dark matter, which comprises over 80% of the matter is the universe, is composed of “human souls.”
While Louis’s — and his assistant Alex ‘s (Irish television actress Nora-Jane Noone from 2005’s The Descent and 2008’s Doomsday) spiritual questions are noble inquiries, their ethics come into question as they secure payments of two-million dollars from each from four terminally-ill test subjects (Amanda Wyss from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and A Nightmare on Elm Street ’84) who volunteer to be euthanized in the hopes their “dark matter” can be returned to, and renew, their physical world — with no guarantee the theory will even work.
But it does work. And Louis and Alex have “captured” — instead of resurrecting one their four test subjects — a “soul guide” from the afterlife. And their inability to send the possessive entity back into the dark matter from which it came will destroy the spiritual and physical realms.
As of November 2020 The Capture is now available for the first time as a free-with-ads stream from Freestyle Digital Media on Tubi TV. Other indie films from the studio on the Tubi platform include Ayla, Cut Shoot Kill, and Sick for Toys. Coming up on November 29th, we’re reviewing another recent, Freestyle release: the equally inventive-on-a-budget sci-fi’er The Control. Freestyle has also recently acquired the previously reviewed film festival winner Shedding, which will be released on December 8th across all digital platforms. You can watch the trailers for these films — and more — on Freestyle’s official You Tube page.
Disclaimer: We did not receive a review request from the studio or its P.R firm. We discovered this film on our own and truly enjoyed the work.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook.He also writes for B&S About Moviesand publishes short stories and music reviews on Medium.
The Comeback Trail, which made its world premiere at the 43rd Mill Valley Film Festival on October 12, 2020, was initially scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on November 13, 2020. However, due to the affects of COVID on theaters, Cloudburst Entertainment has — instead of going the streaming-premiere route of the recently COVID-derailed Run and Tom Hanks’s Greyhound — pushed the release date to sometime in 2021. Then there’s the case of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet: Warner Bros. decided to eschew a VOD-only release and tough-out COVID with a theatrical release, only to see diminished box office returns.
We glossed over the The Comeback Trail with a recent “Drive-In Friday” tribute to Harry “Tampa” Hurwitz, the writer and director of the shot-in-1974-released-in-1982 original*, so let’s take a deeper look into this remake from the pen n’ lens of George Gallo of Bad Boys fame.
The original film concerned the low-budget, down-on-their-luck exploits of two independent film producers, E. Eddie Eastman (Hurwitz’s longtime producing partner and actor, Robert Statts) and Enrico Kodac (the always welcomed Chuck McCann, who the B&S About Movies crowd knows from Hamburger: The Motion Picture** and Sid and Marty Krofts’s CBS-TV kids series Far Out Space Nuts), in a somewhat semi-autobiographical Hurwitz tale about an against-the-odds poverty row film production starring washed-up cowboy star Duke Montana (Buster Crabbe*˟, in his final feature film).
During their celluloid adventures (played as broad slapstick, with a side of sexploitation spicing the reels), Eastman and Kodac (yuk-yuk) meets “Professor” Irwin Corey (The Mad Bomber in 1976’s Car Wash), the “King of the One-Liners,” Henny Youngman (Mel Brooks’s Silent Movie and History of the World: Part 1), publisher Hugh Hefner, and New York TV and radio icon Joe Franklin as themselves; the keen eyes of B&S About Movies’ readers will also notice our beloved Sy Richardson (Shattered Illusions, 5th of July, and Petey Wheatstraw) in the cast.
Now Petey Wheatstraw, courtesy of Blaxploitation purveyor Rudy Ray Moore, is worth mentioning since The Comeback Trail (the 2021 version) is another “Hollywood story about Hollywood,” in this case Dolemite Is My Name, which chronicled Moore’s career. And speaking of washed up actors: you’ll also see a touch of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood in the frames of this Gallo remake. Me? I also see a bit of Elmore Leonard’s 1990 novel Get Shorty, which Barry Sonnenfeld turned into a 1995 film. Sharper B&S surfers will remember Allan Arkush and Joe Dante’s 1976 romp Hollywood Boulevard and Mel Brooke’s The Producers from 1967 in the frames of the 1982 Hurwitz original.
“You’ve got 72 hours. After that . . . I choke you to death.” — Reggie Fontaine
This time out — sans Hurwitz’s slapstick and sexploitation propensities — we met uncle Max Barber (Robert De Niro) and his ne’er do well nephew Walter Creason (Zach Braff), two incompetent movie producers who had their latest “epic” about gun-toting Nuns derailed by the Catholic Church. And local mobster Reggie Fontaine (Morgan Freeman) — in a bit that reminds of Alan Sacks’s duBeat-e-o — wants a return on his $350,000 investment in the film. So, after watching a news report in which big time producer James “Jimmy” Moore (Emile Hirsch) nets a large insurance settlement after the on-set death of action-star Frank Pierce (Patrick Muldoon of American Satan), Max’s dopey nephew concocts a scam: hire the alcoholic, retirement-home bound western actor Duke Montana (Tommy Lee Jones), insurance him to the hilt, set up an on-set “accident” to kill him — and pay off Fontaine with the insurance windfall. Only one problem: Montana proves to be as tough-as-nails in real life as he was on camera all those years ago.
If you haven’t figured it out, this ’70s retro-romp is rife with black comedy and insider showbiz satire, and old pros De Niro and Jones are more than up to the challenge. And kudos to George Gallo for seeing the major studio potential in an old Harry Hurwitz film.
And again, Mr. Gallo, we dare you to do a remake of Safari 3000.
We dare you.
But please, don’t CGI the baboons.
Disclaimer:We weren’t provided with a screener nor received a review request from the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook.He also writes for B&S About Moviesand publishes short stories and music reviews on Medium.
* You can learn more about the 1982 Hurwitz original with these digitized reviews at Shock Cinema (from 2017; along with film stills) and The New York Times (from 1982).
*˟ Be sure to check out our review of Buster Crabbe’s contributions to the Star Wars cycle of films with his roles as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, courtesy of our Exploring: Before Star Wars featurette.
Primarily known as a talent manager, studio producer and engineer, Hungarian born director Tibor Takács worked behind the boards for the Canadian bands the Viletones and the Cardboard Brains before he became a director. His first feature film project was the self-produced Metal Messiah (1978), a long-form rock opera/video which starred two bands from his stable: Kickback and the Cardboard Brains.
Best known for the internationally-distributed “No False Metal” classic, The Gate (1987), he made his feature film debut with the 1978-shot-and-1982 released CBC-TV movie 984: Prisoner of the Future, which has long since fallen into the public domain and is easily found on a wide variety of bargin-basement sci-fi DVD sets. After the cult VHS and cable status of The Gate, he was poised to direct A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, but passed on the project . . . and he gave us The Gate 2: The Trespassers and the pilot movie for the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
These days, he’s churning out the mockbuster hoards of Ice Spiders, Mega Snake, and Destruction: Los Angeles, as well as other films concerning all manner of meteors, tornadoes, mosquitoes, black holes, and rats for the SyFy Channel . . . and he got into the Hallmark Christmas movie business alongside our equally beloved Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau.
Oh, and Hallmark romance flicks.
Did Sam and I watch The Secret Ingredient for its February 2020 premiere — making our significant others cringe in the process — as we chomped on our popcorn and gulped our A&W Root Beers with glee? Damn right, we did. And you know how B&S About Movies is about our Christmas movies . . . so yes, we did binge the Takacs X-Mas oeuvre of Once Upon A Christmas (2000), Twice Upon a Christmas (2001), Rocky Mountain Christmas (2017), It’s Christmas, Eve (2018), Memories of Christmas (2018), and A Christmas Miracle (2019). And when Tibor finishes off his currently-in-production Lifetime damsel-in-distress thriller Roadkill — his 48th directing effort — we’ll watch that one, as well.
But what we really want to know: Tibor, when in the hell are you and Eric Roberts going to do a movie together? It’s de rigueur for guys like you, Olen Ray, and DeCoteau. Make it happen, Tibor! Remember when you wrote and directed Redline, aka Deathline, that bionic-man-out-for-revenge actioner back in 1997 with Rutger Hauer and Mark Dacascos? Or Bad Blood, aka Viper, from 1994 with Lorenzo Lamas as a bad-ass trucker taking down the mob? Something like those flicks . . . just cut Eric Roberts loose to kick mercenary and mobster ass as an “aging action hero” thespin’ his little heart out . . . as a rogue C.I.A black-ops agent, like Mack Dacascos in 1998’s Sanctuary. Make it happen, buddy!
This is — non-CGI, mind you — a tale of an album known as The Dark Book by Sacrifyx — a band who died in a horrific accident after its recording — that serves as “the key” to opening a gate to hell . . . that just so happened to be under the roots of a lightning-stuck tree in the backyard of future Blu Cigs spokesman Stephen Dorff (he was 12 at the time).
How loved is this movie? You can buy Sacrifyx “The Dark Book” T-shirts on esty. Fans have compiled “Top 10” lists about the film. Sacrifyx is noted as one of the best “fake bands” on film. And . . .
There’s a (very bafflin, but awesome) Sacrifyx website, and . . .
An equally eerie album by a band called Sacrifyx listed on Discogs that recorded an album at Dunwich Analog Studios in Detroit, Michigan, in 1983 — with a song “The Gate.” But wait, the movie didn’t come out until 1987?
Shivers. And guess what . . . the album is real. It’s on You Tube. Which Old God is F’in with us, here? Love this movie, ye must!
Dude . . . imagine a Tibor-made Freddy Krueger movie? How awesome could that have been? Instead, we got a sequel to The Gate — both written by Michael Nankin, who made his debut with the David Naughton-starring (yes, the Dr. Pepper “Making It” Meatballs werewolf in London guy), Animal House-rip Midnight Madness in 1980.
The upside to this movie: Terry shoots and scores! He bags a babe. So, you see, it pays to worship Satan and dabble in the black arts. Do it! Chant Natas three times and the babes will come crawlin’ out the ground for ya!
Is The Gate II as good as the original? Nope. But it’s a lot of fun with great non-CGI effects, once again, from Randall William Cook, who also handles the SFX for the next feature on this evening’s program.
Intermission! Spin the dark circle, if you dare . . .
Long before meta-fiction became shot-on-iPhone de rigueur for the digital auteur crowd (For Jennifer), Julio Cortázarwrote a short story — La Continuidad de Los Parques (The Continuity of the Parks) — a tale that is three stories; each aware of one another in a universe where fiction collides with meta-fiction.
The much-missed Jenny Wright of Near Dark fame (I recall reading her interview in Shock Cinema Issues #45 that went into detail about the abuses she suffered and caused her exit from the business) is Virginia, a bookish girl obsessed with writer Malcolm Brand’s I, Madman. In the pages of that tale, the deformed Dr. Kessler attempts to win over an actress by killing people and adding their faces to his own. And she comes face to face, literally, with Dr. Kessler as he’s entered the real world.
Should this follow up to The Gate be as revered and remembered as The Gate. Yes. Is it? No. Love this movie, you must. It’s awesomeness and a bag ‘o garlic fingers.
P.S. You need more “film within a film” tomfoolery? Check out Anguish (1987).
Tibor’s first commercial film project was this failed Canadian TV series pilot programmer in 1978. Courtesy of the Star Wars-infused sci-fi market, it was shook loose from the analog dustbins onto home video shelves in 1982.
Also circulating on DVD bargain comps as The Tomorrow Man, it’s a surreal psychological drama concerned with the imprisonment of an intelligence agent in an Orwellian future. Don’t let the Dr. Who-esque TV production designs deter you from watching this well-written and acted sci-fi’er — a commendable start to the awesome career of Tibor Takács.