Junesploitation 2022: The Quick and the Dead (1995)

June 25: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is lethal revenge! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Why did I wait so long to see this movie?

Was I worried that it would disappoint me?

Did I need to explore the Italian west first?

I have no idea!

Simon Moore wrote this movie as a tribute to Sergio Leone and man, it comes through in every scene of the film. He had intended to direct his own script as an independent film and soot in either Spain or Italy when Sony Pictures Entertainment bought the script, got Sharon Stone as the lead and went with Sam Raimi after she was impressed with his work on Army of Darkness. She went so far as to tell the producers that if Raimi did not direct the film, she wouldn’t be in it.

Raimi would blame himself for the film’s failure, sayin “I was very confused after I made that movie. For a number of years I thought, I’m like a dinosaur. I couldn’t change with the material.” That said — it made $47 million on a $35 million budget and time has seen the movie be critically rethought.

The Lady (Stone) has come to the town of Redemption — a place where the only law is John Herod (Gene Hackman) — for a fast-draw single elimination shooting tournament in which no challenge can be refused and the gunfight goes on until a contestant yields or dies.

There are really only four people who can win the contest: The Lady, Herod, a former gangster turned preacher called Cort (Russell Crowe) — Herod’s former right-hand man who abandoned his violent career in favor of a peaceful religious life after Herod forced him to kill a priest — who is given one bullet per battle so he doesn’t shoot his way out of town and The Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio), who just might be the best gunfighter of all time if you listen to what he has to say.

Each of them must battle their way through, however, as Herrod defeats Sergeant Clay Cantrell (Keith David), a killer hired by the town itself to murder him and The Lady kills Eugene Dred after he assaults the saloon owner’s (Pat Hingle) daughter. Afraid that she won’t be able to achieve her mission — which is more than the money in the tournament — she nearly runs away before Doc Wallace (Roberts Blossom, Old Man Marley in Home Alone) hands her her father’s badge and tells her that she must clean up the town. At the same time, Cort must battle Spotted Horse (Jonothon Gill), a man who says that no bullet can kill him.

The flashback that follows — Herod caused her to kill her father (Gary Sinise) — sets up the reason why she must destroy not only the man who murdered her father but destroy his entire town, which won’t be easy.

This is the kind of movie I love so much, packed with actors of true character, like Lance Henriksen as trick shot fighter “Ace” Hanlon, Tobin Bell as Dog Kelly, Sven-Ole Thorsen as “Swede” Gutzon, Evil Dead II writer Scott Spiegel as Gold Teeth Man and Italian western star Woody Strode as Charlie Moonlight. This was Strode’s last role and the movie is dedicated to him.

This movie is full of not only amazing gunfights, incredible dialogue and plenty of tension but a bravura ending — daylight through a shadow! — that literally made me jump out of my seat. It’s also packed with montages and a moment where there are so many extreme zooms and rack focus moments that I was sure that the ghosts of every beloved Italian director had risen from their graves and taken over the film.

Junesploitation 2022: Personal Vendetta (1995)

June 22: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is lethal ladies! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

I’ve become kind of fascinated by the movies that Mimi Lesseos made, as she didn’t just act in them, she wrote and produced them, so they have the air of a vanity project but I can’t fault that because they’re all entertaining and wonderfully strange. Start with Pushed to the Limit and then come here.

Bonnie Blackwell (Lesseos) has been abused for years by her husband Zach (a scenery chewing and frothing at the mouth Timothy Bottoms) when she’s saved by the police and decides to train to be a cop instead of remaining a victim.

Sgt. Bill Starr, one of the cops that saved her — a harrowing scene where her husband repeatedly slams her face into a steering wheel until her forehead splits open and sprays blood — gets her into the police academy, a moment that has a jaunty song on the soundtrack that’s nearly a full spinning turn away from the dark tone that’s been the majority of this movie. It’s in no way an easy experience, as she’s put through a whole new level of hell as no one takes it easy on her, including hand to hand instructor Geno LeBell (Frank “The Tank” Trejo, a first generation student of American kenpo karate founder Ed Parker) whose name betrays Lesseos’ pro wrestling origins, as he’s named after “Judo” Gene LeBelle, a man who shows up in nearly every pro wrestling scene in every pre-WWE era movie.

Things move fast — Bonnie gets paired with a veteran cop named John Beaudet, they fall in love, she visits prison to tell her husband he’s going to be her ex-husband, he breaks out, her mentor is killed — and our heroine faces off with her husband, who we suddenly learn is involved in human trafficking, selling off Vietnamese/American teens as mail order brides.

Director Stephen Lieb also made L.A. Task Force (L.A’s most beautiful women are being killed by a maniac), Deadly Eyes (phone sex workers are being killed by a Jack the Ripper copycat) and Blind Vengeance (martial arts teacher falls for a student who is the ex-girlfriend of another fight master). You may read that list of movies and say, “What junk!” and you can’t find me to answer, as I’m hunting them down to watch them in my magical movie basement.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Junesploitation 2022: High Risk (1995)

June 4: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie— is 90s action! We’re excited to tackle a different genre every day, so check back and see what’s next.

Kit Li (Jet Li) is a Hong Kong Bomb Squad police officer who responds to the latest threat of The Doctor’s (Kelvin Wong in his final role) terrorist group. They’ve taken a school bus hostage and his wife and son are on board. He sends one of his team to diffuse it, but the complicated bomb explodes and everyone dies, including Kit’s family. He leaves the force behind and finds a new life as a stunt double for Frankie Lone (“God of Song” Jacky Cheung), a man who claims to do all his own stunts.

After Jacky’s latest movie wraps, Frankie’s father (Wu Ma) and his manager Charlie Tso (Charlie  Tso, who acted in Hong Kong softcore films and Police Story) invite Kit to the Hotel Grandeur for a jewelry show. The Doctor is on his way there and they cross paths as Jacky hears his voice, but no one will believe him. He and his gang destroy the hotel and his partner Fai-fai (Valerie Chow) uses her beauty to lead Jacky to a gang member named Kong (Billy Chow, Fist of Legend and the WKA world Welterweight champion from 1984 to 1986) who has dreamed of fighting the movie star. Jacky barely escapes with his life.

Meanwhile, a journalist named Helen (Chingmy Yau) out to expose Jacky’s secret discovers The Doctor’s identity. She and Kit fall in love over the course of this Die Hard scenario and if you don’t think that he won’t have to solve the same bomb that killed his family you haven’t been watching action movies.

How much does this movie make fun of Bruce Willis’ action epic? Its Hong Kong title was High Risk, Rat’s Bravery and Dragon’s Might which is very close to the name that Die Hard was released as in Hong Kong, Tiger’s Bravery and Dragon’s Might.

Director Wong Jing also made God of GamblersNaked Killer, the Street Fighter influenced Future Cops and City Hunter. That last movie is important as after it was released, star Jackie Chan not only disowned the film but also personally went after Wong in the press. Frankie Lone in this movie is supposedly Chan and the claim is that Jackie, like Jacky, is a drunken womanizer who doesn’t even do his own stuntwork. And while Jacky dresses like Bruce Lee, the fact that the Charlie Tso character is so similar to Jackie’s mentor Willie Chan hammers the point home.

The director of this film’s action, Corey Yuen Kwai, really pushed for this to outdo what American action was in the 90s. While Jet Li is, as always, astounding, the final hand-to-hand combat is between Jacky and Kong, as the star who has lived the high life for so long redeems himself.

Look for this movie as Meltdown on Tubi.

Cyber Zone (1995)

Is it Cyberzone or Cyber Zone or Droid Gunner?

More to the point, is this Fred Olen Ray film a homage to Star Wars or Blade Runner?

Marc Singer is Jack Ford, an android hunter out to capture four robotic ladies of ill repute and bring them back to their owner, Mr. Reginald (Cal Bartlett). They’ve been taken by a smuggler named Hawks (Matthias Hues) and Reginald needs them back immediately.

It’s a movie that uses the robot suit from Star Hunter, spaceships from Battle Beyond the Stars, dialogue directly from Predator, an ending that references For a Few Dollars More, an appearance by Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, Robert Quarry playing Jabba the Hutt but named Chew’bah, a world where New Angeles is under water, and most importantly, finds a part for Brinke Stevens as a human/cat hybrid dancer named Kitten.

That’s more than enough.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Bikini Drive-In (1995)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics.  For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

When Kim Taylor (Ashlie Rhey) inherits her grandfather’s beloved drive-in theatre, she and her friends must raise the money to save the failing establishment from both the bank and the evil clutches of land developer J.B. Winston (producer David F. Friedman.) When Kim’s dick boyfriend refuses to help her, Winston’s son Brian (Richard Gabai) goes against his father, and teams up with Kim (in more ways than one) to concoct a surefire way to sell tickets. The plan? An all-night monster movie marathon using all the old films Grandad saved with a scream queen and dancing bikini girls! A few (titty) twists and turns aside, the plan works, the bad guys, the bank and the meddling sheriff are vanquished and the kids all live happily ever after. 

It’s not the plot that makes this my favorite Fred Olen Ray film. It’s the inclusion of all the fake trailers (years before the QT/Rodriguez Grindhouse double feature) and all the original drive-in intermission shorts I enjoyed in my own youth. It’s a love letter to all the fun that could be had on a night out at the drive-in. According to Ray, many of the things you see in this film came from other films. “The monster suit, worn by (my son) Chris here, was from Biohazard 2… Michelle as the 50-foot woman was a test shot I had to do to prove to Roger that we could handle the effects, but since he made me pay for them myself I got to keep the footage (and the rights to it.) The sets from Dinosaur Island also appear in a fake trailer… and Jim (Wynorski) stole the title of my fake movie, House on Hooter Hill.” 

Appearances by Conrad Brooks, Forry Ackerman, Ross Hagen, Clare Polan and Anthony Cardoza among others as well as the Dick Dale-style surf soundtrack add to the overall nostalgic feel for a bygone era that spawned an entire generation of monster and B-movie enthusiasts. In her greatest comedic role to date, Michelle Bauer plays Scream Queen Dyanne Lynn, a spoiled actress served by a beefy manservant. It’s about time we ladies got a little equal opportunity exploitation in one of these films! 

Last, but not least, we have the director himself as DJ Randy Rocket, who, in full mid-‘90s fashion, gets a striptease in return for promoting the drive-in’s all-night marathon on his show. A tough casting choice, I’m sure. 

Most people familiar with this film probably saw the titty-free version on USA’s Up All Night back in the day, but there’s an uncut Blu-Ray on the way later this year from Ray’s Retromedia label which promises to include an entire bonus of restored drive-in intermission shorts from back in the day. Put the kids to bed, pass the popcorn, fire up the Pic mosquito repellent for a fun night in!  

Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold (1995)

I’m sure you’ve seen Attack of the 50 Foot Woman but this has ten more feet on that.

Inga (Raelyn Saalman), Betty (Tammy Parks) and Angel Grace (J. J. North) are the three finalists for Plaything’s Centerfold of the Year, which finds Angel heading to Dr. Lindstrom (John LaZar) to continue beauty treatments which he’s already told her could be dangerous. But when the first new dose makes her breasts grow, why would she stop?

After sleeping with the magazine’s photographer, Angel forgets to take a dose and sees wrinkles, so she starts taking beyond her prescription. This causes her to grow, as you can expect, into the titular 60 foot centerfold.

With a cast that includes Tommy Kirk, Michele Bauer, Ross Hagen, George Stover, Stanley Livingston and Russ Tamblyn, this movie gets in what you expect: two centerfolds brawling in the middle of Los Angeles, but giant ones, and then a doctor gets speared with a giant needle which is kind of what you really really wanted.

The urge to be beautiful is strong. When left unchecked, you end up really tall. There’s a moral somewhere.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 29: Watch the series: Freaky Friday (1975, 1996, 2003, 2018, 2020)

Freaky Friday started as a novel written by Mary Rodgers, based on Vice Versa: A Lesson to Fathers by F. Anstey, a story in which the protagonists are father and son. In Rodgers’ book, 13-year-old Annabel Andrews and her mother spend time in each other’s bodies. The novel was so popular that Disney as made it four times an Rodgers also mae several sequels herself, such as A Billion for Boris/ESPTV and Summer Switch (which ABC made into TV movies). The major difference between the novel and the films is that an outside influence switches the mother and daughter against their wills.

Freaky Friday (1976): “I wish I could switch places with her for just one day.” That’s all it takes to start off this crazy adventure for Ellen Harris (Barbara Harris) and her daughter Annabel (Jodie Foster).

Based on the 1972 novel by Mary Rodgers — who also wrote the screenplay — the magic that switches the mother and daughter in this movie is quite simple. In Friday the 13th, all you have to do is say, “I wish I could switch places with her for just one day” and it happens.

Actually, this whole thing reminds me of Goofy Minds the House, a 1977 Disney Wonderful World of Reading storybook that features the character Goofy and his wife switching jobs for one day and learning that they both have rough lives. That story was based on a Norwegian folktale and taught me that women were much stronger than men. Also — Goofy once had a wife named Mrs. Geef and Mrs. Goof, but now he’s thought to be dating Clarabelle the Cow, so something happened at some point. Perhaps even odder, Goofy was once called Dippy Dawg.

But I digress.

Just as much as that story is part of my childhood, so is Freaky Friday, a movie that I know for a fact that I saw at the Spotlite 88 Drive-In in Beaver Falls, PA.

Ellen Andrews and her daughter Annabel are constantly battling with one another until they switch places, which enables each of them to see life from the other side, connect better with other people and, of course, water ski.

The cast of this movie is made up of people that a five year old me would see as big stars, like John Astin, Dick Can Patten, Charlene Tilton, Marc McClure and, of course, Boss Hogg. Strangely enough, George Lucas wanted Foster for the role of Princess Leia, but her mother wanted her to complete her contract to Disney.

Disney can’t seem to stop remaking this movie. And really, no one else can either, because it’s the mother of body switch comedies, including 18 Again!All of Me, Dream a Little DreamVice Versa and Freaky, a film which combines the Friday the 13th of this story with the slasher side of the holiday.

Freaky Friday (1995): This made-for-TV movie has Shelly Long as Ellen and Gaby Hoffman (the daughter of Warhol superstar Viva) as Annabelle. A pair of magical amulets causes the two of them to switch bodies in this version and waterskiing has been replaced with diving.

Ellen is also a single mother dating Bill (Alan Rosenberg) and designing clothing, which is the 90s version of being a housewife. What livens this up is a great cast with Drew Carey, Sandra Bernhard, Carol Kane and the much-missed Taylor Negron.

Writer Stu Krieger wrote The Parent Trap IIA Troll in Central ParkZenon: Girlof the 21st Century and Phantom of the Megaplex while director Melanie Mayron is probably best known for playing Melissa Steadman on Thirtysomething even though she has more than sixty directing credits on her resume.

The other big change is that when Annabelle is in Ellen’s body, she tells Bill exactly how much she dislikes him, thinking it will push him away. Instead, he proposes.

Forgive me for being weird, but…do these characters ever have to make love in these bodies? Because, well, that could be awkward.

Freaky Friday (2003): I spoke too soon about the sexual side of Freaky Friday, as this movie, while chaste, does not shy away from the fact that Jake (Chad Michael Murray) has feelings for Anna (Lindsay Lohan) no matter if she’s in her body or the body of her mother, Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis). The attraction that Jake feels, while mental, is way hotter than the way Marc McClure reacted to Barbara Harris.

Written by Heather Hach (Legally Blonde: The MusicalWhat To Expect When You’re Expecting and a gym teacher in this movie) and Leslie Dixon (OverboardLoverboy, the 2007 Hairspray) and directed by Mark Walters (who worked with Dixon again on Just Like Heaven; he also directed Mean GirlsGhosts of Girlfriends Past, the gender-swapped He’s All That and Mr. Popper’s Penguins), this take on the story retains the single mother idea from the 1995 TV movie and has Mark Harmon play Ryan, the potential new father in Anna’s life.

Lohan’s character was originally written as a goth girl and she didn’t think anyone would relate to that, so she showed up dressed like a preppie. Somehow, she was convinced to play a grunge girl instead. I mean, she has a band called Pink Slip and plays guitar instead of water skiing or driving.

The McGuffin that drives this film is a pair of fortune cookies mixed with an earthquake switches bodies for Anna and Tess, which leads to Anna lecturing teachers and Tess being more loud and wild.

As for the casting, it really works. The original idea was for Jodie Foster to play Tess, but she didn’t like the stunt casting. Then, Annette Bening and Kelly Osbourne were going to be the leads — with Tom Selleck as Ryan — but Bening dropped out and Osbourne’s mother got cancer.

Probably the only downside is that this movie falls back on that Hollywood cliche of Asian people being able to magically change lives.

Is it weird that I know that the band Orgy taught Jamie Lee how to play guitar? Why do I have these facts inside my head? And how weird is it to hear “Flight Test” by the Flaming Lips in a Disney movie? Or Joey Ramone covering “What A Wonderful World?”

Freaky Friday (2018): It’s wild that Steve Carr made Next Friday and a Freaky Friday sequel. And this time, I had no idea I was getting into a musical. Cozi Zuehlsdorff from the Dolphin Tale movies is Ellie Blake and her mother Katherine is played by Heidi Blickenstaff, who played the role on stage. Seriously, this is a full-blown bing singing musical and also a version of the story that leans in on Ellie being a total slob with a filthy room, a girl who always wears the same clothes every day and who would totally be the kind of arty disaffected young girl who I’d be too shy to talk to and leave mixtapes in her locker. Or maybe text her Spotify links now, I guess, right?

A magical hourglass — given to Ellie by her late father, a Freaky Friday story beat retained from the last few versions — is the storytelling device that switches the daughter and mother. There’s also a scavenger hunt that an entire school is absolutely obsessed by, making this also an updating of Midnight Madness.

This was the first Disney movie made from one of their stage plays and it didn’t get great ratings. It’s fine — obviously there are a ton of different versions of Freaky Friday for you to watch. I’d place it slightly ahead of the Shelley Long version, but way behind everything else.

Freaky (2020): By all rights, I should hate this movie, a semi-remake of Freaky Friday that instead subverts the source material by turning it into a slasher. But you know, it ended up hitting me the right way and I was behind it pretty much all the way.

Directed by Christopher Beau Landon — yes, the son of Michael — who wrote Disturbia — that’s not even a word — and several of the Paranormal Activitymovies before directing the Happy Death Day films. If you liked those, well, this will definitely give you more of what those movies offered, this is set in the same universe — Landon said that, “They definitely share the same DNA and there’s a good chance Millie and Tree will bump into each other someday” — and was originally titled Freaky Friday the 13th.

Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton, Big Little Lies) is a teenager who has been tormented by bullies, both of the teenager and teacher* varieties. Meanwhile, the urban legend of the Blissfield Butcher continues, as he keeps killing her classmates. Now that he possesses a McGuffin called La Dola — an ancient Mayan sacrificial dagger — he looks to gain even more power. But when he runs into our heroine — her mother (Katie Finneran, who is great in this) has left her behind at a football game where all she gets to do is wear a beaver mascot costume — she battles the Butcher and when he stabs her, they end up switching bodies.

So yeah — this turns into a body swap comedy and you’d think, after the gory as hell open, this is where they lose you. But no — if anything, this gets way more fun.

Millie’s friends make for some of the best scenes in the film. Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) have been with her through the worst parts of high school, so having their best friend in the body of a killing machine is just another trial to be endured.

Speaking of that killer, Vince Vaughn shines in this. There’s plenty of silly physical comedy, but also some really nice scenes like when he admits to the love interest that she left the note he treasures (body swap pronouns are a little hard) or when he has a moment with her mother while hiding in a changing room.

Landon — who wrote the movie along with Michael Kennedy — said that the film was influenced by the Scream series, along with Cherry FallsFright NightJennifer’s BodyThe Blob and Urban Legend. There’s also a fair bit of Halloween in here, particularly the opening series of murders, and references to Heathers, Child’s Play, Creepshow, Galaxy Quest, Carrie, The Faculty, The Craft and Supernatural. There’s also a bottle down the throat kill that came directly from the 2009 slasher remake Sorority Row.

I had fun with this. Here’s hoping you do the same.

*The funny thing is that the teacher that is the worst to her is Alan Ruck, who knows a thing about bring bullied, what with playing Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 29: Watch the series: Friday (1995, 2000, 2002)

Ice Cube and DJ Pooh felt that movies only showed the dark side of the urban experience. Cube had the vision of making a “hood classic” that would be rewatched over and over again and based much of the script — only the third he had written — on his life. They got New Line interested in the film — the studio had made House Party — and Cube hired video direct F. Gary Grey.

His only worry? Doing comedy when up until then, he was considered a dangerous thug.

Grey said, “Ice Cube was the toughest man in America, and when you take someone (who) delivers hard-hitting social issues in hardcore gangsta rap, and who has a hardcore view on politics, you would never think comedy.”

Friday (1995): Craig Jones (Ice Cube) just got fired on his day off (this actually happened to one of Cube’s cousins), giving him the entire Friday to spend with his best friend, Smokey (Chris Tucker, a comedian whose first audition didn’t go well but who trained, came back and won the part). They smoke Smokey’s stash — $200 worth of weed — and if they can’t pay Big Worm (Faizon Love) by 10 p.m., they’re dead.

The episodic movie finds Craig and Smokey trying to get that money, whether through borrowing, begging or stealing. They also run into Deebo (Tiny Lister Jr.), a gigantic maniac who forces Smokey to break into a house, after which he steals the money that Smokey has ripped off.

Friday seems like a modern day take on Cheech and Chong in the best of ways, while keeping more focus. It also has time for plenty of great cameos, like the sadly long gone Bernie Mac as a preacher, John Witherspoon as Craig’s father, Regina King as his sister and DJ Pooh as Red.

Shot in Grey’s actual home block in the homes of his friends, you can even see some members of the neighborhood show up that refused to move from the spot they were in. Grey just filmed around them as well as he could. Additionally, the cast and crew not to wear anything red during filming, as 126th Street between Halldale and Normandie was Crips territory.

Friday made more than eight times what it cost to make. Ice Cube and DJ Pooh had the right idea.

Next Friday (2000): Written by Ice Cube and directed by Steve Carr, who also worked with Cube on Are We There Yet?Next Friday made $60 million off an $11 million budget, defying critics who hated the films — again, much lilke Cheech and Chong.

When Deebo escapes from prison to get revenge on Craig, Craig’s father Willie moves him to Rancho Cucamonga to live with his uncle Elroy (Don D.C. Curry), who has just won the lottery, and cousin Day-Day (Mike Epps). Day-Day makes a decent replacement for Smoky, as Chris Tucker didn’t come back for the second movie as he became a born again Christian.

Beyond dealing with the threat of an escaped Deebo, now Craig and Day-Day must avoid baby mamas, a gang called the Jokers and try to keep Day-Day’s record store job. While the move to the suburbs offers some fun joke, Tucker’s prescence is definitely missed. Then again, I find myself loving that Ice Cube is so loveable in these films, particularly after albums like “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” in which he unleashed venomous hatred on nearly every ethnicity and human being within the reach of his booming voice.

Friday After Next (2002): Written by Ice Cube and directed by Marcus Raboy, the third Friday movie again was rejected by critics and embraced by the audience that it was made for. It starts on Christmas Eve as a thief breaks into the home of Craig (Cube) and Day-Day (Mike Epps), stealing everything they’ve bought for their family and friends. Also — the rent is due and if they don’t get it soon, their landlady is going to unleash her just released from jail son Damon (Terry Crews) on them and in a violently loving fashion, if you get what I’m saying.

The setting in this sequel moves from the suburbs to a strip mall, a place where their fathers — Willie (John Witherspoon) and Elroy (Don D.C. Curry) — have started a BBQ place so good you’ll slap your mother. It’s also where Money Mike (Katt Williams) and his main girl Donna (K.D. Aubert) have started the store Pimps and Hoes.

Obviously, by the third movie you’re just hoping for more hangout time with the leads and less expecting a groundbreaking effort. That said, this is a goofball bit of harmless fun, a good holiday movie to throw on if you’re sick of the same films every December and makes me hope that we get one more of these movies.

Somehow, I never saw a single one of these movies before, but I must confess, they made a nice break this week, a breezy bit of fun and light laughs in the midst of dark times.

ARROW VIDEO UHD RELEASE: 12 Monkeys (1995)

Yes, somehow I have never seen this movie before.

Luckily, the Arrow UHD has solved that.

Terry Gilliam was making this directly after The Fisher King and after abandoning A Tale of Two Cities. He was up on the sea of fates and had not entered the darkest phase of his career.

Executive producer Robert Kosberg was a fan of a French called La Jetée and convinced its director Chris Marker to let him try and get the movie made by Universal, who bought the rights and hired writers David and Janet Peoples. David was a writer on Blade RunnerUnforgivenLadyhawkeSoldier and wrote and directed The Blood of Heroes. Janet wrote several documentaries before collaborating with her husband on this script.

Producer Charles Roven felt that Gilliam was the perfect choice to direct this non-linear movie.

A deadly virus was released in 1996 by the Army of the Twelve Monkeys and now the survivors live underground. James Cole (Bruce Willis) is one of those survivors, a prisoner due to his violent outbursts and emotions, who is selected to go back in time and warn others in the past. He’s also suffering from dreams of a shooting in an airport.

When he arrives in Baltimore, he’s six years early and institutionalized, a prison all over again. Only Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) and another patient, the anti-capitalist Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) listen to him. Cole tries to escape and ends up back in the future, where he’s told that he must stop Goines, who seemingly is the one to unleash the virus. The time machine is faulty and sends him to World War I before its correct destination of 1996, a time when Railly is giving a speech about the Cassandra complex — when a prophet warns others of danger and is not listened to — and ends up meeting Dr. Peters (David Morse), who tells her that anyone who believes in the end of the world is sane and anyone who denies the ecological collapse of Earth is the one truly crazy.

Cole kidnaps Railly and they learn that Goines definitely is the founder of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, using the virus that his father Dr. Leland Goines (Christopher Plummer) invented and inspired from meeting Cole in 1990. Yet is that true? Is Cole insane? Is the time travel actually happening? And what really is his mission?

Gilliam himself said that “The story is disconcerting. It deals with time, madness and a perception of what the world is or isn’t. It is a study of madness and dreams, of death and re-birth, set in a world coming apart.”

At one point, Cole goes from believer to unbeliever and Railly makes the opposite decision. In one of Marker’s later films, Sans Soleil, a voiceover states “only one film has been capable of portraying impossible memory, insane memory: Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo*.” Cole and Railly watch this film within the movie — Cole says, “I think I’ve seen this movie before” — and we even hear the strings of Bernard Hermann’s theme play.

This was probably a hard watch back in 1995 and today, it’s really difficult. I mean, someone immolated themselves to draw attention to climate change yesterday. Wynn Bruce spent an entire year planning this action only for his death to be lost in the coverage of celebrity relationships.

The movie posits that 2035 is the darkest time of the future. Yet in 2030, if global emissions aren’t halved, this world will be unlivable. But what can one person do — like Cole, I feel I am not even a cog in this vast secret shadow machine — when the majority of the damage is caused by corporations? And oh yeah, a movie about a pandemic when we’re living in one that people want to be over and refer to this as post-COVID and people whip their masks off in joy on airplanes which already circulate air filled with illness.

This got dark quick, huh?

Cole says, “Maybe the human race deserves to be wiped out,” but I’m still not so sure.

The Arrow Video UHD of 12 Monkeys offers a brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative by Arrow Films, approved by director Terry Gilliam. There’s audio commentary by Gilliam and producer Charles Roven, a feature-length making-of called The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys, feature-length making-of documentary by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe (Lost in La Mancha), a 1996 interview with Gilliam and critic Jonathan Romney, recorded at the London Film Festival, an appreciation by Ian Christie, author of Gilliam on Gilliam, The Twelve Monkeys Archives, a trailer, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Nathan Rabin and Ian Christie. You can get it from MVD.

*Credit for this goes to this article on Little White Lies.

APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 24: Embrace of the Vampire (1995)

Before we had the internet, the fact that Alyson Milano was topless and had sex scenes in a movie was a big deal. She plays a virgin named Charlotte Wells who has a boring boyfriend named Chris and a vampire named, well, The Vampire played by the bassist of Spandau Ballet, Martin Kemp*, who thinks that she’s the reincarnation of a past lover. She’s also visited in dreams by the sapphic powers of another vampire, Marika (Jennifer Tilly, who yes, I can admit to finding attractive to say the least).

I wonder how Tony Micelli felt about a movie where his little girl furtively masturbates while a vampire repeatedly slams the head of Cheryl Ladd’s daughter against a door and then licks the blood? This was Jordan Ladd’s film debut, as well as the first movie for Rachel True from The Craft. Plus, there’s Rebecca Ferratti (Talena from the Gor movies) and Charlotte Lewis from The Golden Child and one of my favorite deranged Italian movies, Dial: Help

Director Anne Goursaud edited several of Coppola’s movies and would direct Poison Ivy II the following year. She said this movie cost $500,000 and made $15 million just in video sales. Yes, Alyssa Milano was a draw, as she was also in that aforementioned direct to video sequel.

*Oddly, a crew member commented to Kemp what a great job the makeup department had done on the prosthetics. The veins in his forehead were bulging out and looked great. The only problem was he didn’t have any makeup on. It was actually an undiagnosed brain tumor.

You can watch this on Tubi.