Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008)

Super Rock ’84 in Japan was a touring rock festival that had Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Scorpions, Michael Schenker Group and Anvil playing. Of these bands, Anvil had the least success, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. At the time of this movie, Steve “Lips” Kudlow is working for a catering company and Robb Reiner is in construction. Their real lives are in constant juxtaposition with what being a rock star promised them, which is the story of this film.

Sacha Gervasi wrote the Tom Hanks movie The Terminal, but two decades before, he had been a roadie for Anvil. Who knew that someday he’d make the movie about them that would let the world know they existed, as well win an Independent Spirit Award and an Emmy?

It seems like every time the band gets close to their dreams, things go wrong. It always makes me think, when I wonder what it would have been like to be a rock star instead of having a day job, exactly how it would all turn out. This movie is a sobering reminder that not everyone makes it. Until, well, they do.

I kind of love the moment where Kudlow and Reiner nearly kill a promoter for not paying them. I had a similar moment happen when I first started in pro wrestling. A promoter wanted to pay us in checks and I didn’t know any better. That’s when I learned to always get paid in cash. A vet taught me that, as he grabbed that promoter, shoved a revolver in his face and demanded that the two of us get our money right now. I was kind of shocked by it all, but it was nice to drive home with actual cash, even if a man’s life had to be put in jeopardy. I remembered all of that when I watched this.

Saw V (2008)

David Heckl was the production designer and second unit director for the second, third and fourth movies in the Saw series before coming on to direct this version from a script by Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. This time, Detective Mark Hoffman makes a journey to become the apprentice of the Jigsaw Killer.

I watched every Saw film in just a day, so the fact that they flash back and tell the different sides of the story can be a bit confusing, particularly when people who die in one film suddenly show up alive. I am certain that there are fans of this series who can explain every nuance, but to me, they are all excuses to feature elaborate death traps that are, like the Final Destination films, the real stars of the movies.

For example, Danny Glover’s Detective Tapp character shows up, despite dying in the first film (this was never really explained, other than the first Saw video game).

This was the first Saw movie not to open in first place at the box office, but would be far from the last movie in the series. Did I keep going and make it through six, seven and the film Jigsaw? Of course I did. My resolve is made of the same metals as these traps.

Until the Light Takes Us (2008)

The title for this film is a translation of Burzum’s fourth album. Do you not know who Burzum is? You may walk away from this movie — with no past knowledge of black metal — believing that sole member Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes is a pretty intelligent, level-headed fellow. Then you remember, “Oh yes. He stabbed his rival Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth twenty-three times and also was broken out of jail by white nationalists. Yet — you can find plenty of photos of me wearing Burzum shirts, if you look on social media. And I own all the albums. And, well, I have no easy answers when it comes to black metal.

That’s a cop out. I get it.

If you think that gangster rap — with it’s need to prove who was real and who was fake, leading to actual murder — is crazy, you’re about to get an awakening. This film may jump around a bit to give you a balanced accounting. That said, it’s a million times better than the excoriable Lords of Chaos.

Once upon a time, in the basement of what would one day be a Benetton, a bunch of people would meet to talk about bands they liked. And that turned into a contest to see who could be legit and the most evil. As these things turn out, things went a bit far. The kind of far that involves murder, burning churches and intercine warfare, which ended up with — as we began — Varg and Euronymous proclaiming that they would kill one another.

Pretty much everyone in the scene gets a part, like Mayhem vocalist Per “Dead” Ohlin, who lived up to his nickname and whose suicide supplied a ghoulism album cover photo as well as supposed jewlery made from his skull fragments. Perhaps Fenris from Darkthrone comes off the nicest of anyone in this, as he seems like someone who genuinely just loves music.

The thing I dislike most about this movie is the sound and editing. They had the opportunity to get interviews with some people that have been very difficult to track down and yet, you can barely hear them at times and the imagery on screen rarely matches up. It’s incredibly frustrating.

That said, I was shocked that Bård “Faust” Eithun appeared, despite only being seen in shadow. After stabbing Magne Andreassen outside Lillehammer’s Olympic Park, he spent almost ten years in jail. One of his many bands, Thorns, put out several influential demos and their lone 2001 album is incredible.

Yeah. Like I said, I got no defense.

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Telstar: The Joe Meek Story (2008)

As with Clint Eastwood’s 2014 film adaptation of the 2005 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Jersey Boys chronicling the career of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, I equally anticipated this rock bio concerned with British record producer Joe Meek. Sadly, as with Jersey Boys, I was left empty. Granted, the production designs of both films (as with Tom’s Hanks’s love letter to ’60s one-hit wonder pop-rock ditties, That Thing You Do!) are fantastic. However, the films underneath the period accurate sets and costumes are derivative raison d’être—despite their quality, one viewing is enough. And, for U.S. audiences, the thick British accents and harsh, Royal Shakespearean moments of actor-emoting can be a bit much to handle. Yes, this is purely meant for U.K. audiences, you yank rocker.

Joe Meek was an electronics-tinkering child prodigy who developed such sound engineering innovations as multi-tracking, overdubbing, sampling and reverb (with addition kudos to guitar and recording innovator Les Paul), and was the original trailblazer in viewing the recording studio itself as “a music instrument”—an instrument Meek skillfully mastered, regardless of his being tone deaf and lacking any playing or composition skills, into “Telstar,” the 1962 worldwide #1 instrumental hit by his assembled studio band, the Tornados.

Sadly, Meek was a tortured genius who suffered from bouts of depression and paranoia that led to fits of rage fueled by his closeted homosexuality (a punishable crime in the U.K. at the time) and his addiction to amphetamines and barbiturates (to fuel his maniacal quest for perfection). As result—even with the financial backing of ex-military officer and business entrepreneur Major Wilfred Alonzo Banks (Kevin Spacey nailing the demeanor and accent of an acidic, cultured British gentleman; but opinions on his performance vary)—Meek was never able to get out of his electrical hodgepodge of a studio on a cramped, second floor flat over a luggage store (and yes, he utilized the loo for recordings).

So acidic his personality, no labels, producers, or managers of note wanted to work with him; Meek was forced out of his business concerns with the U.K.’s pre-Beatles superstar, Billy Fury, (that the Tornados backed; by 1964, it was over for both artists); when Meek received offers to record bands from the likes of the burgeoning manager Brian Epstein, Meek dismissed the Beatles as “awful”; when fan Phil Spector reached out to work with him, Meek accused the “Wall of Sound” creator of plagiarism; Meek also turned away David Bowie and Rod Stewart (and told Rod’s then band, the Moontrekkers, to fire him); he also gave up developing a career for a Welsh lad by the name of Tom Jones—who soon became a star (“It’s Unusual,” “What’s New Pussycat,” “She’s a Lady”) after leaving Meek’s stable.

Outside of his own ego and arrogance, why did Meek turn away those future superstars: for love—the bleach blonde bassist of the Tornados, Heinz (Burt), in particular, with whom he became obsessed in transforming him into a solo artist that would crush the likes Billy Fury and Gene Vincent (who Meek admired-despised).

Sadly, in the end, Meek crushed himself.

When a copyright infringement lawsuit over “Telstar” held up 3 million pounds in royalties and his business partnership with the Major soured as result, Meek was drowning in debt. And because of his arrest for a homosexual-public toilet encounter, he was under suspicion in the 1967 Tattingstone Suitcase Murder.

Meek snapped.

He murdered his rent-griping landlady and turned the shotgun (that he used to threaten musicians into submission in the studio) on himself at the age of 37.

And now for the music trivia: The Tornados backbeat was handled by the portly Clem Cattini (portrayed by U.K. comedian James Cordon; of those annoying, faux-German dubbed coffee machine commercials and his NBC-TV late night gab fest). When it comes to drummers, no other (studio) drummer has appeared on more #1 chart-topping singles (42 in all) . . . and he was almost a member of the New Yardbirds. During his Joe Meek days, Cattini shared the studio/stages with a young Ritchie Blackmore (later of Deep Purple), along with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones who, at the time, were backing several Meek protégés (Screaming Lord Such in particular; a precursor to the likes of Alice Cooper). When the Yardbirds fell apart, with Page obligated to fulfill touring contracts, the first call he made to reform the band was to Cattini. Telling the story years later, he didn’t think much of the offer and failed to call Page back. He also turned down Paul McCartney’s request to join Wings. After he was sacked/quit the Tornados, Meek replaced Cattini in the studio with future Jimi Hendrix skinsmeister, Mitch Mitchell. Catttini published his memoirs, My Life, Through The Eye of A Tornado, in July 2019.

You can stream this as a VOD on Amazon Prime, Vudu, and You Tube Movies, but we found you a freebie rip on You Tube to enjoy. If you’d prefer a more straight ahead telling of Meek’s life, then check out British sound engineer Beth McGowan’s hour-long TV documentary, The Strange Story of Joe Meek (1991), on her You Tube page.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

The Love Guru (2008)

Sometimes, when under quarantine, you watch a movie you’ve never seen that makes you so happy that you’ve discovered it. Other times, you watch the bomb that pretty much wiped out the film career of Mike Myers, which would be this, a strange character sketch that goes on around eighty-six minutes and forty-fix seconds too long.

After the death of his father, Myers became a devotee of Deepak Chopra, who appears in this film and inspired Guru Maurice Pitka, the character who will bring the Toronto Maple Leafs back to the Stanley Cup. Wish fulfillment on a $62 million dollar budget, this movie also features Jessica Alba as the love interest, Verne Troyer as an angry coach, John Oliver as a man named Dick Pants and Ben Kingsley of all people.

Between this and The Cat in the Hat, Myers earned a Golden Raspberry nomination for Worst Actor of the Decade. This film also won the 2009 Worst Picture, Worst Actor and Worst Screenplay.

Well, the Leafs haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1967 and no one remembers this movie any longer. The first is a shame and the second is a relief.

Aztec Rex (2008)

I had no idea this movie even existed before browsing through some creature features on the Tubi application. However, my life has been greatly enriched after witnessing the majesty that is Aztec Rex. Aztec Rex was directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, the master behind Leprechaun 3 and 4. You know, the cool ones where the leprechaun shows up in Las Vegas and outer space respectively. That’s not to say that the other Leprechaun films are any less cool. They’re all pretty freaking cool. 

Well, Aztec Rex is about the secret history of Hernan Cortes’ first expedition to Mexico, the one he took there before he conquered the country. On his first foray into Mexico, Hernan Cortes, played by Ian Ziering (Beverly Hills 90210, Sharknado) along with his men encounter an Aztec tribe who makes human sacrifices to a pair of Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Ian Ziering as Cortes is a must see in this film where he sports a ridiculous wig and goes in and out of a fake Spanish accent. Almost none of the other people playing the Spaniards even worry about an accent. In fact the monk who became stranded in Mexico and integrates with the Aztecs is played by Jack McGee, who has probably the most non Spanish accent known to man. You may know Jack as Chief Reilly from Rescue Me. 

This movie is nuts. The expedition has a single horse which is then eaten by a T-rex. Only one of the conquistadores sees the Rex and calls it a monster, everyone else just sits around arguing how it was probably a bear or some shit. The expedition is only like 6 people too and the tribe they encounter maybe has ten or twelve members. The conquistadores think it smart to attack the Aztecas but they blow dart their asses right quick. They try to sacrifice Cortes to the Rex but the monk Gria convinces the Aztecas to let them live. They have to fight the T-Rex who up to this point lived in peace with the natives. Shit pops the hell off.

Apparently guns, cannons, or arrows don’t faze T-Rex. They bounce straight off its skin, but pole arms can cut them. Also they are dumb enough to fall in pits full of sharpened sticks and impale themselves. Chief Matlal’s daughter, Ayacoatl played by Dichen Lachmen. has the hots for one of the Spaniards named Rios who saves her ass on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, she is betrothed to the cowardly shaman/head warrior dude,Xocozin. However, that doesn’t stop her from stripping down and throwing herself at Rios who refuses because his religion won’t let him get it on unless he’s married.

Xocozin tries to poison Rios’ fruit-laden wine when the Aztecas toast to their newfound alliance with the Spaniards, and Rios starts hallucinating fiercely. When he is saved by Gria and Ayacoatl, they hide from the remaining T-Rex in a grove of trees. Ayacoatl and Rios get wed really quickly by Gria, they then run off to another set of trees to get it on because this could be the only time they can. This sultry scene accompanied by romantic music is interrupted a few times with transitions of Xocozin running back to the village while thumping intense music plays. This part is so ridiculous that it alone begs to be seen which is quite a feat because the whole movie is full of what the hell moments. 

When Xocozin reaches the village, he and Matlal have a showdown with weaponry. It feels like it’s more meant for a kung fu flick than this film. There is also the plot of Cortes and another of his men attempting to abscond with the gold and leave for Spain by themselves while everyone else is off fighting dinosaurs but people start dying because Cortes is a shitty leader. The climax sees a Rex being blown up by gunpowder in a gourd when Xocozin is sacrificed to the Thunder Lizard, which I’ve forgotten to mention is what the Rex are referred to as the entirety of the movie. Gria finally gets to go back to Spain with Cortes and Cortes promises to come back and conquer Mexico, Rios demands he stay away from his valley where he ends up living among the Aztecas. Also Gria is sainted and his famous fruit-laden wine is named after him San Gria.

If you miss the days where the Sci-Fi channel aired its films without screaming, “We know it’s bad, we did it on purpose. HAR HAR” then this is the film for you. It had a vision and it set out to accomplish it, it may have become something that it had no intention being but damn it if it is not fun. You can watch this glorious slice of delectable B-movie goodness for free with ads on Tubi.

REPOST: Get Smart (2008)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Seeing as how The Nude Bomb ran on our site today, would you believe that it felt like the right time to bring back this review, originally posted on February 11, 2019?

Peter Segal has made films that people love — Tommy Boy50 First DatesThe Nutty Professor II: The Klumps — and critics hate. Here, he’s remaking the Mel Brooks and Buck Henry show that ran from 1965 to 1970. Instead of Don Adams, Steve Carrell takes over as Maxwell Smart.

Smart is more geek than spy, in awe of agents like 23 (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and 99 (Anne Hathaway). Once KAOS (none of the spy agencies are acronyms here) exposes the identities of every CONTROL agent, he gets his chance to be a spy, going to battle with Siegfried (Terence Stamp!), one of the baddies from the 60’s show. It’s also great to see Alan Arkin as the Chief.

There are some fun cameos here, like Bill Murray as Agent 13, who must always be a tree); James Caan as the President; Terry Crews and David Koechner as CONTROL agents; Larry Miller and Kevin Nealon as CIA guys; former WWE wrestler The Great Khali as a henchman and Patrick Warburton as the robotic Hymie.

A sequel has been rumored for some time. There was a direct-to-video spin-off, Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd: Out of Control (featuring the tech geeks, Warburton, Crews and a cameo by Hathaway). It only lasted seven episodes. It was based on the reunion movie, Get Smart, Again!

I totally forgot that there was a 1995 Fox series with Don Adams and Barbara Feldon returning to their roles to help their son, Andy Dick, become a CONTROL agent.

I did not forget 1980’s The Nude Bomb, a film that brought Maxwell Smart back in again to battle a bomb that takes off clothes. Smart doesn’t even work for CONTROL in this one, but for the PITS. Agent 99 isn’t in it and Feldon wasn’t even informed that the movie was being made. You know who is? Sylvia Kristel, which probably explains why an 8-year-old me was so excited by this film. Actually, I have no idea if pre-puberty me would know how magical she was, but I’d like to think I knew what was up. It’s directed by Clive Donner, who was behind the TV movie Spectre and 1981’s Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen, a movie that would never be made today because Peter Ustinov was Chan and Angie Dickinson was the Dragon Queen. Whitewashing has been real for years, people.

You can watch this film for free on Vudu.

The Spirit (2008)

Director William Friedkin once obtained the film rights to The Spirit and contacted its creator, Will Eisner, to write the script. Eisner declined but recommended Harlan Ellison, which ended with a script being written and — surprise — Friedkin and Ellison fighting. There was a 1987 made for TV movie and talk of an animated adaption before the property went into development hell.

In 2005, Uslan approached Frank Miller at Eisner’s memorial service in New York City in regards to making this film. The result is similar to Miller’s Sin City films, but there remains an issue. It’s too dark for those that love The Spirit. And anyone who did, well, they’re old now and not the target audience for the movie. As I often wonder when a movie bombs, who was this for?

The Spirit (Gabriel Macht) and The Octopus (Samuel Jackson) are locked in endless combat, as both seem unkillable. The only thing this Spirit loves more than defeating evil are the ladies, whether that’s Ellen Dolan (Sarah Paulson), who keeps him in one piece, or Sand Seref (Eva Mendes). The weird thing is that the character is much closer to P’Gell, but again, only geeks like me are going to care about that.

I like the idea of the Angel of Death (Jaime King) trying to seduce and keep the Spirit, as well as how all the henchmen are the same actor. But man, this movie tried even my patience and I’ve made it through so many rough films. It looks interesting, but has no script or ability to build interest beyond looking like cut scenes from a video game that you’ll never get to play.

It’s a shame, because the potential of a great Spirit movie is out there. This just isn’t it.

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Marc Forster has quite the resume beyond making a Bond film, with works like Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland, Stranger than Fiction, The Kite Runner, World War Z and Christopher Robin.

It’s a film that looks back at early Bond films while making its own way, building on the loss that Bond endured at the end of Casino Royale. It’s also the most violent film of the series, according to a study by the University of Otago in New Zealand.

We start directly after the end of the first film, with Bond taking Mr. White to his boss M. However, White escapes and Bond begins investigating the evil organization Quantum (or Spectre, but the filmmakers didn’t have the rights). Mathieu Amalric plays the villain Dominic Greene, an eco-terrorist who acts as if he is helping the planet.

You can see this movie as really the second part of one story, setting Bond up for his future adventures and showing modern audiences who he is now.

I love how the gun barrel sequence happens at the end of the film, finally showing us that this is Bond. For not being based on an Ian Fleming story, it’s nice knowing that the character seems to be in good hands.

REPOST: Plaguers (2008)

NOTE: Wild Eye Releasing sent a blu ray of this movie our way. While we didn’t love the film, we felt like we owed them a repost of the movie to pay them back. They also sent a whole bunch of stickers and yes, you can be jealous that I have an awesome Shark Exorcist sticker now in my home.

When an alien contagion is released aboard a spaceship transforming its victims into demonic flesh-eaters, the crew must either destroy the infected or join them. Steve Railsback — yes, the dude from Turkey Shoot and Blue Monkey — stars as Tarver.

The Pandora is a freight transport carrier headed toward Earth with a desperately needed new energy supply called Thanatos, which many of the crew members are suspicious of. Then they get a distress call from another ship and no one on board has seen Alien.

Nurses from that ship end up being pirates and in the midst of a battle, one of them gets splashed with Thanatos, which turns her into a plaguer. Soon, there are so many of them that they take the ship straight for Earth.

Writer/director Brad Sykes was inspired by Alien — of course — but also the films Prince of DarknessThe Thing and Demons when making this.

Plaguers is now available for the first-time on blu ray and DVD from Wild Eye Releasing. You can learn more at the official homepage.

You can also find this on Amazon Prime.

DISCLAIMER: Wild Eye Releasing sent us the blu ray of this. And I still was harsh on the movie. Man, way to win people over, huh?